I had a familiar feeling when I saw last week’s editorial cartoon depicting people accessing food at a cabinet labeled Jackson Cupboard with the thought bubble reading, “There is a bunch of people to whom we are really grateful.”
The feeling is familiar because oftentimes if there’s a joke being told, I don’t get it. Like Elaine in the classic “Seinfeld” episode when she didn’t understand a New Yorker cartoon, I went to the source and learned there was no joke at all. In this instance, refreshingly, surprisingly, and unlike the cynical, sarcastic editorials often seen elsewhere, our local cartoonist meant to laud the efforts of the Jackson Cupboard at One22 Resource Center and the rapid expansion of services to offer food to the rising number of neighbors facing food insecurity.
It was thoughtful and kindhearted of cartoonist Rob Pudim to give a shoutout to the donors, volunteers and staff who work to expand access to food. He’s right to notice that people far and wide are rallying to help others in this time of widespread economic disparity.
For providers like us it’s an honor to be trusted with such generosity. It is important for readers to know multiple organizations are working in concert on access to food, including the Senior Center of Jackson Hole, the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole, Hole Food Rescue, the Teton County School District, the Good Samaritan Mission, Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, Quarantine Cuisine and the Wyoming Department of Family Services, with steadfast support from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.
We also know there have been countless neighbor-to-neighbor acts of kindness. It is notable that the Jackson Cupboard has been reborn and has expanded with One22 Resource Center as it turns 20 years old this year. However, there is a band of dedicated volunteers and staff members — spanning generations, from faith-based and secular organizations and across political lines — working to ensure that everyone has enough to eat in Teton County. Our work is not done. On behalf of the entire Jackson Cupboard and One22 Resource Center team, it’s a privilege to have a purpose in this turbulent time.
Still, I find it disturbing to think our patrons would spend one second feeling thankful for something so basic as food. Don’t get me wrong, gratitude is important, and studies show it improves physical and mental wellness, enhances empathy, reduces aggression and even helps you sleep better. Saying grace and giving thanks over a meal is deeply meaningful in many peoples’ lives. But today in the United States and here in Jackson Hole, in the middle of a crisis of historic proportion, can we agree that everyone has a basic human right to eat?
At the Jackson Cupboard we believe that no one deserves the pain of food insecurity. Perhaps that’s what left us perplexed at the cartoon, because it seems off-base that someone suffering the massive inequity of the pandemic and its economic fallout would or should feel “really grateful.”
As a relative newcomer to this sector of service work I thought I had an idea of what the face of hunger looks like. In three months I’ve learned that the face of hunger looks more like what we see in the mirror than many would expect: young and old, of many ethnic backgrounds and with all levels of education and career backgrounds. People who never expected to find themselves lacking food have been flung into uncertainty and hunger. Many readers of this newspaper may, for the first time, wonder where next week’s meals will come from. Some wonder about today’s meal.
That being said, we recognize that while the virus does not discriminate, its economic impact does. Low-wage service workers and hourly wage earners, without the privilege of benefits, who are often minorities and women and who make up the backbone of our resort and service economy, have been hit especially hard. These blows will be sustained, and they undo hard-won progress on a journey toward equality that was unjustly necessary and barely getting started. Over the long run food is not the solution to hunger. It will take long-term strategic investments in housing, education, child care and health care to make a lasting difference. But today, in the midst of this historic tragedy, there is, at the very least, food.
To anyone wondering what can be done: Right this minute, without spending a penny, you can help spread the word that anyone who needs or wants help with food is welcome at any of the no-cost grocery and meal opportunities in our community.
If you or someone you know is wondering about a visit to any of these resources, our message to you is, be grateful if it makes you feel better, but if not, come anyway. There’s wholesome and abundant food for you even when you’re feeling anxious, worried, sad or shy. At the Jackson Cupboard and the many other food resources there’s no prerequisite for food — no identification or proof of anything — and there certainly is no requirement to be in a good or gracious mood. You may find that it lifts your spirits to experience a community that cares for you and your loved ones, but these services are here for you regardless.