One of the clumsier phrases employed by sociologists and nonprofits these days is “food insecure.” The language police — and we count ourselves as on-duty officers — will sneer at the transfiguration of the age-old and still serviceable “hungry.”
But “food insecure” actually describes the Long Island households that are in emergency food programs more accurately than hungry.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity “describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.”
In practical terms, it means that people are involuntarily cutting back on meals or don’t know where the next meal is coming from. The USDA reports that 42.2 million Americans — including 12 million children — fall into that category. Nearly 11 million additional households are in a condition of “very low food security,” which translates to one or more people sharing a home who have been hungry “over the course of a year.”
The grim statistics don’t spare Long Island. Long Island Cares, a nonprofit food provider, estimates that 283,700 of our neighbors in the region receive emergency food each year.
This Thanksgiving, we’ll take pleasure in the stories handed down from generation to generation — whether facts have been lost, obscured or tempered by time — reinforcing what families and nations believe about the best part of themselves. And that best part of America is being grateful for what we have, and sharing it. Thanksgiving is the story every school child learns, passed down long ago, about the Native Americans, who showed food insecure Pilgrims how to fish the waters of the New World and taught them to grow corn, and how both communities sat down in peace and broke bread together.
We’re taught that we’re free, and we’re all equal, and so we have a duty to give thanks. The lesson taken from the Thanksgiving stories, for everyone who is fortunate to be with loved ones at our November feast, is that it’s a day every American knows is set aside to count blessings and remember an important element in the founding of our country.
It doesn’t take much to remember those who are not quite as secure as we are.