Friday, May 16, 2008

Hunger Can't Wait

There is a global food crisis.

We hear about it in the media. We are shocked by the escalating prices when we go grocery shopping. Food shelves and pantry programs can’t keep up with requests for service. Superstores are rationing rice. Food riots have erupted in vulnerable nations around the world.

Experts don’t expect a solution to the crisis any time soon. No solution this summer. No solution this year. Perhaps no solution for a decade.

But people are hungry today.

And hunger can’t wait.

Hunger can’t wait a day, or a week, let alone a year.

Hunger can’t wait locally. Hunger can’t wait globally. And Open Arms won’t wait until next year, or this summer, or even until tomorrow, to respond to the needs of people who are sick and hungry today.

For 22 years, Open Arms has provided nutritious meals for people living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases in the Twin Cities. But never, in more than two decades of service, have we received as many referrals for new clients as we have this year. More people with HIV/AIDS are receiving meals from Open Arms than ever before. As are people with multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, ALS, and many other progressive, and often life-threatening, illnesses.

Open Arms has always been committed to providing the most nutritious meals possible to our clients who are sick, but we know that disease affects more than just the person who is ill. It affects entire families. We can’t only feed a client if there is also a caregiver in the home who is simply too exhausted to cook one more meal. We can’t only provide delicious meals to adults if there are dependent children in a household with no food.

Like our clients, most of us have felt the impact of skyrocketing food costs when we go grocery shopping. We check prices a little more closely than we did just a few months ago. If those of us with good jobs are paying closer attention to escalating food costs, imagine what it must be like for the clients of Open Arms who are all confronting life-threatening illnesses, and the overwhelming majority of whom are living in poverty. There is a reason why Open Arms’ service is free of charge. Most of our clients could never afford to pay for the meals they receive from us.

At Open Arms, when we say that hunger can’t wait, we mean that it can’t wait for anyone, but it especially can’t wait for people who are ill, or the people who are caring for them, or their children who are dependent on parents who can no longer care for them the way they once did.

Hunger can’t wait locally, nor can it wait globally.

In 2000, Open Arms became the first organization of our kind in the United States to sponsor food and nutrition programs for people living with HIV/AIDS in the townships of South Africa. In Guguletu, the township where we work, 20% of the 350,000 inhabitants are believed to be HIV-positive. Nearly everyone in Guguletu experiences hunger every day. And that was before the global food crisis.

By sharing a small portion of our resources, Open Arms has been able to sponsor hot meal programs for families impacted by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Twice a year we distribute food parcels that contain enough food to feed a family of seven for a month. Were it not for Open Arms’ global programs, most of these people would go hungry.

Lately, we have been concentrating our efforts in South Africa on supporting the rapidly increasing number of children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. We assist our sister agency, the Zwane Community Centre in Guguletu, with their efforts to make certain these orphans are safe, have a place to live, money for school fees, and food to eat. The importance of food in this scenario can not be overstated, because if a teen-aged girl who is caring for her younger siblings has the family’s basic necessities met, she won’t have to engage in survival sex in order to provide food for her younger brothers and sisters. Open Arms’ programs in South Africa – providing food to vulnerable children and adults – do much more than fill the bellies of hungry people: it provides hope for a better future.

Open Arms is uniquely positioned to address hunger and nutrition locally and globally. We meet this need immediately by daily preparing and distributing hundreds of meals throughout the Twin Cities and in the townships of South Africa. And we will meet this increasing demand well into the future by constructing a new building in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis and expanding our program to serve even more people who are sick, hungry, and have no where else to turn for support.

A larger building, with a state-of-the-art kitchen, will mean that Open Arms can become the nutrition resource for people living with any chronic and progressive disease in the greater Twin Cities. Open Arms can serve 1,000 people a week locally, rather than 450. It means we can prepare and deliver 500,000 meals annually – more than double what we currently produce. We can add Saturday and Sunday deliveries which will expand the geographic area we can serve. Greater visibility will also allow us to serve more people who are sick and hungry in places like Guguletu, South Africa.

Hunger can’t wait.

With your support, Open Arms can address hunger today in this community. We can address hunger today in South Africa. And with the success of an $8 million capital campaign to construct a new building, we can address hunger tomorrow on an even greater scale both locally and globally.

To learn more about Open Arms, visit

To find out how you can assist with Open Arms local efforts, global initiatives, or our capital campaign, contact executive director, Kevin Winge, at 612-872-1152 or           

Call or e-mail today, because Hunger Can’t Wait.

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