These present days in America are disturbing, jarring, unprecedented. They can drive us to despair or they can call us to remember and act on familiar words and phrases penned centuries ago: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” “with liberty and justice for all.” As we watch some of those promises disappear for many before our eyes, we find ourselves identifying with another phrase from history: “these are the times that try men’s souls.”
Yes, these unsettled and unsettling times try us. They challenge us to take a deep and hard look at the world in which we live and then to consider our responsibility in the face of it. They summon us to act with courage and commitment. They beg us to make a stand and to take an action against social injustice in any and every place and guise we find it.
The particular social injustice that has driven so many to the streets in recent days is the insidious scourge of racism graphically demonstrated in the senseless killing of a Black man named George Floyd. Like those protesters, we at NFESH are enraged by this murder and others like it. We firmly oppose any and every form of racial prejudice and we believe it is our duty to declare that publicly. This sense of obligation is not based solely on principle but is also grounded in our real life experiences.
For decades in our anti-hunger work we have come face-to-face with the hardships racial minorities encounter and face disproportionately to other races and ethnicities. Ensuring that these fellow citizens don’t go hungry has long stood at the heart of our work. We have done the same for the poor and those folks living in rural areas, who regardless of race, are much more likely to suffer hunger than individuals living in suburbs or cities. So are the elderly, and we have concentrated our efforts on serving them. We have come to learn that the food system, like many other societal structures, spawns a kind of social injustice of its own. Its prejudices, inadvertent or not, generally align with racism, ageism and gender bias. Such social injustice ends up robbing many of our fellow citizens of their liberty and dignity and sometimes of their lives. When and where it does, it diminishes our nation. When and where it does, it demands that we all take action to assure “liberty and justice for all.”
Here at NFESH, that’s our pledge.