Up Front and Personal

‘For I Was Hungry and You…’

by Natasha Bisbal

Do you recall the Snickers chocolate bar commercials about the unfortunate side effects of hunger? These commercials depict a routine day-to-day event, i.e. teens riding around in a car listening to music or construction workers drilling at an outdoor work site in the heat. Suddenly, the normal event is interrupted by an unusual action or conversation. The disruption was always a result of hunger….

When I was a sophomore in college, my father was diagnosed and treated for colon cancer and out of work for several months. I was a full-time student turned part-time so that I could contribute to the family. During the months when my father was undergoing chemotherapy, we did not qualify for public assistance. It was only because of amazing family members and friends that we made it through very trying times. My family was fortunate; others are not similarly lucky.

Recently, I attended a Hunger Justice Leadership program with Bread for the World. The focus of the leadership program was “From the Pulpit to the Public Square.” The four-day program consisted of worship services, workshops and thought-provoking conversation. It was intense and at times overwhelming but overall powerful and penetrating, leading us to two very important events: our commissioning as Hunger Justice Leaders and participants in the Bread for the World 2012 Lobby Day.

Bread for the World is a united Christian voice in the fight against hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. This year’s conference in Washington, D.C., occurred as Congress took up consideration of the farm bill and its impact on the lives of the poor here in the United States and abroad.

Each evening, 925 million people (15% of the world’s population) go to bed chronically hungry. That is a staggering statistic and doesn’t even take into account the number of people suffering from malnutrition. The global recession and the accompanying rise in unemployment, underemployment, stagnant wages and economic disparities are all contributors to the rise in poverty. Programs like Women-Infants-Children (WIC), school-based meal programs and SNAP (more commonly known as food stamps) are in jeopardy of significant cuts in funding as our legislative leaders battle over the new fiscal budget.

We Catholics must strive to create what the U.S. bishops describe as a circle of protection around SNAP and WIC by opposing cuts to these programs. In the Gospel of Matthew, we are reminded of the obligations of our faith to care for the poor. The Evangelist writes that the Son of Man sits upon His throne and separates one nation from another. The Son of Man declares: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me. When the Son of Man is questioned per these events he recounts: ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Ultimately, the Senate has approved $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next 10 years. The bill now moves to the House. On behalf of those in need, I ask that you take a few moments and call your Representative at 202-225-3121 and encourage him or her to oppose cuts to these programs.

The Snicker’s commercial leads us to understand that the chocolate bar will satisfy our hunger. The only way we can satisfy the hunger of our nation and of our brothers and sisters across the globe is if we as a privileged and fortunate society use our voices to speak up and change what is failing in the world.

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