Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Usually I work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It has always been just another work day for me. This year, since my husband and I are unemployed, we heeded the call of the Obama USAservice.org group to do some work in the community. We volunteered at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, Tenn.
Before we left home, my husband was depressed about his unemployment. I had spent the morning working on a contract job. The two-three hours we spent volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank and learning about poverty, hunger and malnutrition in our own backyard changed us forever.
Just as I was shocked over three years ago to see the poor people flushed out by the broken levees in New Orleans, I was surprised to learn how malnourished many children are in the state where I live. Some children only eat at the school breakfast and lunch programs. There is no evening meal at home. On weekends, they are sent home with backpacks of food for the weekend. Tennessee is one of the poorest states in the United States.
Compared to a child from a family serving meals regularly, the children with malnutrition have brains resembling stroke victims. This affects their ability to learn and to get an education to break the bonds of poverty.
I learned that our state prison system uses the test scores of third graders to predict the number of beds that will be needed in prisons when these children are adults. Those children below average in third grade will probably not graduate from high school and will often wind up in prison.
In the richest country in the world, there is abject poverty.
We filled snack boxes with cookie and crackers for children and seniors in the 46 counties served by Second Harvest. This food was donated by grocery stores because the boxes had been damaged. Did we make a difference? Yes, our lives were changed.