For many people across the country, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day of on rather than a holiday to do volunteer work. Most local nonprofits host some sort of event where volunteers from the community come to help with service projects. This includes working in community gardens, urban farms, reading to children, and cleaning open door his ministry’s kitchen.
High Point University Americorps VISTA, Bonner Leaders, Students, and Faculty are actively involved in these projects. High Point University VISTA plans many of these service projects. The positive impact on local organizations is enormous, as many institutions do not have the resources or volunteers needed to get anything done during the year.
Over the years, I have been invited to Bonner Leader’s Hunger Banquet to speak about food insecurity and hunger in our community. I was told I had to follow it. There are 3 menus, each slightly different than the other two. Recipients of the first menu had very limited options for dinner, with only water as their drink and no dessert. There were a few options to choose from. Again, dessert was not an option. The third menu had all the options on the menu including water, lemonade, tea and dessert.
The point of the exercise is to learn that guests have limited food options while others have more. Life. Some may want a good steak once in a while, but the only options are hot dogs or lean his 73% ground beef. Some days I can’t eat meat, so I settle for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. People make difficult choices about what to serve their families, often limiting the amount of dinner per person. While many of us older people have choices about diet, medicine, and ensuring that the rest of our household has enough to eat, our limited incomes leave us with even fewer options.
After the meal, the presenters talked about the points of the limited menu items and shared data on food insecurity in North Carolina and Guildford County. One of my favorite parts of the Hunger Banquet is hearing students talk about food insecurity and hearing their thoughts and insights. I always like to ask questions and challenge what they are saying to make them think more deeply. Conversations are always helpful when I learn something from my students .
This year, urban farm rock star Jose Abreu, U.S. Army VISTA’s Tosin Opaumi and Alec Garfield, City Councilman Cyril Jefferson, and myself shared a few minutes. Jose talked about his work at Growing High Point and what’s going on in the city with a focus on gardens and urban farms. Tosin spoke about his work with the Greater High Point Food Alliance. Alec shared what Growing High Point is doing in terms of entrepreneurship and urban farming development. Alderman Jefferson delivered a moving message.
I began my part with the words of Coretta Scott King, who once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” Based on everything that happened in our community on Monday, we have a great community and it will only get bigger as young people take leadership roles. Food for thought.