Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hunger isn't really the issue.

Pretty bold title for a man whose stated mission in Life is to end world hunger.  In Truth, up to this point, those words have really been a type of social shorthand (and further Truth be told, a little attention getting for the early stages of this journey). Now before you spit out your soup, let me tell you, what I mean. A very talented chef friend of mine (thanks Stan F. wherever you are) once told me his philosophy about bringing his very accomplished talents and creative ideas back to his home area, where the people might not have been prepared to appreciate (and in turn support) his culinary ambitions. He said that the first thing to do is to give the folks what they’re familiar with (in the best way imaginable) until they’re comfortable enough to trust you. Then you can start introducing new ideas, flavors, etc.
And so it is with soup… sort of. Don’t worry (or in the genius words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic”) By the time I’m through, everyone will be fed, where and when they need; it’s just that (as I titled) hunger isn’t really the issue.
The technical (or dare I say industry) term for what I address through Soup Kitchen is “food insecurity”. It simply means that someone doesn’t know where (and often when) their next meal is coming from. Now if I was to come out saying, I’m out to end world food insecurity” most people would probably think I was auditioning for the next Woody Allen movie. Well I’m not (unless he really thinks I’m right for the part), it’s just that for now, ending “hunger” is the term that everyone who doesn’ t do this work full time already, is used to; and I’d rather have you understand what I’m (and ultimately we’re) doing, than quibble over terms.
In fact (pretty bold statement number 2 for this blog), hunger is a good  thing. I have yet to meet the person on this planet who is so self-regulated in their habits, that they never get hungry. Most times I look forward to being hungry because it means that I’m about to eat something. Chef work-wise, I am usually never more than a few feet away from something to feed on. I spent one day as an office worker in my life and was utterly confused by the lack of readily available food. All psycho analysis that is above my pay-grade anyway aside, hunger is simply a signal that it’s time to eat.
Soup Kitchen, Inc. takes that signal and turns it into a kind of nutritious empathy. If you are reading this, then you are probably on the side of the empathy link where you do know (or at least have a good idea) where/when your next “feed” is coming from. I for one don’t need to go/stay hungry to understand hunger, although I do respect the central idea in Ramadan; don’t eat during the day and then break your fast at sunset. You have the day to get an experiential understanding of those in need and then the reminder of your own personal blessings of self-sustainment.
That being said, I have even more respect for the idea expressed by Ernest Holmes (in his book of metaphysical essays, “The Science of Mind”) “The World has learned All it should through suffering.” If I’m disappointed in anything, it’s that we as humans, haven’t simply learned to care for each other. Fortunately, Soup does that (whether you care or not). (In case you don’t know by now). For each portion of soup sold ( a portion of soup is donated to someone in need. There, caring all done.
All I’m really doing is instilling a habit that’s been  there (albeit buried sometimes) all along (and making it taste real good), with the belief that our strength (as in the strong survive kind) lies in numbers not in individual accomplishment.
And the biggest number I can think of is All of Us.

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