Schooled on Hunger

Here’s a quick charity bomb from the road, to be filed under “deserving versus underserving poor”. For too long, folks in the hunger fight have been judged by, and traded in, false metrics. Pounds moved and agencies served (more being better) defined what was a good food program (big) versus a ineffective program (small). Or we imply that hungry kids are more deserving than, say…an addict, or the homeless or the elderly. I am quick to challenge those notions.

My attitude is simple–all hunger is wrong, all the time. Nobody is more deserving than another (unless you dig caste systems) and small programs can reveal big truths just as easily, and often more nimbly than a larger one. Niether is better or worse for size.

Yet…after 22 years in the biz, I found another glaring example recently—and I found that I had helped perpetuate it.

As you’ll see from this short video—I was forced to confront my notions of where you find hunger. In this case–on campus. You’ll get where I’m coming from when you watch it.

But the bigger door to be opened….and this is wild….in every community where students open a food bank on campus, bigger groups (often the more established food banks or pantries) accuse the students of misdirecting food–literally–because in their view, they are taking food from the “deserving poor” to serve students, who are deemed “undeserving”. It’s almost like nonprofit foster care….we love talking about kids, sighting stats about childhood hunger and fighting for free school lunch for hungry kids, but then we cut them loose when they become young adults!?!?!?!

I did this too. I was wrong.

The reality is, poverty and hunger are crossing every single line of demarcation we thought was solid. Sometimes the lines we drew were incorrect all along (Nonprofit Colonialism). Either way, there is no “us” and “then” anymore….and very few areas of any community, if any, are immune.

Being part of leadership is admitting it when you are wrong and adjusting. It also means letting go of outdated dogma or ideas and accepting new truths. I had to do both today.

I’m half ashamed that it took so long for me to understand, but heartened that I finally did. This old dog learned a new trick today…..and I’m grateful to the students here at Lee University for letting me off my leash.

See Spot Run…..to help others understand.