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No one who visits the United States leaves without the impression that this is a land of bounty.

Our grocery store shelves are so overstuffed with products, it’s overwhelming to visitors from poorer countries where there isn’t so much food to share.

Oregon's Applegate Valley. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Abundance in Oregon’s Applegate Valley. (Hadi Dadashian photo)

Yet 37 million Americans get food from Feeding America, the nation’s “largest hunger-relief charity.”

That includes 14 million children.

It includes 3 million elders.

While the markets hit record highs this past week, and unemployment appears to be edging down, we know that many American employers have cut hours, sliced benefits and pensions, and let wages stagnate. Corporate profits continue to set records, and their cash reserves keep swelling.

This is the paradox of living in the world’s richest nation: So much for some yet so little for many.

As a new citizen, I struggle with this. I struggle to understand why we let children go hungry in a land of plenty.

As a farmer’s daughter, I have always been committed to sharing nutritious food in my community. I’ve volunteered for years at national and local food banks, church pantries, and in community food drives.

I think a lot about hunger, because I live in a rich agricultural region, flush with apple and pear orchards, big farms (cattle, sheep, grains and market produce), and vineyards. We enjoy a bounty of fruit and vegetables from our neighbors too — California’s avocadoes and Washington’s apples, for instance.

Amid this obvious abundance, I am thankful each day for the opportunity to live in a part of the country brimming with organic producers, farmers’ markets, and fair-trade, fair-priced co-ops. I’m thankful to live so close to clean rivers and the Pacific, because we rely on wild, sustainable fish. I am thankful to eat wholesome food at each meal, because staying healthy is so important to me.

Donations are down at Feeding America. The charity distributed 3.3 billion pounds of food last year — to 200 food banks and 60,000 local food agencies — yet its executives recently advised Congress, “We still fell short of meeting demand.”

We all fall short, when our most vulnerable aren’t getting enough to eat. I’m giving $20 to the Oregon Food Bank today, because this state has the second highest rate of child hunger in the country.

The highest? Washington, D.C. — home of some of the highest incomes in the country.

Food banks have some of the highest charity ratings in the U.S. for ensuring donations reach the most needy (low administrative and fund-raising costs, compared to actual food purchase, collection and distribution). The Oregon Food Bank estimates it can use my paltry $20 for 80 pounds of food or 60 meals.

With gratitude to everyone who gives to food banks, volunteers, and works at food banks and other food-sharing charities.

Giving Sundays is a regular feature of living in gratitude. Follow this new citizen as she explores need in the United States. 

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