Nothing is much more heartbreaking than seeing a child standing in a food line with other homeless people, waiting for a free hot meal. Having served such a child personally, when her turn came to be given a plate of turkey tacos and a ribbon-tied bag of homemade trail mix, caused my heart to hurt, my throat to swell and took every ounce of control to fight back tears while sharing with her a warm smile.
It made me so appreciative of all that my family has, and even prouder of my own daughter, now a senior in high school, for giving me the reason – and opportunity – to be out there serving that child and other homeless and hungry people on the streets of Washington, D.C. It made me so aware of how much we have and how much we have to give back.
I know many of the producers that support our work here at the Alliance give back to their local food banks, halfway houses and even animal shelters, not because they have to, but because it’s the right thing to do. Just this past Easter weekend, America’s egg farmers donated nearly half a million eggs to food assistance organizations!
That moment also made me even more aware of why it’s important to keep food affordable and accessible. It brought some reality to what I do, have done now for nearly 20 years with the Alliance. It gave me more purpose in fighting for justice on behalf of farmers and ranchers and consumer choice.
So many of the groups and individuals we have to deal with at the Alliance push for policies that would drastically raise the cost of food in America, making it both less affordable and less accessible. On the surface, some seem noble in their cause to improve animal care, but having that inside track to knowing their real agenda, most of the groups we battle are either seeking to eliminate animal protein and consumption all together or eliminate modern technologies that allow food to be more affordable.
We are blessed in this nation to have so many choices. So many products produced in different ways and at varying price points. And protein, a necessity of life, should not be only for those who can afford the $20/lb. steak.
Teens Opposing Poverty (TOP) is an initiative by which youth in churches purchase, prepare and serve hot meals to those who are homeless. My 17-year old restarted the initiative in our church this fall after about a three-year hiatus as part of her high school senior project themed, “Being the Change I Want to See in the World.” Her project is all about service to others. I joined her initially just to support her and to serve as the female adult chaperone (all youth events must have at least one adult male and female). I had no idea how much I would gain from this experience, nor how meaningful it would be to interact with and see homeless people – really see them – for the first time.
The homeless live on the streets for many reasons. Some have made bad choices in life. Some have no family or support network. Some are military veterans who have been unable to find work after returning home. Some immigrated here hoping for a better life, but possibly with little education and unable to speak English. Some like the little girl were born into that life.
Regardless of how they got there, they are all people, with stories. People who need help. People who need food and need others to care if they are to ever have hope of a better life.
So as animal rights groups, or groups like the Pew Commission, Center for a Livable Future and even Chipotle work to push their agenda, making protein less affordable and less accessible, my resolve is even stronger now than ever before to support farmers, ranchers, food producers and others who work tirelessly to produce protein in modern ways, using modern and safe technologies and processes. I just think of that little girl and her need for a better life. One hot meal of turkey tacos served with a smile just maybe can change a life. Maybe the activists should give it a try.
-Kay Johnson Smith