Hard times, soft hearts

Hard times, soft hearts

You could call this the food issue. But while some people get the bagel (see page 18), horrifying numbers may be left with nothing but the hole.

According to a new report from the Department of Agriculture, hunger and what’s euphemistically called “food insecurity” rates in this country increased in 2007.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has sent out an alert about the situation, noting that “more than 36.2 million people, or 12.2 percent of Americans, lived in households that did not have access to adequate food and nutrition in 2007, compared to 35.5 million in 2006 and 33.2 million in 2000. The number of people in the worst-off category-the hungriest Americans-has risen by nearly one-third since 2000, from 8.5 million to 11.9 million.”

And those figures were compiled before the economic meltdown, before massive layoffs and home foreclosures. Jewish family services are experiencing an increasing demand for their services. More and more people are turning to them for help, but donations are shrinking as the need expands. (See pages 8 and 28.)

Another organization, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, is mounting an effort to aid an overlooked group of newly unemployed workers – those affected by the closure of the Agriprocessors meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa. (It’s possible the plant will reopen; see page 30.) Hundreds have been arrested as illegal aliens, but what of those whose documents attest to their right to work in this country? These people performed the dirtiest jobs imaginable for pitiably low wages. And what of the families who were dependent on those wages?

The Jewish community, like all communities in the United States, has been hurt by the economic crisis. But if we can, we should join efforts to alleviate hunger and other deprivations, particularly in our own communities. A number of congregations collect food, clothing, and even toys for the needy, particularly during the High Holy Days and around Thanksgiving and the winter gift-giving extravaganzas.

We’d like, as well, to point readers to the JCUA relief fund for the Postville workers:

Send checks marked “Food and Disaster Relief” to the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Postville Relief Fund, 610 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60605, or go to JCUA.org and click on “Donate.”

And while you’re enjoying your Thanksgiving dinner (if you observe the national holiday), be grateful that you don’t need that kind of help.