Grocery Bills

Grocery Bills April 24, 2008

Yesterday I had to buy produce and fruit and some meat. I went to my local grocery store and at the checkout I commented on how expensive everything was. The clerk agreed with me. She told me that she just came back from a visit to the Philippines and she said she was shocked by what she saw. She said that people could not afford rice any more and so more and more people were having to dig in trash cans hoping to find just one bit of rice to take home to their children. But because there are more hungry people competing over the same trash cans there is little to go around. The clerk cried as she told me about what she had seen. She said people are actually starving. I told her about my time in Ecuador in 2000 when people were starving as well and how much the images still bother me.

I told the woman that while prices are increasing, it is not hurting us. As in, I am not being forced to make decisions like rent or food. But I know many people are having to make such decisions. I told her I didn’t know what I could do to help. She said she felt the same way. I told her the only thing we can do is pray and give to organizations that give to the poor.

As I walked away with my cart full of food, I thanked God for what I have and asked Him to show me what I can do for those who do not have.

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  • jonathanjones02

    Food prices have increased steadily over the last year. A big part of the problem that the U.S. government could do something about immediately (there is not much anyone can do about rising demand and the sort of gross mismanagement in once highly productive places like Zimbabwe) would be to end the ethanol mandate. That is taking up a huge amount of farmland (good for those farmers, much less so for everyone else).

  • RR

    You inspired me to make a donation to CRS. I will encourage my friends to do the same.

  • Dave Raber

    It is not enough, being bothered by images of starving people. I am not telling you anything you don’t know, nor am I questioning your personal efforts in aid of the poor–because chances are you are doing more than I am.

    It’s not about the personal, really; it has to be about collective action and radical action.

    You and I are enmeshed in a system, and constrained by it, just as much as the very poor of the world, and though our freedom of action is greater because we are relatively rich, our ways of thinking and ways of living constrain us to the point where what most of us do to help the poor is piecemeal and not very effective in the greater scheme of things.

    Someone needs to write an essay about the world economy entitled, “It’s the Sin, Stupid,” explaining how virtually all economic problems and hardships and failures are simply due to human sin–mainly selfishness, although other human weaknesses come into the picture as well.

    Maybe a lot more would be happening on a lot of fronts if we faced the fact of sin in our economic system instead of pretending that the economy runs based on “economic realities” as impersonal and ethically neutral as the weather. If we are dealing with a fundamental “reality” here, then it is indeed the reality of sin. But as Christians we believe sin can be overcome; there is such a thing as conversion and redemption–through Christ, who said, Love God, and your neighbor as yourself.

    Once we start doing that, poverty starts to disappear. How then do we start doing that in much bigger and more fundamental ways? When will the large Catholic communities start appearing, those that will show the rest of the society the way toward living together successfully outside of the system of corrosive capitalist competition?

    I don’t think something like Ave Maria, Florida, is the way to go (as much as I know about it)–but at least there some Catholics moved ahead on something big that was moving the cause forward, by their lights.

    And/or we need a viable Christian Democratic Party in this country.

  • Jimmy Mac

    On the news today I heard that many community food banks are in dire straits because donations of foodstuffs have dropped off dramatically. While the “haves” hunker down, the “have nots” are the first to suffer.

  • Dave,

    Excellent thought-provoking points.


    I too have noticed the incredible rise in prices for quite some time now… milk???!!

  • ben

    Thank you for this important post.

    I bought 100 lbs of rice today for the local convent of Poor Clares.

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Dave: I hear you. It is exactly what I was trying to show; how ironic that I prayed while I walked away with so much. I feel so frustrated with my inability to do more.

    So true, Jimmy. So true.

    And for those who give, good! Keep doing it and encouraging those who can to give as well. I am aware, though, that many people who could have in the past, cannot now.

  • Tulipa

    Don’t drown in frustration. Do something! First pray for the poor every night at dinner and do so with your children. Next, continue to give money to the poor. Personally, my charity of choice is Food for the Poor which helps those here in our hemisphere and seems to have pure intentions (no hidden agenda). Also, become a sponsor of a poor child in a poor country. For $30 per months you feed, clothe and educate a real person and get letters from them–you can only imagine how much you allieviate anxiety for a real family by doing something for their child. The Catholic Foundation for Children and Aging is a good organization for this purpose.

    In your own little corner of the world, encourage infertile couples who are friends to adopt a foreign baby or child instead of promoting the immoral and ubiquitous “in-vitro” techniques that just create more humans to stuff in a refrigerated drawer somewhere, forever to be forgotten. The joy of adoption is profound.

    As Americans, cut back. Don’t supersize. Fast weekly (Imagine if Catholics became the demographically thin group in our country–and when asked how we do it say “fast, pray, and do pennance for the sins of the world!) Xeriscape. Take 5 minute showers, not 15 minute showers. Dump your SUV as soon as economically wise, and drive a non-outrageous vehicle. Carpool. Take the bus. Eat meat as a condiment. Boycott Starbucks and any other multinational that supports Planned Parenthood. Recycle. Walk to work or school and lose weight doing so. Refuse to pollute your minds and the minds of your kids with periodicals such as People, US, Glamour, O, Self, etc. Refuse to watch fetid network TV. Limit text messaging and cell phone use –cultivate serenity in your household.

    Find new ways to be Counter-Cultural and Catholic in the world. This will bring you great joy and peace.

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  • radicalcatholicmom

    Tulipa: Excellent suggestions and ones we do. During our food blessing we always pray for those who helped get our food to our table (which should cover the poor). And we also sponsor a child in Guatemala via the CFCA. We also have family prayer time. At the same time it still frustrates me that this all we can do. I wonder if I should be present and working with them day to day. I have to remind myself that me sending money is the most important thing that can help. As well as continue helping those immigrants who arrive in my country.

    The one thing we don’t do is fast as a family or even individually. That I think is something we could do.

  • RCM — this is a subject very near and dear to my heart. I completely empathize with your frustrations. They are mine, as well, and more so because I cannot give any money to the poor. I have become very creative in non-monetary ways of assistance and solidarity!

    Beyond our own homes, our influence must be extended through the actions of our elected representatives. Write your Congressmen and urge them to appropriate more money for poverty and famine relief throughout the world. Ask them to ensure accountability and to support aid agencies rather than sending money to foreign governments. Remind them of the US’s priviledged position in the world and their Christian responsibility to our poor brothers and sisters in other nations. Tell them that you care about the poor as much as you care about social security, abortion, lower taxes and health care. They will listen if we are persistent and consistent.

    The following websites will donate food and/or aid for FREE if you visit them frequently. Bookmark them and visit every morning:

    MaterCare International protects the right to life by supporting mothers and children around the world:

    You’ve done a great service by talking to the clerk at your grocery store and posting this here. Speak to as many people as you can about the plight of the poor and brainstorm ways to help them.

    God bless you, hon, for your compassion and courage!

  • Dave Raber

    Tulipa, I appreciate the reminder about prayer. All our efforts need to start there.

    I don’t pretend to understand prayer–how it “works”–and of course many times it doesn’t seem to work, as far as our getting just what we ask for, and yet I do it and I know it is doing good, for myself and others, and I mean concrete good.

    Also, if that’s the place we start, then we start going beyond that too by doing more than praying.