My first official blog as Vice President of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is prompted by recent news from Fred, my friend and former colleague at the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program in Los Angeles. In 2002, when I became SOVA director, our three food pantries were providing free groceries for about 2500 people a month. A couple of weeks ago, Fred, now SOVA Director of Operations, emailed a simple and jarring message: “8,239 (That’s the preliminary client count for July. 40% above July ‘08. 93% above July ’07).”
The news was staggering. 8,239 people a month are now relying on SOVA for food assistance. Unbelievable. I don’t need to know their names to know who they are. You may not realize it, but regardless of where you live, you know who they are, too. You see them waiting for the bus as you drive by, or standing in front of you in the grocery store line or clearing the tables at your neighborhood restaurant. It’s the man who cleans your office after hours, the clerk at the drugstore and the single mother with two teenagers whose car is their home. It’s the elderly couple who live in the apartment at the end of the hall. They are people who are homeless, people with disabilities, people who followed all the rules and still got sideswiped by life, people who worked their whole lives only to see their savings evaporate and people who fell through the cracks of the “safety net” because they weren’t poor enough. They are people who don’t know when or whether they will have another meal.
The people behind the statistics are the reason I work to end hunger, not only in my community, but in yours, too.