Zucchini Matters

Wealthy societies have an odd relationship with hunger. Individuals willingly submit themselves to a state of starvation for aesthetic or political reasons. Most Americans would be loathe to admit that involuntary hunger exists in their own country. Eleven percent of Americans, however, are members of “food insecure households.” While food stamps prevent the images of distended bellies that many people equate with sub-Saharan Africa from becoming a local reality, it is not an easy task to make $21 cover a week’s worth of groceries.

In a recent episode of Radio Open Source devoted to this topic, blogger and homemaker extraordinaire, Miss Maggie, recounted how her family survived on food stamps when she was young. At times, neighbors would leave baskets of bumper crops of zucchini on her family’s doorstep and she remarked on the nutritional dent that zucchini made on her during adolescence. Her frame may be three inches taller, or her eyesight keener, or her lifespan longer because of those anonymous baskets of vegetables.

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During a recent talk, the Irish poet and mystic, John O’Donohue, noted, “When you get up in the morning, you never know who’s depending on you.” It is easy to look at the profound turmoil in which the world resides and believe that we are helpless to do anything to right the wrongs that surround us, let alone those half a world away. Yet we never know the food we may have offered to curb the emotion or physical pains of hunger.

Nick Kristoff has tirelessly written about Darfur in the pages of the New York Times. His reporting stands out as the loudest and most influential voice in defense of the people of Darfur, a task made much easier by a lack of like-minded colleagues. Kristoff’s articles have not caused a clear change in international policy nor have they hastened the end of genocide in Sudan. It would be easy to say that he’s wasting his time. About a month ago, however, NPR editor Kitty Eisele interviewed a hunger striker who was camped out in front of the Sudanese embassy in Washington D.C. The man, who had changed his name to “Start Loving” and tattooed the same on his forehead, cited Kristoff’s articles as the driving force behind his decision to leave his family and make protesting against genocide his full-time job.

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This might not be what Kristoff had in mind. There’s a good chance Mr. Loving might be a bit crazy. There’s also a good chance that he was a hungry man, that he felt malnourished of meaning, that he was starving for a way to be of use. Hunger is essentially an issue of absence. Kristoff offered Mr. Loving the sustenance of purpose. We don’t have to have a column in the New York Times to quell the hunger pains of others nor do we need to have a subscription to Times Select to have our appetites satiated. We just need a bumper crop of something and an empty basket. Zucchini might be a gateway drug or it might be the end of the line. Whatever its role in the story, zucchini matters.

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~ by terrificwhistlers on June 18, 2007.

4 Responses to “Zucchini Matters”

  1. An interesting combination of facts and links.

  2. Looks to me like that’s Mr. Loaving, not Loving.

  3. i am thoroughly enjoying your blog.

  4. Thanks, Laura, I’m enjoying writing it.

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