Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Food is a Right, Not a Privilege

How would you feel if you were arrested for dishing out soup to a homeless person? In the past week, twelve members of a feed the homeless program were arrested for sharing food. They crossed the line when they dished out corn, rice, beans, and watermelon to the less fortunate in a public park. According to an Orlando ordinance, only two large food gatherings are allowed per year with a permit. The group Food Not Bombs has been making a scene by holding two meatless buffet lines a week for the homeless, in order to share their plight. Why would it be such a big deal to feed the homeless?

I certainly agree that no one should go to bed hungry. People that are living on the streets don’t even have a place to sleep, yet are going to bed, or bench, starving on most days. It is great that this group is being thoughtful and realizing there are too many homeless people in their area. I would definitely feel rewarded for feeding a mother and child who are living under a bridge. But this is a temporary fix to a bigger issue. At first sight of this news, I thought, "What in the world? How could they arrest people who are trying to help the less fortunate?" Women were holding up signs saying “Jesus did not need a permit.” They were angry that their welfare was being shot down by the law; I would be too!

I was thinking I would write an article about how ridiculous this law was, and that everyone should start a free food buffet line in their park. Then I took the law’s perspective and realized that there has to be a reason for this ordinance. Laws are normally formed from a consensus in the community. As the police booked the criminals for sharing food, the crowd screamed, “Food is a right, not a privilege.” This law may have been put in place for a reason, but is it actually harmful to feed the homeless? Just like the Chinese proverb goes, "You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." Maybe the law was put in place because they did not want the homeless to rely on this free food twice a week and get comfortable on the streets. The government wants its people to be healthy, helpful citizens working to create a bigger economy. Handing out a line of food will not teach them anything.

Is the act of feeding the homeless actually about teaching them something? Not really. When I donate food, I imagine a full stomach and a smile on a normally starving individual. I don’t necessarily think deeply about it. Most people don't have the time to volunteer at a rehab center to teach individuals job skills. Nor do many rehab centers offer free services like this to any homeless that walk in for help. Instead of feeding the homeless people, should this activist group be holding twice-weekly meetings for job finding techniques? Maybe they should bring out portable showers, clothe them in business attire, and practice mock interviews. That will get them back on the workforce and shut the law up real quick.

Forget the law for a second and think green. Feeding the homeless can be an eco-friendly act. Canned food drives are certainly green. Every time I hear about a canned food drive I dig in the back of my cupboard to find food that I know I would have just thrown away and dish it out to the homeless. I bring out boxed and processed foods that are not yet expired and save the space in the landfills by donating them. I reuse paper bags by filling them with the cans and food and carrying them over to the drives. My cupboards seem clean and fresh after a drive, and I remember to only buy what I’m going to use in the next couple of weeks. Buying in bulk is sometimes a good idea, especially if you have a large family, but living alone with bulk purchases is never smart. I always end up with extra cans of tomato paste, beans, and soups that almost go without eating until their expiration nears.

Donating shoes, clothes, furniture, and knick-knacks to homeless shelters is always a green conscious action. Don’t contribute to the landfills with items that are perfectly reusable. Less fortunate people, or even college kids, could reuse an old table or mattress set. In this recession it is apparent that new things cannot be afforded by all. Craigslist is full of listings about how people lost their jobs and need an inexpensive place to stay, a donated bed, or things to make their new house feel like a home.

It may be a crime to meet in a city owned public place and dish out food, but it is harmless to post free stuff online. It is easy to look up local homeless shelters and call them for a pickup. Save your own gas, as they make their rounds picking up old items from all over your town. If you think you've gone green in all ways possible, think again but this time about the homeless.

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1 comment:

  1. I started a Facebook group

    and am trying to create a repository of information on the subject for reporters

    This is the beginning of a chronology of the newspaper articles