October 1st, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on The Angels Amongst Us
I just returned home on Sunday from Baltimore, MD – home to this year’s Natural Product Expo East. I typically love the shows, although they can be a bit tiring as well. It’s exciting being totally immersed in the organic and natural food scene for 3 consecutive days. You’re talking with growers, manufacturers, food artisans, and customers about food – sampling and nibbling their new products. It’s all food, all the time.
But what I truly enjoy the most about the show happens once all the nibbling, the dining, and the conversations have all disappeared. The show floor has emptied and a few of us remain, breaking down our booths and closing out the show experience. About an hour and a half after the doors have closed, a group of unassuming men and women with large containers on wheels approach our booth. They typically wear shirts that identify themselves as having a connection with the community food bank or soup kitchen. With very little fanfare they empty the racks and bins of our booth, say thank you, and quietly move along. That is my favorite food moment of the show.
During the show, we are focused on food – organic, sustainable food. It feels pretty good. We’re in a bubble that nurtures our commitment to organic and natural foods. For a few days it feels like our vision for a sustainable food system is actually making serious inroads into the marketplace. And then, the soup kitchen appears. Suddenly, you realize that the real issue isn’t organic vs. conventional food. The bigger issue isn’t how our food is grown (although it is incredibly important). No, the real issue is making sure everyone has enough food. If you don’t have enough food to eat on a regular basis, chances are you’re not going to be very concerned about how the food was grown. Your only concern is hoping that there will be a next meal.
The wonderful people who have committed themselves to working and volunteering at Food Banks and Community Kitchens truly get it. They don’t have a booth at the Expo, and they don’t enjoy the luxury of walking and nibbling their way across the show floor. Rather, their focus is elsewhere – they spend their time serving meals throughout the week to those who are struggling to survive. They are more than just good people or heroes; they are the Angels amongst us.