A Minneapolis food bank teamed up with the local law enforcement in a program designed to help hungry people find food.
As we all know, food banks are one of the main ways communities fight hunger. But recently, Minnesota food bank Matter started doing something special.
The food bank is teaming up with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office (encompassing Minneapolis) to help distribute food.
Officers will keep boxes with nutritious food in their cars, and if they come across someone in need over the course of their patrol, they'll be able to provide them with things like raisins, oatmeal, granola bars, and canned vegetables.
There are a lot of people in Minnesota who will benefit from this:
As an added bonus, the program will give the police a chance to develop a relationship with members of the community.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we will come across a number of those who are less fortunate, maybe even homeless. This will allow the deputies to build a little rapport, reach out to them, [offer] a healthy alternative to what they might be doing." — Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio
Some folks have pointed out that small-scale assistance won't put an end to the bigger problems that cause hunger and poverty.
Recently one of my co-workers shared a story of a restaurant owner who put a sign on her door offering a meal to the person she knew was digging through the trash at night looking for leftover food. While the story garnered many positive comments, we were surprised to see how many people (both on our post and on similar stories elsewhere on the Internet) commented saying that these case-by-case examples, whether it's cops handing out granola bars or restaurant owners offering a free meal, aren't doing enough to solve those long-term problems.
It's no secret that, for many homeless people, finding food is a daily struggle.
What's maybe not so obvious is that for many folks, even if they do manage to find food reliably, it can be as big a curse as it is a blessing.
One Tumblr user, who agreed to let me share his story here, responded to those criticisms and offered up some insight on what it's like being homeless and hungry:
It reads (emphasis added):
"When I was homeless, I was so constipated all the time — [a] combo of limited access to restrooms and living on one meal a day from the back door of the pizza place... but you can only live on stale pepperoni deep dish for so long before your guts start to rebel. And that was when i was — what, 19? 20? It's gotta be so much worse for older people, and not everyone's got such a nice restaurant to mooch off of. Eating actual trash will f*ck your stomach up like whoa. You never know how painful gas can be until you eat something that was a little farther past the sell-by date than you thought it was, it turns your stomach into a chemical refinery, and the nearest open public restroom is a mile away."
"Handing out raisins and oatmeal looks, at first glance, like one of those officious 'spend your food stamps on lettuce' clusterf*cks that middle-class people are always perpetrating because they've never been in the shoes of the people they're trying to 'improve'. But actually, it's a great idea, and this is gonna make a lot of people a little healthier in immediate, tangible ways. We're not talking some vague probability-of-heart-disease-in-20-years stuff. We're talking standing a little straighter and breathing a little easier the very next day."
When it comes to solving problems as big as poverty and hunger, we can't just focus on the big picture and we can't just focus on the small-scale stuff. It's only through a combination of both approaches that we'll ever find a way to make things better.