One of the clumsier phrases employed by sociologists and nonprofits these days is “food insecure.” The language police — and we count ourselves as on-duty officers — will sneer at the transfiguration of an age old and still serviceable “hungry.”
But for the nearly 75 percent of Long Island households that are in emergency food programs, food insecure describes them more accurately than hungry.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity “describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.”
In practical terms, it means that people are involuntarily cutting back on meals or not knowing where the next meal is coming from. The USDA reports that 42.2 million Americans fall into that category, with nearly 11 million households in a condition of “very low food security,” which translates to one or more people sharing a home who have been hungry “over the course of a year.”
The grim statistics don’t spare Long Island. Long Island Cares, a nonprofit food provider, estimates that 283,700 of our neighbors in the region receive emergency food each year.
Even closer to home, Al and Tippi Bevan run the Shelter Island Food Pantry in Fellowship Hall at the Presbyterian Church. The pantry serves a wide range of patrons, from day laborers and young families, to seniors and longtime Island residents who are having trouble making ends meet. The pantry relies not only on food donations, but cash as well.
This Thanksgiving weekend, we’ll take pleasure in the stories handed down from generation to generation — whether facts have been lost, obscured or tempered by time — reinforcing what families and nations believe about the best part of themselves. And that best part of America is being grateful for what we have, and sharing.
Thanksgiving is the story every school child learns, passed down long ago about the Native Americans, who showed food insecure Pilgrims how to fish the waters of the New World, taught them to grow corn, and how both communities sat down in peace and broke bread together.
We’re taught that we’re free, and we’re all equal, and so have a duty to give thanks. The lesson taken from the Thanksgiving stories, for everyone who is fortunate to be with loved ones at our November feast, is that it’s a day every American knows is set aside to count blessings and remember an important element in the founding of our country.
It doesn’t take much to remember those who are not quite as secure as we are.
Long Island Cares can be reached at (631) 582-3663 or [email protected]
To volunteer for the Shelter Island Food Pantry, or to donate food or money, give Al and Tippi a call at (631) 749-0705 or visit sipchurch.org.