Yesterday, September 29th, Second Harvest Food Bank held a press conference to announce the results of the hunger study conducted in the beginning of the year (Click here to view our Executive Summary).   Speakers at the press briefing included Barbara Bigelow, Chair of the Advisory Board of Second Harvest, Elisa Zaehringer, Planner, CACLV, Alan Jennings, Executive Director of CACLV, Terry Ryan-Mitlyng, Steering Committee Chair of Christ Church Lowhill Food Pantry, Daina Nanchanatt, Muhlenberg College Student.   

Here are the words expressed during the press briefing by our Executive Director,  Alan Jennings:

I have been doing this work for 39 years; it wears on you.  It wears on you to put your sweat and emotion and energy and everything else you’ve got into fighting a battle that all the evidence says we’re losing.

 The forces of despair press hard: globalization that enables American companies to seek cheaper labor and weaker regulations abroad; technology that leaves the undereducated and the disinclined behind; a political system for hire, and even a mean spirit that seems so pervasive these days, spawned by economic anxiety that is so scary that people are turning against each other

 Maybe people don’t want to hear more depressing news that reminds them that they have a damned good reason to be consumed by despair.  But we think folks need to hear the results of our study.  Maybe hearing it again and again will make it impossible to ignore; maybe hearing it will stimulate and epiphany.  Maybe the truth will demand our attention and shake us enough to startle us from our apathy or, better, our refusal to listen to the cries of our neighbors.

 And these are some of the truths:

  • Very few people collect welfare anymore, so stop raising that worn, torn flag;
  • Those very few who do, collect so little that it really isn’t worth the energy put into hating it;
  • Unemployment compensation doesn’t pay the bills;
  • Too many jobs pay to little to pay the bills;
  • The bills are rising but our incomes are not;
  • Our government-funded safety net isn’t safe.

 So, please, let’s have a serious discussion about what it means to be Americans, or even just residents of the Lehigh Valley.  First, thanks for making the Second Harvest Food Bank and its network of agencies able to feed those who need us.  Second, though, let’s ask ourselves how badly someone must feel to accept that help and how difficult it is to compete in a competitive economy when we feel so badly about ourselves.  Third, let’s stop acting as if a civilized society can be civilized or even be a society without government.  Fourth, let’s start acting civilized in our discourse: stop calling each other names, stop yelling and stop clinging to orthodoxy when an alternative might actually work.

 And, while there is much more, finally, do something.  Just do something: learn more, volunteer, send money, contact your elected officials, change your lifestyle so we save more, waste less, donate more, ignore less.

 These are tough times.  Let’s all take a deep breath.  Let’s take a moment to consider what it would be like to get stuck in the void of no opportunity.  Remember for another moment our mothers’ admonition to embrace the Golden Rule.  We’ll all be better off when we do.