“There’s No Place Like the Food Bank” 2017 Humanitarian Gala March 24th 40,000 Monmouth & Ocean County Children Are Hungry by Calvin Schwartz 2-8-17
I’m looking at the title of this article with hesitation. Have I committed ‘dichotomy’? On one hand, announcing and promoting a Humanitarian Gala at a Country Club and on the other hand, promulgating a disturbing statistic; an obscene amount of children are hungry here in Monmouth and Ocean County. My being here is to support and spread the word of the amazing work done by the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County and the special honorees at the Gala who give of themselves tirelessly and endlessly to the cause of fighting hunger here at home. A Gala is a wonderful vehicle to raise desperately needed funds to do the work of feeding the hungry. Soon I’ll lay down some hard money facts.
Those honorees are: Rena Levine Levy and Steven Levine from the WindMill Restaurants, Members of United Teletech Financial, Board Chairs Emeritus, Junior Humanitarian, Dominic Esposito, and Agency Partner, King of Kings Food Pantry.
I’m not new to the work of the Food Bank nor honorees, Rena Levine Levy and Steven Levine. All of my writing and journalism comes from living and learning first hand. There is no other real way. Five years ago, I learned about homelessness, spending time in a homeless tent encampment 22 miles from Monmouth County. (Tent City in Lakewood) Frankly, having never seen this side of life, I was changed forever. How people (over 100) survived (not lived), in tents for up to 12 years without running water or heat or electricity is horrifying.
Concomitant with being homeless is being hungry. I soon discovered the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County. I did spend several days there actually after Hurricane Sandy, learning, feeling, absorbing. To augment my understanding of hunger (in America too), I attended a program at Count Basie Theater in Red Bank called the ‘The Soul of Hunger’ which was a lengthy community dialogue about Hunger in New Jersey. The afternoon began with a screening of the film “A Place at the Table,” and later Governor Christie and restaurateur Tom Colicchio joined moderator Willie Geist from ‘The Today Show.’ Point being, (my son uses this expression all the time) talking about hunger is a good process but the FoodBank needs you all year. Again, I was changed forever as I learned about the insidious nature of hunger. Yes, our very neighbors could be hungry but would never reach out or say anything for fear of embarrassment which means their children are also hungry
“I’m walking here,” Ratzo said, (remember I’m a stream of consciousness writer). I just visualized Dustin Hoffman playing the role of Ratzo Rizzo in ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ a riveting film; it still bothers me. Rizzo was terribly hungry as he walked the city streets scrounging for food. Jon Voight (Joe Buck) in the movie crushed a cracker into a cup of ketchup and water for sustenance; just one of my images of hunger. I remember Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ when the ‘Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come’ opens his coat to reveal two children who symbolize ignorance and want(hunger). And not much has changed since 1843. Actually things are even worse ergo part of the title of this article, 40, 000 children in Monmouth and Ocean County are hungry.
I know that honoree Steven Levine helped with food for people in the tents or after disasters as well as giving dinners in Asbury Park for the many needy. I’ve been to the WindMill in Long Branch when Rena and Steven fed a large number of needy kids from nearby towns. But it’s their life commitment to giving back and working with the Food Bank, planning events to raise funds and being involved and caring.
Perhaps the most startling statistic to share here is that in 1980 there were 40 food pantries in America. Today, there are upwards of 40,000. One in ten people in Monmouth and Ocean County use the services of the Food Bank. Remember my article title; there are 40,000 hungry children in both counties. Why so critically important to raise funds (and why YOU are all needed to help at any level) is $1.00 raised can provide 3 meals!!!!
Nothing is coincidence. I was thinking about writing this all day. A few hours ago, I watched World News Tonight. There was a segment on “Blessing Boxes” in a small Texas town. The box is set up on a street and people can drop off canned food, toiletries and other items for the needy. I watched a single woman with four children recently laid off from work use the “Blessing Box.” It was critical for feeding her young children. Hunger is all around and much too much in America at the advanced year of 2017. It’s so prevalent here in our two home counties so please reach into your conscious conscience and help OUR Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean County. These are different times. We really do need each other. And if you can help any aspect of the Gala, please do.
The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties website: http://www.foodbankmoc.org/
Here are the flyers and information on the Gala: