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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Sharen Jergenson: An extra place at the table

  • Despite the epidemic of obesity in the country, 1 in 4 children are still hungry
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  • Studies have found annual medical costs linked to obesity are in the billions.That seems inconsistent to the 50 million Americans struggling to put food on their table. Arkansas has one of the highest rates of very low food security in the country. That is not a concept easily absorbed since humans throughout history have struggled to get a grip on the propensity to pig out. But, facts remain that 1 in every 4 children are hungry. That should weigh heavily on the minds of those indulging in the ambiance of fine dining. Dining whereby a map and an interpreter is needed to guide one through the menu. From Foie Gras with Brioche and on to Vichyssoise. Perhaps Mesclun with Walnut Oil Dressing? A sorbet to clean the palate is a must to give the next course a fresh perspective. A presentation of Cognac Shrimp swimming in Beurre Blanc Sauce can cause one to break out in hives. If that doesn’t, the check delivered to you following the final course of a delicious decadent dessert surely will. You’ve just shelled out an amount that would feed a hungry family for a month. Hungry children with no concern over a brigade of tableware used for fine dining. Happiness could come to them in the shape of one soup spoon. They would feel the urge to eat and drink in haste, whether or not it be proper or appear they have not been accustomed to a good table. And, just what is a good table?  Not only is one identified by the quality of food served, but to have always prepared adequately to allow for “an extra place at the table.” 
         Hunger issues have always existed. Awareness has either turned a blind eye or is dead. Even during my childhood, there was always a poor relative my father would deliver food to. Often times a lonely soul traveling on foot would stop at our well for water. They didn’t need a second invitation to sit at my mother’s table. I loved hearing their spun tales and watching their enjoyment of a good table. My mother would deviate from table rules  handed to her by my maternal English grandmother: No elbows on the table. Napkin on your lap. No drinking from the soup bowl but delicately from the soup spoons edge. And, I beg your pardon. Did someone slurp? That could get you a pass straight to purgatory. If that didn’t, unruly peas sent flying by a slip of the fork would. One pea regally planting itself into the stylish bun atop my grandmother’s head sent me into a fit of giggles. I was shown a corner chair from whence those dreadful little teacups kept eyeing me from the sideboard. Grandmother was a “use-the-good-stuff” advocate. She loved pouring her English brew from a pretty teapot. I’d try to escape teatime. “I’m to leave for Antarctica to study penguin mating habits.” She didn’t buy it!  “Come along dear. It’s teatime. The penguins will simply have to wait.”  So there I was, back at the table facing the soggy crumpets and insipid tea. Being fastidious was no option. Even while caught up in the geometrically spaced world of tableware, I was often reminded by my father that there was a famine in China and children were going hungry. While touring China 4 years ago, I learned that during their Great Famine, parents were telling their children to be greatful for the dollup of rice on their plate because the children in America were starving to death. Our tour director lost his little sister to starvation. His story of hunger was very real and is a reality for far too many children today.
    Page 2 of 2 -      It’s difficult to understand that inequality of conditions and the struggle for basic needs is allowed to prevail. (Where is Robin Hood when needed?) It’s bloody wrong that billions of dollars are allowed to buy seats for politicians and pad campaign trails while hunger thrives. In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the prevalence of poverty. GOP extremists should try walking  a week in the shoes of a hungry child. They should feel the barrier of stigma that can cause low school breakfast participation rates. Without the fuel to feed the brain, a classroom can become a blurry place for a child. They find it difficult to focus on learning and struggle to concentrate. It’s a wise and giving teacher that keeps a small refrigerator stocked with healthy snacks so hunger can quickly be reined in without loss of valued lesson time. The conservative solutions to any problem is one of planned chaos. For poverty, it’s to mock the poor. Tom Cotton’s solution to hunger is to cut food stamps. These inept minds have no compassion to see need for “an extra place at the table.”  They are too busy with ego stroking and partaking in their Tea Party. They’ve  had a taste of obnoxious tea and are preparing for a second sip.  And, that’s my opinion. . . . . 
     
    (Sharen Jergenson of Heber Springs writes her “And that’s my opinion column... “ for The Sun-Times monthly)
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