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Poverty in America Awareness Month

As much as we think we’ve got it bad, there’s always someone who has it worse. Yes, we might be behind on some bills, or we might have to live off tea and toast or ramen noodles for a little while, or give homemade gifts for Christmas—but if you’re reading this, we both have Internet connections, which says something. There are plenty of people who starve throughout the day—who would gladly eat the leftovers we throw out or even compost, who would be so grateful to simply sleep in the beds that we have.

January is Poverty Awareness Month, so be sure to take a few moments this month to reflect on how much luckier your family is than some other families out there and be grateful for what you have. There’s no need to be sanctimonious or even grim; just give a heartfelt moment of gratitude.

You can also help commemorate the month by discussing poverty with your children, classroom, or friends and neighbors. Too often have I heard people complain about “welfare mothers”—often the same people who ironically support the same welfare money that goes to support big businesses and who refuse to support a woman’s right to choose, or even take birth control—and scoffing about how the people who receive aid through taxes don’t “deserve it.” I’m not exactly sure how these people would determine who is deserving or not, but knowing that about 36 million people in America, including almost 20 million children, live in poverty, I think there’s definitely no room to be discriminating. I always wonder how people can protect the “rights” of an unborn fetus but not those of an already living, breathing child who doesn’t have a pair of shoes or food to eat.

Here are some more fast facts you may wish to share:

  • Almost 4% of U.S. homes experience hunger.
  • Almost half of families who report using food banks are working families.
  • We have enough to give to stop hunger; Americans waste 100 billion pounds of food annually. This is about a fifth of the total food we buy and produce!

To raise consciousness and aid, you might want to get together with your neighborhood and volunteer this month at your local food bank, soup kitchen, or food pantry. Especially get that uncle or brother-in-law who always scoffs at giving aid; he may be stunned to realize how many homeless people are mentally ill, children, military service people—or simply people just like them, down on their luck having lost a job.