Going hungry

One of my mother’s stories was about how she and her sisters went down to the river in her northern Irish town to pick watercress. Decades passed before I realized they hadn’t really been foraging for food to fill their bellies; that plant’s a delicacy for English sandwiches. It was an easy mistake to make because I knew she’d often gone to bed hungry as a child. After marrying my father—an Army officer in World War II—she’d come to America and never went hungry again.

I’ve never experienced real hunger. But I have been among the “food insecure.” That’s what people are called who have trouble finding the money to buy food. Back in the day, my two young daughters and I lived so close to the edge that anything—a lost job, a health emergency—would have been catastrophic. Someone told me then that beans and rice formed a “perfect protein,” so that’s what we ate night after night after night. We also ate free spaghetti dinners as often as they were offered and got by through the generosity of family and friends.

You’d be surprised to know how many of your neighbors are in a similar position. As Sasha Abramsky reports in this week’s cover story, “America’s dirtiest secret,” thousands locally can’t put food on their tables. They’re the Wal-Mart employees, the widows with recently deceased husbands, the husband whose wife ran off and left him with the kids to feed—these are the folks showing up, embarrassed, at area food banks. And they’re single women, young and old. In Sacramento County, 21.3 percent of single women live beneath the federal poverty line. That number expands to a shameful 31.5 percent for single women with children under age 5.

In this world, particularly here in the food-rich Sacramento region, hunger is a sad state of affairs. As Steve Caruso from the Elk Grove Community Food Bank tells Abramsky: “It is just unconscionable to me that somebody goes to bed hungry.”

As for me, I’m off hungering after my next adventure. By the time this is published, Melinda Welsh will be back in the saddle as interim editor. It’s been a fun ride. A short one. But a good one. Thanks for reading.