I was hungry and you fed me – Gleaners
Several years ago I presented a paper on Mennonites in the Former Soviet Union in a public forum at the Okanagan University College. During the question period I was asked, “What is your strongest memory as a refugee from WWII?” I had never given this much thought since life has been generous after emigrating to Canada. It turns out, the dominant memory is that I was always hungry. The ration cards our family were issued were not enough for a growing family of seven. I recall begging farmers for ears of corn they had boiled to feed the pigs. I discovered leaves from a certain tree were palatable enough to fill my stomach. I dreamed of food and thought about food much of the time. Maslow is correct in saying that food, shelter and clothing are fundamental in the hierarchy of needs. There were times after a CARE package from relatives in Canada arrived that our diet improved. The packages contained canned meat, preserves, margarine, lard, honey, egg and milk powder, coffee and cigarettes. Coffee and cigarettes were in short supply so Dad took them to the market and traded them for other staples to tide us over till we came to Canada in 1948. Jesus words, “I was hungry and you fed me,” comes to mind often.
The UN reports that globally upwards of 800 million persons suffer from insufficient nutrition, a polite way of saying 800 million individuals are either starving or on the verge of starvation. At the same time it is estimated that 47% of food in Canada ends up in the landfill.
When we moved to Penticton in 2011 I was given the opportunity to pay the generosity of Mennonite Central Committee and relatives in Canada forward. I began volunteering at the Okanagan Gleaners Society in Oliver, B.C. The Society brings together farmers, distributors and processors who provide surplus produce and produce deemed not suitable for the market with people suffering from food insecurity. Volunteers wash, dice and dehydrate the vegetables into a nutritious soup mix base. Relief agencies distribute the soup mix in areas of most need in all continents on the globe. On average each volunteer produces 250 servings of soup mix in a single three hour shift for a total of just under 6 million servings in the calendar year. The Okanagan Gleaners Society only puts a small dent in the problem of world hunger but it matters to those who receive it as CARE packages did to me as a WWII refugee.
For Kelowna First Mennonite I am Johann Funk