George ShenckGeorge Schenk, a Vermont Foodbank board member and founder of the American Flatbread Company in Waitsfield, VT, wrote this poem for a benefit bake hosted by American Flatbread April 14-15, 2002.

Outside of the event, the poem hasn’t been shared. We thought it was time to give it a home on our blog, including George’s closing comments below.

The Hungry

Who are the hungry? And why?
They are the homeless and mentally ill
Abandoned without care.
They are our Grandmothers, living as best they can
On minimum Social Security because…
Because their job was Mothering and farming.
They are the ill and injured and elderly
who can not work
and who so often each month must choose between
buying their meds, paying the rent,
fixing the car, or buying food.
They are Fathers without wives
and Mothers without husbands
working at jobs that do not pay a living wage.
They are Veterans with memories of war
lost in a society unable to comprehend their nightmares.
They are recent immigrants struggling to make a living
in a culture and language they do not understand.
They are people just like you and me
whose life road has turned unimaginably hard
for a thousand natural reasons
most of us would not want to know.
They are children,
thousands upon thousands, hundreds of thousands,
who are poor for no fault of their own.

And for all of these people,
their hunger is all but invisible, because…
because to be hungry in America is to be ashamed,
that somehow you have failed in a most fundamental way,
and so the hungry hide their hunger, as best they can,
and because…
we, the well fed, have kept our heads in the trough
thinking
that anyone hungry in America
must be a bum, just too lazy to work,
and that all they needed was to get a job.
That was the conventional wisdom, our bias,
our justification for looking away, but
when we understand the true nature of hunger