Going Hungry for Dinner

We can eat until we’re full. We can choose our favorite foods. And we feel certain that there’s always more.

But last week, I had the profound experience of being in the shoes of someone without enough to eat. While that experience was very much on purpose, it opened my eyes to how access to food can be taken for granted.

Feeding Tampa Bay hosted the “Hunger Dinner,” where half of the guests were labeled food secure and the other half food insecure. The “haves” were served a fine dining multi-course meal, while the “have nots” were directed to the food line for meager helpings of chicken, rice, corn and green beans. (If you budgeted right, you might be able to afford a Twinkie for dessert.)

And then we mingled. Every food-insecure person was given a card—containing a real story from a real Feeding Tampa Bay client—to read out loud. As a “have not” for the night, I watched as people listened to me awkwardly while cutting their steaks. One man even refused his meal because he wouldn’t eat if others at the table couldn’t.

As the evening wrapped, a woman from dinner stood on stage read a story card out loud. It was about a single mom who went through a rough divorce. She wanted to get back on her feet, but the emotional distress coupled with a low-income job made it hard to provide. This woman’s child would cry out from hunger pains, and she felt helpless.

“This was MY story,” the woman said after she finished reading the card.

Hunger often lurks as an invisible enigma, but that reveal stung like a slap across the face. It’s so easy to forget the struggles of other, as most of us don’t experience fear over when we’ll have our next meal.

With that, my passion for Feeding Tampa Bay’s mission burns brighter than ever. Food is one of those basic human rights and necessities, and no one, truly, should have to go without.

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