Keeping people from being hungry was a part of my job for fourteen years. At Society of St. Andrew, I was a broker of sorts as I found food that would otherwise go to waste and connected it to people who would otherwise go hungry. Sweet potatoes, green beans, blueberries and peaches gleaned from fields and orchards were put on the plates of people who might not have known from where their next meal would come. However, the more I did the work of feeding the hungry, the less satisfied I was with the fact that people were hungry at all! I began to wonder if what I was doing was making a difference for the long term. I provided food, but that didn’t change the situation. I wasn’t addressing a “root cause” of hunger.
Visiting Rev. Curry at the Pennsylvania Ave. Baptist Church was inspiring as I realized that he was looking for the root causes of poverty and other issues within his community. One of the areas of concern which he described was the high number of people who were receiving dialysis within the community. Rather than stopping with that issue and looking for ways to support people while they receive dialysis, Rev. Curry went behind this issue to see why so many folks needed dialysis. As he worked his way back from dialysis to kidney disease to diabetes to poor diets, he recognized the root causes. Chief among these was diet.
Poor diet is a many faceted issue that includes such things as the abundance of fast food and the lack of fresh vegetables at affordable grocery stores. I was encouraged by the Rev. Curry’s vision of what the community could become through the ministries of the church. Rev. Curry recognizes the need to feed bodies as well as souls with healthy food and sees that addressing a health issue such as the large number of people on dialysis involves looking at the entire life of the community.
Giving people fresh fruits and vegetables gleaned from farms is important because it keeps people from going hungry but it is also only applying a band-aid to a gaping wound whose causes are far beyond just having enough food. Community redevelopment with the whole person in mind is more like surgery, it takes time and money and energy, but in the end, the wound might actually heal.