Over the Hill

Thankful for being born in the U.S.A.

Thanksgiving is next week. Someone may ask, “What are you thankful for?”

My answer is, “Living in the U.S.A.”

I was born here. I didn’t have to immigrate. It was my great, original birthday present.

How great was it? Well, listen to what the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported last month. More than 1 billion men, women and children around the world suffer “insufficient nutrition.” In other words 15 percent of the whole human race can’t get the calories and protein they need. They go hungry. They miss meals.

I’ve never missed a meal. For me the U.S.A. has always been the land of plenty or at least of enough. But that isn’t the case in much of the world.

Of those 1 billion hungry people, 642 million live in Eastern Asia and the Pacific region; 265 million live in Africa, south of the Sahara; 53 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean; and 42 million live in North Africa and the Near East.

The remaining 15 million live in what’s called the “Developed World” — the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and most of Europe. So I was also born in the “Developed World,” although I don’t deserve any credit for developing it. And most people in the rest of the world don’t deserve any blame for underdeveloping it.

Of course, all those numbers are estimates, just like the numbers announced this week by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. It said 49 million Americans lacked “food security” last year because of rising unemployment and rising food prices.

About one-third of them actually had to “skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food.”

The others were “eating cheaper or less-varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.”

So I called Loaves and Fishes, a food pantry here in Paso Robles. I got some exact figures, not estimates, on how the recession affected them. Last year in September, they received 329 requests for help. This September the requests grew to 465.

But donations fell. During the first 10 months of this year, donations totaled only $95,282. That was $40,952 less than the same period last year. Loaves and Fishes stopped giving out soap, shampoo and diapers as well as bus tickets and emergency lodging; expenses still exceeded donations by $28,583.

Checks can be sent to Loaves and Fishes at P.O. Box 1720, Paso Robles, CA 93447.

That might make someone still feel thankful to live in the U.S.A.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.

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