Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Smell of Oppression

Sunday I walked out of my door and was greeted by the most awful stench. Not the normal city smell of garbage and pollution, but it was more of a stale musty smell as if Detroit was in desperate need of a bath. I shook it off thinking "Man this city stinks literally" and got in my car and drove to work laughing at the little joke I made. I grabbed a newspaper from the girl selling them on the corner on the way for my dad, who is currently working in Afghanistan and has no way to get a local paper, so that I could send it to him. Since I had tons of time on my hands (we get next to no business for hours on Sundays at my job) I decided to take a look at the paper. I don't want it to seem as if I detest reading the paper but it seems as if everytime you open it there's never anything positive. I'm not saying that the good things about Detroit never get printed but it does seem as if the negative makes the headlines, which probably says something about us as a city but I'm not sure what yet. Every issue seems to get more and more like the tabloids with constant coverage of our city's scandals and downfalls. It makes it very hard to see the silver lining when the black and white tells you that there isn't one. But fortunately I, like many other of our cities residents, have mastered the art of making myself numb to the negativity.
But not this week. This week I allowed all of my built up emotions over ride my brick wall that I was trying to build. I may seem a bit over emotional but that's what happens when you love your city and you have to watch it fail. It's like loving someone knowing everyday that you will probably have to leave them. It's a sad feeling sometimes. So I look at the front page and I read in big bold letters, "It's ok,mommy...don't cry" and there's this picture of a woman hugging her little boy. I stared at the picture for awhile, all the time halfway listening to my co-worker talk about someone's wedding. I tried hard to show that I was paying attention by chiming in with a "yeah", "no way", or "I hear ya' " every now and then at the appropriate times as I read the article. There were stories about various families who have become victims of  Detroit's economic crisis, all of whom never knew where their next meal was coming from. A father who sacrificed eating a good meal for his children, a mother who had no choice but to depend on the free lunch and breakfast programs to feed her son, parents who had to figure out how to tell their young children that there would be no Christmas. How do you tell a 5 year old that Santa was affected by the recession? I'm sure that's a confusing bed time story.
These stories moved me. I looked at my medium coffee and breakfast sandwich from Dunkin Donuts and felt sick. My hunger suddenly disappeared knowing that some little kid would love the luxury of being able to grab a quick morning breakfast, but the thought of wasting food when there were so many hungry out there made it return quickly. I gobbled down my breakfast appreciating every bite as I never had before. I felt guilty for having enough as if I didn't deserve to eat until I was satisfied anymore. I threw the remains of my crime in the garbage and covered it with a paper towel as if to hide the evidence of my greed.
By the time I finished the article I was grief-stricken. I had never really thought about how scarce food was for other people and I thought about the many ways I had taken food for granted.  It was then that I realized that the stench I smelled that morning was the smell of an oppressed city full of people filled with hopelessness. And I decided that I couldn't be numb anymore. I couldn't just pretend that it wasn't happening just because it wasn't directly affecting me. I decided that I had to do something and soon. But what?
My first step is this blog post.
I want people to understand how serious this hunger issue is.
Here are some statistics from
-According to the Bread for the World Institute 3.5 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live in these homes.
-America's Second Harvest (, the nation's largest network of food banks, reports that 23.3 million people turned to the agencies they serve in 2001, an increase of over 2 million since 1997. Forty percent were from working families.
33 million Americans continue to live in households that did not have an adequate supply of food. Nearly one-third of these households contain adults or children who went hungry at some point in 2000
-According to America’s Second Harvest, over 41 billion pounds of food have been wasted this year.
-According to a 2004 study from the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, on average, American households waste 14 percent of their food purchases.
Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened. Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology who led the study, estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products.
Nationwide, Jones says, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion, making it a serious economic problem.
- Official surveys indicate that every year more than 350 billion pounds of edible food is available for human consumption in the United States. Of that total, nearly 100 billion pounds - including fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and grain products - are lost to waste by retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

Isn't that bad?

So here's how to help...

First thing is to absolutely make sure that you cut down on food waste. Think about hungry children every time you are about to.

Here's a list of website sthat you can go to if you want to go a step further and donate time or money.

Also Detroit's Ultimate Fashion week will be giving a portion of the proceed directly to feed the hungry. To become a sponsor visit here.

If you or your business support charities please let me know by sending an email to and I will post a link to your website on the blog.
Read the entire article by Jeff Seidel by clicking here.

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