By Lloyd Knox
From 7 p.m. on April 24, 2011, to 7 a.m. on April 26, I did not eat. The short fast was intended, along with the fasting of many others, to bring awareness to proposed cuts to government food programs. For me, it also brought a direct experience of an insidious aspect of malnutrition, an experience that deeply moved me.
My children reacted quite differently to my fast. At meal times, Andy (10) was concerned for me and encouraged me to eat, too, whereas Teddy (12) suggested that to satisfy my curiosity what I really needed to do instead was to eat some food each day, but not much, for an entire month. I was not going to do that!
I knew I would not have a genuine experience of food insecurity. For example, throughout my fast I fed my children. What would it be like to not be able to do that? I could only begin to imagine. I became aware of what a blessing it is to be able to put breakfast on the table for my boys.
For most of the day, all I experienced was hunger as a mild irritant. My day progressed as usual until about 2:30 when maintaining my focus became quite difficult. Thinking felt like a tremendous effort. I gave up what I was trying to do.
As a scientist, I highly value the ability to think. As a teacher I have no greater joy than to see young minds developing. As a human being I strongly felt the terrible unfairness faced by a child who does not have enough to eat, a child who does not have the fuel she needs to fully use her mind and thus cannot develop to her full potential.
According to Feeding America about 17 percent of the population of Yolo County is food-insecure, an insecurity that occurs amidst an abundance of agriculture! I looked up the local Food Bank and told them I would put on a benefit barbecue, asking friends to bring food or cash donations. I called it “Grilling for Groceries” or G4G 2011.
We raised $645 in cash and 120 pounds of food, and had a great time doing it! By leveraging the food donations from large companies like Walmart as well as from local farmers, the food bank converts each dollar donated into eight meals.
I was grateful for this organization that could so effectively utilize the money we raised. When I was asked last summer to serve on their board, I jumped at the opportunity.
There are many ways you can help. Donate food or funds. Host a benefit barbecue. Organize a team entry into the Thanksgiving Day 5K fun run, “The Running of the Turkeys.” Connect with the gleaners at www.villageharvest.org/davis. For more ideas, visit www.foodbankyc.org or contact me. Whatever you can do, I promise you you’ll be very glad you did it.
— Lloyd Knox is a professor of physics at UC Davis, board member at the Food Bank of Yolo County, a Davis resident since 2001, and has no prior track record of civic responsibility.