When Hunger Is on the Doorstep

Hunger

The photographer Brenda Ann Kenneally traveled across the country to highlight the prevalence of food insecurity among families. To her, the images only begin to tell the story of struggle.

What we have in this country largely is a distribution problem of wealth and resources. The systems of distribution have been shut down or altered, but not because of the pandemic — disastrous events like Covid-19 only exposed the flaws of those systems. So for a while now, it’s been very difficult to even get food to where it needs to be. We have enough resources to assist our fellows in ways to create lives of greater possibility, certainly sustainability, and some kind of security. But the wealth is controlled by a very small percentage of individuals, and systems are put in place to perpetuate that. There’s no better example than food. The people who are bringing us food make the smallest wage and the system is designed to keep people fed just enough so they can keep working to make the folks on top wealthier. That kind of discussion, you can start it with a meal on the table and the food as a symbol of inequity and insecurity.

George Ruder, a 65-year-old custodian, prepares what he calls “cheap soup” for his 11-year-old daughter, Mariana. Mr. Ruder worked at basketball games at the University of Arizona, but that work was suspended when the pandemic cut the season short. He is the sole breadwinner at home. Last year, Mr. Ruder visited a food pantry for the first time. 


It is a visit to one family. It’s a girl, she’s eating soup that was made by her dad, and she’s 11 years old. She has ADHD. She is raised by a dad whose husband died. The dad was in the military. A gay man during the time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He adopted this girl from a family member. Now he’s in his 60s, and she is approaching young womanhood. They are eating pasta shells that he sautéed up in a pan with a can of tomato soup and a can of diced tomatoes. And that was what he calls “cheap soup.” There was nothing in that photo that belies anything that I told you as a back story, including the urn that he had next to his bookcase, with the rainbow flag over it, that contains his husband.

I left there feeling that I wanted her voice to be heard. I believe I felt that way because I didn’t see the pathway for that to happen. Sometimes being well-adjusted is not what you want. You don’t want to be comfortable with scarcity. So, the feeling that I had with that family was bittersweet. I love the fact that they had each other, and they weren’t complaining about it, and they formed a family. Yet I hoped that her voice could be heard so that she is the new face of our future.

“IF WE CAN CONQUER SPACE, WE CAN CONQUER CHILDHOOD HUNGER”.

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