This year, like last year, I’m living on food stamps for the seven days before Thanksgiving. It’s a good way to draw attention to the increasing rates of food insecurity in the country and in Minnesota. More than that, it’s an annual reminder for me of just how fortunate I am that for 51 weeks of the year, I don’t have to think about where my next meal might come from and how much money I have to spend on food.
The challenge of having to stretch every dollar to buy as much food, and as much nutritious food as possible, is nothing compared to some of the criticism those of us who take the food stamp challenge receive.
A number of my friends and co-workers are also living on $30.25, the average amount that a Minnesotan might receive in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) support, for one week. You might think that no one would be upset by this activity, but you would be wrong.
There are those in our community who live in a Reaganesque world where no American goes to bed hungry at night. (They are probably the same ones who support the decision this week defining pizza tomato sauce as a vegetable for the school lunch program.) They tell us that people just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get a job. The assumption, of course, is that everyone has bootstraps. And we all now how easy it is to get a job these days. These critics live in a land of plenty where food shelves are overflowing with food and government programs, like SNAP and WIC, just encourage laziness.
Some of these critics, in the course of a conversation or an e-mail exchange, identify themselves as Christians. While I don’t doubt their devotion to their faith, I realize we sit in different pews.
I’ve always understood the verse in Matthew, “For I was hungry and you gave me food,” to mean just that – that Christians are called to feed the hungry. Just in case we miss the message, when the righteous question Christ as to when he was hungry, he responds by saying, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
All I can say is, it’s a good thing Christ wasn’t living on food stamps. He would have been disappointed in some of his followers.