Meat and the Golden Rule

by Marty Donnellan
(C) 2017

Every Saturday the Joy Kitchen meat-and-whole-foods pantry distributes, among other things, up to 240 lbs. of fresh/frozen chicken and ground beef to 120-150 of our neighbors-in-need. (This total doesn’t include the 100-or-so homeless per week to whom we donate prepared meals.)

99% of our meats are purchased fresh from Restaurant Depot, Sam’s Club, or Kroger. Hopefully these stores will someday donate what we now have to buy, but until then we’ll just keep getting it however we can.

This is what our chicken looks like when we get it. No matter the cut, it comes in 40-lb. refrigerated boxes (okay, also 50, but 40 is the most any of us can lift).

Below is what it looks like in our freezer after it’s been individually-portioned and vacuum-sealed. The tubes of ground beef usually come already packaged and sealed from Kroger or Walmart, which we like because it means we don’t have to process them ourselves – yay!

By Friday afternoon we’ve packed our freezers with the afore-mentioned 240 lbs. of chicken and ground beef, and by noon Saturday it’s all gone. We’ll go through the same process again next week. And the next, and the next, and the next – as long as funds permit.

These funds, of course, come from you, the community: individuals, businesses, organizations, and places of worship. Thank you!

You may be wondering why we feel so strongly about continuing to offer these meats when it’s obviously such a financial drain. Why not just be like other pantries and collect canned goods? If we’re more into whole foods, why not just give away beans and rice?

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 services. The mother was nervous and 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 meat – only the usual canned and packaged foods you’d expect.

The woman’s desperation stuck with me. I thought how I’d feel if I was her, grateful for the pantry items but fearful at the lack of meat or fish with which to prepare the nourishing, protein-rich meals my family needs. 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 people-in-need who are used to having meat as a high-quality protein ought to be able to get it, at least some of the time.

I’d certainly want it if I was in her shoes. 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 displaced or 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.