Meat and the Golden Rule
by Marty Donnellan
Every Saturday the Joy Kitchen food pantry distributes, among other things, up to 240 lbs. of fresh/frozen chicken quarters and tilapia fish to up to 200 of our neighbors-in-need. (We also serve hot meals to up to 80 people each week.)
While we occasionally luck out with ground beef or turkey or other meats gotten cheaply from the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the bulk of our meats and fish are purchased fresh from a local restaurant supply house, repackaged, and frozen. Hopefully by the end of this year we’ll have carved out a less expensive way to offer these items. But for now…
This is what our chicken looks like when we get it. No matter the cut, it comes in 40-lb. refrigerated boxes.
Below is what fish and chicken look like after they’ve been individually-portioned and vacuum-sealed.
By Thursday afternoon we’ve packed our freezers and by noon Saturday it’s usually all gone. We’ll go through the same process again next week. And the next, and the next, and the next – as long as the funds keep coming, which so far they have, in a rather startling “Elisha and the widow’s jar of oil” kind of way.
The funds at our disposal, of course, come from you, the community: individuals, businesses, organizations, and places of worship. Thank you!
But you may be wondering why we feel so strongly about continuing to offer these items when it’s obviously such a financial drain. Why not just be like other pantries and collect canned goods and be done with it?
Simple. It’s The Golden Rule at work.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you,” Jesus famously instructed his listeners in His sermons on the mount and the plain.
Is There Any Meat?
Backtrack to a few years ago, when I was volunteering at another, much larger food pantry, helping interview a young mother requesting assistance. The mother was ashamed, agitated, close to tears.
“I don’t mean to be pushy,” she said. “All the canned stuff is great and we appreciate it, but is there any meat? We’ve got a houseful of kids, and there’s no meat.” This particular food pantry had no freezer or fridge at the time, so no, there was no fresh meat – only the usual canned and packaged foods you’d expect.
The mother’s desperation lodged in my soul and wouldn’t leave. I thought how I’d feel if I was her, grateful for the pantry items but fearful at the lack of beef, chicken or fish with which to prepare the nourishing, protein-rich meals my family needs. We meat-eaters don’t need meat every single day, of course, and some people are vegetarians or vegans. But my encounter with the woman shaped my belief that our neighbors-in-need who are used to having meat in their diets as a high-quality protein ought to be able to get it, at least some of the time. And, while the cuts don’t have to be the best or most expensive, they ought to be good stuff, good enough that I’d serve them to my own family.
And that’s exactly why we offer it.
Of course, some of you are bound to note that this is something of a first-world response to hunger. That the day may be coming when the food-insecure in America will be grateful for that sustaining bowl of plain rice or beans offered in other parts of the world.
And you’re absolutely right. But we’re not there yet, are we? Not quite.