Readers Respond

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Teachable moments in IA food chain


/ Iowa Farm Bureau

A valuable part of being a parent is taking advantage of those 'Life Lessons' when they come along. My daughter had one such lesson this Thanksgiving.

Maddy likes her food in neat, little compartments, not all 'mushed together' and touching. And at this Thanksgiving meal, she frowned as Grandma handed her a plate brimming with 'mushed-together' food. The turkey was glistening in neatly-staked white slabs in the middle; the sweet potatoes were piled high with oven-browned marshmallow cream sprawling over the side; the stuffing was steaming--melting the carefully-scooped jellied cranberry sauce, which was 'bleeding' its crimson stain into the 'green bean section' of her plate.

Here's where the 'Life Lesson' comes in. Right here in Iowa, land of the plenty, 11,000 Iowa families couldn't serve a single plate of food to their kids this holiday season, much less, one brimming with a four-course meal. That's food for thought not only for a stubborn-but-fortunate 11-year-old; but for all adults who preach their 'cage free'/'Free Range Or Bust' expensive foodie theologies to a world with people who can't afford them. Choices are fine; politically-driven mandates which take them away, are not.

Melissa Tagg, the Development and Community Relations coordinator with Hope Ministries, a charitable organization that assists the needy in Iowa, says they are seeing a thousand more families a month in need this year, compared to 2007.

They're also seeing an alarming increase in the number of people seeking shelter. And, we're not talking about the chronically homeless here. According to Tagg, "more and more often, desperate families are showing up who, just a year ago, had a home. Sometimes they just need temporary help to get by. Other times, these are people who lost jobs, lost insurance, lost everything." How many of us are a layoff or hospital bill away from losing everything?

Farm Bureau donated $100,000 to Embrace Iowa, a disaster fund earmarked for Food Bank of Iowa. Farm Bureau also partnered with Crossroads Elementary in West Des Moines to work with the school's sixth graders to deliver donated food to needy residents. These suburban kids were wide-eyed at the prospect of kids going hungry right here in Iowa, where there's never a shortage of bagged salads and exotic fruits at their corner grocery store.

I watched as my daughter and two of her young classmates grew suddenly quiet as we approached a dilapidated home to make a delivery. The woman who received it didn't ask whether the turkey was raised in a pasture or a confinement operation. She didn't have the luxury of choice. She was simply grateful for the food, and praised the girls for their crayon-decorated box which contained a week's supply of food for her family. Food she can't afford to buy herself.

Those are the lessons we all need to remember this time of year; may we have gratitude for what we have; compassion for those who have-not, and wisdom to thank the farmers who give us the luxury of choice. I hope you find occasion to teach that lesson to your children, as you gather around the family table this Holiday season, and heap your plates high with 'mushed together' food.