It’s harvest time! It’s the time of year when people are cognizant of the blessings of the earth. Whether you have your own gardens, garden with a friend, or pick up fresh food at the farmer’s markets or roadside stands, it’s hard to miss the richness of Mother Nature’s provisions. This morning, as I watching from my deck, the many feeding birds, I am given to thinking on how blessed I am to live in Maine and have the opportunities I do for fresh food. I even have enough to share with the wildlife in my backyard and for that I am also grateful.

Long ago, I had large vegetable gardens. One year I planted 48 tomato plants! No tomato went to waste as they were canned, juiced and frozen to feed my family and friends. I have downsized and round out my produce canning with finds at the local market, farms and community gardens. It isn’t only that I allocate my time differently. I believe we should share our wealth when we can. Investing in my local growers makes for sustainable people, which makes for sustainable communities.

This all sounds picturesque and wonderful, doesn’t it? Yet, even with all of our abundance, our communities have hungry people. Hungry people are not sustainable. As I think on how blessed I am to have plenty, I think on people who do not. When you think of the hungry, who do you picture? We tend to think of children or single parents. We think of smiling faces receiving free food at school. Feeding the need is a wonderful feeling. There’s nothing like the stomach pain caused by lack of food. It becomes all consuming.

We hear less about another hungry segment of society. Feeding America reports seniors are the most food insecure members of our United States, more than single parents and their children. Senior hunger often goes undetected, leading to issues beyond a hungry stomach. Hunger leads to chronic health conditions, such as depression, asthma, and heart attacks. Isn’t this a sad commentary on the respect and honor we show our elders? We can do better.

There are a variety of reasons our seniors are hungry. Food affordability, depression, lack of transportation, or not wanting to eat alone are a few. Collectively, we can make donations to food pantries and Meals on Wheels, a program which makes home deliveries. We can let our legislators know we support funding for free food programs. These options help.

It’s harvest time. I started with that thought when my morning coffee was hot. When our cupboards are full with the rewards of our summer labor, we can consider there are more ways to feed seniors. We can drop off a “care package” and offer a friendly hello. We can call and say “I baked a pie, do you mind if I stop by and share?” We can tie up a few cookies and some fresh fruit with a nice note for the widow or widower next door. Grandparents often escort children to free meal programs. How about we serve the grandparents, as well? When they volunteer at school, invite them to have lunch or take part in snack time. There are more programs that check on seniors living alone, perhaps, we can piggyback food deliveries on this outreach. What other ways can you think of to meet the need?

I love the Free Food program by an amazing woman in CT, Serena Rice, who collects and gives away food donated from farmers and other growers. Food is delivered to veteran’s homes, homeless shelters, and individual homes. Presently, she is trying to raise money for a truck for deliveries, but in the meantime, she delivers it herself or through the kindness of volunteers. Boxes are delivered laden with fresh produce. Feeding the hunger isn’t only about food, it’s about nutritious food.

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I was raised to respect my elders. I think respecting my elders extends to making sure their needs are met. I do okay, but I can do better. I can help meet the need of feeding our seniors by sharing more of what I grow or make. I can buy more than I need and share it. Together we share through food pantries and other organizations, but by making the effort to visit and share, we can satisfy more than the hunger of a tummy. We can feed the hunger of a soul needing a kind word and smile.

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