On Sunday, I was out and about in (shout-out) St. Paul and stopped for a coffee and pastry of distinction, a habit of mine. Readers, I don’t wish for you to be alarmed to learn that we lurk among you and sometimes capture snippets of your conversations, but that’s what happened. A group of people adjacent to me were talking about genetically modified foods and whether such products are an acceptable way to increase supply for a needy world.

I arrived too late to know whether the conversation was sparked by Greg Breining’s article “What if it’s nice to mess with Mother Nature?” on our pages Sunday. Also, I’m a notoriously inept eavesdropper — plus, it’s rude — so I didn’t hang on every word. But one thing I did catch was when a member of the group noted, correctly, that the world already produces enough food if only distribution were more effective. She said this without apparent irony as bottles of premium water sat on the table before her.

Please don’t think I’m calling this out as hypocrisy. After all, I had just spent enough on small pleasures of my own to sustain a hungry child for a week were the money redirected. I’m sure you have your own expenditures that could do the same. Getting food and other assistance where it needs to go is a matter of both logistics and cash.

Perhaps this is just a variation of the “starving children in _______” argument used to persuade you to finish your boiled-to-mush asparagus when you were young. But it emphasizes the way solutions to many problems require some degree of sacrifice, from the top tier right on down the line.

If it’s voluntary sacrifice, all the better. A relatively new tradition in Minnesota, held each November since 2009, is Give to the Max Day, coordinated by GiveMN.org, a one-stop online shop for philanthropy. The event raised $16.3 million on Nov. 15, 2012.

Today is April 23, 2013. November is distant in either direction. Shall we hope that last year’s haul carries the need?

No, we shall not. Give now. Give again in November. Give up a small pleasure and give many times in between.


David Banks is the Star Tribune's assistant commentary editor.