On Giving Back-From Baskets to Rallies

Thinking about how to do good in the world leads me, unsurprisingly, to think of Anna Ruth Hamilton. She also comes to mind when I think about food and all the issues surrounding access to healthy and nutritious food.

My mother often tells stories about how Aunt Ruth (her aunt, my great-aunt, technically, but we both just called her Aunt Ruth) ran a grocery store in the 1950s and ‘60s in downtown Millvale, a little community on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. A woman running her own business in the 1950s was an out-of-the ordinary occurrence, but then, Anna Ruth was an out-of-the-ordinary woman. She did what she wanted, went to church multiple times a week, and gave her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids everything they could have asked for.

When she tells stories about Aunt Ruth, my mother says: “The grocery store was closed twice a year: Christmas and Easter. But someone would always show up wanting a quart of milk or something, and she’d always open up for them.” According to mom, Aunt Ruth, Christmas and Easter meant another job--quietly, Aunt Ruth and Uncle John assembled baskets stuffed with groceries so that low-income Millvale families had holiday dinners.

My mother said that Aunt Ruth “fed the hungry and clothed the naked,” a Catholic teaching she’d grown up with. Though I’m not religious, I keep that message in mind, and I’m inspired by how Aunt Ruth carried it out. During our time on this earth, we must share whatever we have--whether that’s a lot or a little--and therein is our legacy.

My Great-Aunt passed away two years ago, and since then, the world has been a little darker and a little less kind. Fighting for food justice is part of how I honor her. Working with HungerU has helped me realize that along with baskets of food, we need awareness, education, advocacy, and change. That a world with billionaires also has a problem with hunger is completely unacceptable. As we go into 2019, surrounded by crises like the US Government Shutdown, we must not forget about the everyday folk who go hungry--and the ones who make baskets for them.

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