Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Soup-er Bowl Message

The Knights of Malta sponsor an annual hunger awareness luncheon in the Kansas City area called "Soup-er Bowl". Participants come from both Kansas City dioceses.

Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann is shown at left getting his soup and posted below is Kansas City - St. Joseph Bishop Emeritus Raymond Boland's message for the day.

A story on the event by Kevin Kelly is in the upcoming print edition of The Catholic Key.

December 2, 2008

Most Reverend Raymond J. Boland
Bishop Emeritus of Kansas City-St. Joseph

I was born in a nation which suffered the loss of 25% of its people because of hunger. Over one million died in a land where there was enough food to feed them. At least a few of them were my relatives. Two were a father and his daughter found dead in their modest farm house: another daughter was found dead on the side of the road. The inquest ruled that all three had died of starvation.

Christ was very blunt when he established a litmus test for the judgment all of us must one day face. It will be a choice between commendation, “I was hungry and you gave me food,” or condemnation, “I was hungry and you gave me no food.” (Matt. 25:35)

We now live in a nation where according to the United States Department of Agriculture, 28 million people, 13.9 million of them children, live in households that suffer from hunger of live on the edge of hunger. Yet, far from being a third world country or an undeveloped nation, we boast that we enjoy one of the highest standards of living since recorded time began.

Something is terribly wrong.

During 2007 among the top ten states with what sociologists call “the highest food insecurity rates,” are listed to our shame, both Missouri and Kansas. And yet Kansas is part of the Grain Belt and most years leads the nation in wheat production and Missouri is one of the top food producing states of the Union.

Something is terribly wrong.

This luncheon, popularly known as the Soup-er Bowl, has been describing the dire problem of hunger in the Kansas City Metropolitan area for about fifteen years. Every year it has been a grim report: this year it is catastrophic.

There is absolutely no hint of a silver lining for hungry people in the current economic crisis, since yesterday, now officially a recession. People are losing their homes, unemployment is rising alarmingly, food prices are soaring, malnutrition is increasing, mere survival is becoming more difficult, food lines are getting longer, pantry shelves are emptying faster, contributions are down and the despair is palpable when hungry people are greeted by shaking heads as all the goodwill in the world cannot provide what does not exist.

Something is terribly wrong.

National Catholic Charities recently took a snapshot survey of their agencies all over the USA. Here is what they found:

77 percent of agencies are seeing an increase in the need for food

64 percent of agencies anticipate food to be the greatest need of their clients this holiday season

51 percent of agencies anticipate food shortages during this holiday season Happy Christmas!
Something is terribly wrong.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to what is said by those who are heroically, day after day, trying to serve the hungry in our city. I am grateful to Susan Engel of Catholic Charities who contacted many of the local food pantries on my behalf. The reports make sobering reading.

Vicki Koch at our Cathedral reports a 26.5% increase in lunches served at the Cathedral’s Hospitality House.

Mary Lou Greim of the Good Samaritan Center, reports that they are spending 66% more in food than during this time last year. In 2007 they spent $47,000. So far in 2008, $71,000.

Beverly Friday at St. Louis Social Services, reports that they are helping at least 10 families a day with one to six children. There is a daily increase of five more families over the situation which existed a few months ago.

Joanna Sebelien of Harvesters, reports that 75% of their agencies have new clients seeking help for the first time, and 65% of these are seeking help because they have lost their jobs. Harvesters anticipate the need to distribute seven million more pounds of food than they had originally planned.

Something is terribly wrong.

If we are not willing to help feed our poverty-stricken neighbors because our faith prompts us to see the dignity and the face of Christ in each one of them, then, at least, we can avail of the State of Missouri’s tax credit granted to those who contribute to food pantries within the state.

In summary, the problem is huge but the resources are attainable. We just need to galvanize thousands of resolute and generous people like yourselves to ensure that nobody in our communities, especially no child, goes to bed suffering and being debilitated by the pangs of hunger.

Remember Christ said, “I was hungry and you gave me food.” We have no option.

Thank you.