Andrew Morehouse | Executive Director of The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
Member of Coalition to End Hunger’s Policy Team
As 2019 begins, I am reminded of the importance of the values that guide me and all of us in our daily lives. We constantly make decisions and formulate opinions based on the information at hand. In a world increasingly oversaturated with conflicting information, it’s easy to lose sight of our most precious values that serve as our moral compass. All religions, and secular humanism, share many core values, especially empathy, responsibility and charity to help those who are less fortunate. I believe that here in western Massachusetts we strive to embrace these values — including reciprocity, fairness and honesty to name just a few — that buoy our sense of community and our desire to live in a healthy and productive society.
Unfortunately, despite our efforts, we are falling far short of this mark. Hunger prevails across our region. Tens of thousands of individuals either experience or are at risk of hunger every week in cities and small rural towns in the four counties of Western Massachusetts. They are food insecure; they often don’t not know where or when they will have their next meal. Far too many children go to school hungry every day.
Far too many elders make excruciating choices between paying for their medicine, heat or for food. Far too many veterans and people with disabilities depend on us simply to survive when they could be giving back to society in meaningful ways if they didn’t have to live with food insecurity. Even many hard-working households struggle to put food on the table because they are earning minimum and near-minimum wage incomes.
At The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, our core value is that everyone has the right to healthy food, regardless of their circumstances. Yet we know that hunger is a symptom of many underlying causes, including but not limited to inadequate affordable housing, childcare, transportation, higher education and job training. As a society, we must invest much more in these resources if we are ever to achieve our potential as a region in an increasingly competitive world. Deeper structural economic and social barriers also exist, ranging from insufficient jobs at incomes that support households to racism. We cannot ignore these seemingly intractable barriers and think that they will not do us harm. Yes, it will take time to find solutions, but we must persevere if we want to thrive as a society.
When we stray from our moral compass, we are unable to reach our potential as a community. As a result, we are forced to bear the cost in so many ways that make it feel overwhelming at times. The Food Bank, as the leading provider of healthy food to almost all the local food pantries and meal sites in our region, is committed to feeding our neighbors in need every week of the year along with our partners and the community at large. We are also committed to working toward long-term solutions to hunger. We invite you to learn more about how you may get involved: www.foodbankwma.org
Whatever your New Year’s resolutions may be, seize this special time of the year to take stock of your moral compass and decide how you choose to contribute to a healthier and more productive Western Massachusetts for all.