Food Insecurity, Social Justice and Martin Luther King Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day – a day we honor a man who worked his entire life and ultimately gave his life – to advance social justice in America and the rights of millions who were being denied a basic human right: equality.
King believed that all people should have equal opportunity in life – whether white or black, rich or poor. “I have the audacity to believe,” he exclaimed, “that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
While King made unprecedented progress in fighting for this belief, <more than> 50 years after his death, we still are far away from King’s “promised land” of equality and justice for all. Evidence for this lies in the 38 million people in our nation living with food insecurity and struggling to get by.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a renowned Harvard scholar of African American studies, noted that “If Martin Luther King came back; he'd say we need another civil rights movement built on class, not race.
“I think it's difficult for 'poor people,” Dr. Gates said, “poor white people, brown people – to be treated fairly before the law in the same way that upper-class people are.”
While I am not an expert on law, I do know that people who struggle with hunger are far from having the opportunities equal to someone with stability. In theory, people facing hunger in America have the chance to go to college, get a great job and build a better future just like I do, but in reality, the obstacles they face in doing so are far greater.
While the finish line is in the same place for most Americans, unfortunately, the starting line is not. When someone faces poverty and hunger, it impacts their physical and emotional development and thus their ability to achieve academically. They may not have transportation to get a job, credit to buy a house, or the health to maintain a steady work schedule. There are so many challenges that stand in their way to achieving stability. It is unjust that the opportunities for people who begin with a solid foundation and those who begin without are so glaringly unequal.
At Feeding America we are dedicated to advancing justice in this nation by neutralizing the playing field. By providing people with not only food, but also connecting them to resources to meet their other basic needs as well – such as housing, health, and employment – we hope to help people build the solid foundation they to need equalize their starting line on the path toward a brighter future.
As passionate as we are about solving hunger and fighting poverty, we cannot do it alone. In the words of Dr. King, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
We need people like you to help.
Together, we can solve hunger and poverty. Do your part and start by volunteering at the local food bank. I know that the Promised Land Dr. King envisioned is closer than we think. Let’s strive toward it together so that someday, America will truly be a land where everyone – rich or poor – has food for their bodies, education for their minds, and dignity and equality and freedom for their spirits. Let’s make America a land of justice for all.
This article was written by Colleen Callahan and originally posted on January 19, 2015, on Feeding America's Hunger Blog. It was updated to reflect the most recent statistics about hunger in the US.