The new economy is slated to hit many people quite hard, if it hasn’t already done so. In the past few weeks I have been traveling for work and the pain becomes more evident than before. My wife and I discuss this often, and she would say that there are still people going to movies, Broadway shows and in restaurants, malls and even on vacation. It seemed for a while that the hard times had not come, but to the teleprompters of the daily news anchors. That appears to be changing. In a small county down south in Georgia, a local newspaper owner told me that he makes payroll now on the foreclosure notices that banks are obligated to post which have doubled over last year. He is running 20 pages of notices.
Whereas Christmas time, just a few weeks ago, mall parking lots were full, today, you can easily get a spot right by the front door. Yet, you may find the stores closed…
Come today, I had a confluence of very different experiences, with very different people, with essentially the same pivotal message: The food is what is important now.
Contacted last week by an old friend, now a public official, I had coffee today with New York City Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Council’s General Welfare Committee. What began as a friendly talk about careers, kids, family and future, evolved into a discussion on food and how there is a whole new reality out there today. The need is so great and becoming greater, he told me, that new solutions are needed, and needed fast.
“While a year ago or so issues like pride and image may have prevented people of the [middle class] from asking for help, we are looking at a new situation today.”
It was intriguing; he is passionate on the issue and has championed food security for years.
Bill comes from a democratic background, understands the needs of the average New Yorker, and is running for Public Advocate to help advance his ideals.
Later in the evening I was in a very different place; the annual dinner for our kids’ school held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This was an opulent event, yet relatively less than years past. The pre-dinner buffet had just about everything you could enjoy and more, and one may not have known that food was an issue for some.
The speeches began and the story of the struggle to make this dinner happen this year was revealed. Between the markets as they are and Bernard Madoff’s mind blowing criminal scheme (for which he should not be allowed bail, IMHO – but I need to get back to the point), the school and many of its benefactors suffered some serious losses. We were told about the amenities that had been cut to make the night possible and to make it affordable and profitable as the same time. The committee believed that there was also a need to address the realities of the world today.
We saw that there were no centerpieces on the table. Instead, the money that would have been spent on them, as a note on the table explained, was sent to an Israeli organization called Table to Table, which feeds those in need; school children, families and military serving in the Gaza front.
They could have put the money to anything; a hospital, shelter, or even to subsidize other families at this dinner. Instead, the dinner committee felt it necessary to let us know that while we are aware that there is a war in Israel, and Israel can use a lot of things to help out right now, the basic need for food is prevalent.
From a coffee shop in Manhattan with a liberal City Councilman trying to feed those in need, to a major dinner with many upper middle class and wealthy people feeding themselves generously, the message I gleaned was that food security is as important, if not even more, than many issues facing people today. To be healthy, strong, well educated and poised to make the positive differences in our world tomorrow, we need to help nourish people today.
It is a basic need that many of us take for granted. We must not!