Imagine walking into the cafeteria at school, everyone around you is eating. You sit down next to your friend, you don’t have a lunch. They wonder why, you say you’re not hungry, you say you had a big breakfast but the truth is you haven’t eaten since last nights dinner. They accept the answer, not remembering that you didn’t have a lunch yesterday, or the day before, you don’t know if you’ll have one tomorrow.

When you donate to the food bank it has an immediate impact; the food, or money goes straight from you to a person in need. I feel that we are morally obligated to care for people in our community who are going through difficult times; I couldn’t stand the idea of a friend coming to school without anything to eat, or a mother going without dinner so she can feed her children.

I spoke to Karen Secord who runs the Parkdale Food Centre (my local food bank) and asked her a few questions about hunger in our community. Karen said that she works at the food bank because she feels that “when people live in poverty they become invisible” and she doesn’t “want to live in a world that is us and them.”

Karen also told me that we have to make wise choices when donating food. “Why give them Kraft Dinner? I don’t want Kraft Dinner!” She said that when we donate processed food we become part of the problem. We shouldn’t give people food that we don’t want to eat ourselves. It’s important for everyone to eat healthy, nutritious food; as Karen put it, “it’s a basic human right!”

In addition, Karen said that it is exceedingly important for kids (of all ages) to volunteer at the food bank. I believe that you are never too young to want to change the world, and by giving someone food, is one of the easiest ways to do so.

Everyone uses the food bank. The man on your bus, the girl from home room, the mother you see dropping off her kids at school. Collage students, elderly; people you know, and think you have figured out. Without the food bank people would get sick, which would only put more stress on an already stressed health system.

The food bank is not an answer, but for now it’s all we have. For many people it’s the difference between eating and hunger. It’s important to volunteer or to donate healthy, nutritious food to your local food bank. But ultimately, what we need is for people to think. Think of a way to eliminate hunger, especially in a country like Canada, where we have vast resourses and no reason for anyone to be hungry.

Today is different. Today you have a lunch, ham and cheese on whole wheat, with fresh fruit for desert. Today you’ll smile brighter and study harder, because today you don’t have to pretend you’re not hungry; because today you’re not.

Neve Stewart — January 18 2014

Neve and Paul Dewar, MP for Ottawa Centre at the Parkdale Food Centre

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