When Evening Arrives and There Is No Bread
Dallas Hunger Summit ▪ September 15, 2017
Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions
· It is an honor to stand with you today
· Knowing your work, your tenacity, your commitment and your faith, I am truly humbled to be with you
· You guys happen to be my heroes!
· I also know that none of you are satisfied with where we are today
· When we get together, we typically hear the dismal, disheartening, depressing numbers—I’m sure we’ll hear them again today
· I trust and hope that the numbers will bring challenge and renewed determination.
· But, we’ve got issues, don’t we?
--toxic stress related to food insecurity
--life in food deserts all across this great, wealthy city
What are we going to do?
Forgive me, but I’m going to tell a “Jesus story”!
Not a church story. . .
Not a proselytizing story. . .
But a story of mystery, power and fulfillment!
Is that Okay?
Here it is:
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Now what might we observe here?
1. At the end of the day hungry people too often find themselves in a desert without food!
2. At the end of the day hungry people too often are dismissed by their leaders. . .those with resources and authority who now claim they have no remedy for hunger in the desert!
3. At the end of the day hungry people, including children, find it normal to be “on their own” to find food to satisfy their hunger—not only “send them away,” but also let them buy food for themselves in the surrounding villages.
4. At the end of the day, those with power face the hunger issue with a well-developed “scarcity mindset”—look how little we have here, 5 loaves and two fish!
But in the story, Jesus represents something so amazing: intervention, innovation, insistence, direct action!
1. You are responsible!
--Bring what you have!
--Here is where I get lost, frankly—but the mystery of the miracle answers our need perfectly—I’m lost, but I feel right at home! I’ve been lost for 40 years when it comes to hunger and affluent America!
--We’re in a desert with not enough resources
--We’re underfunded for the challenge
--We’re ineffective much of the time
2. I notice that Jesus gets them organized—he has them sit on the ground in groups—Mark’s version has them in groups of 100s and 50s: I wonder how much community organizing might have been going on here? Something about folk getting’ together over food!
3. At the end of the day, there was more than enough thanks to faith and action—I expect a lesson for Jesus’ followers!
For me, this story forces and inspires a new conversation about the challenge of hunger in our community and our nation:
· We need new strategies
· We need empowering impatience
· We need to ask hard questions
► Why can’t we develop plans for strategically located, full-service grocery stores in our food deserts that includes whatever subsidy is necessary to attract and retain these merchants?
► Today we can calculate the economic impact of notorious food on community health. Why not take some public health $$$ and apply to the preventative work of the availability of good grocery stores?
► Why can’t we mobilize and deploy all of our SNAP benefits in Texas and in Dallas? Full mobilization of food benefits would help fund grocery markets in the places where most needed.
► Why not reward community gardeners with supply grants and other field to market cost supports to ensure these endeavors survive and thrive?
► Why can food centers and neighborhood pantries better coordinate their work to increase impact? Why can’t we replace competition with cooperation?
1. I’ve been watching, knowing, hearing hungry and poor folks for over 4 decades—I’ve got so many memories:
--Mr. Adrian in New Orleans
--The precious folks who line up outside our food center daily. . .waiting so patiently for our groceries
--Almost 25 years ago in East Dallas, the little boy and his younger brother with the single banana
--The kids we see after school and all summer long
2. Your work is hard.
Please don’t give up—you are in good company!
Embrace the challenge—you’ll likely find and encounter the mystery.