Thursday, December 4, 2014

Serving people in need with dignity

Did you see the segment on last Sunday's "60 Minutes" called War and Hunger?

Some of the segment moved me to tears to see the struggles of people in countries torn by war and where food is used as a weapon.

But the show also brought great joy, to see the work of the World Food Programme, and its tireless and passionate team. And especially to see former Feeding America executive Ertharin Cousin, who is now the Executive Director of the WFP.

With Ertharin's leadership, the WFP has taken a new approach to feeding people in refugee camps. Instead of the mass feeding, cafeteria style, that you are used to seeing in the wake of a disaster or crisis, the WFP is building supermarkets! Each refugee family is then given a food card and they can get their own food, prepare their own meals, and eat together as a family!

Doesn't this make sense?

It's the disaster equivalent of providing SNAP benefits in the US or of the best practice of providing client choice at food pantries in the US. We recommend that, instead of pre-packing bags for families, the families be allowed to choose their own food. It's more dignified, less food is wasted, and it let's the volunteers interact with the clients in new ways - ways that might actually build human relationships and help a family on the road to self-sufficiency.

We need to feed people who are hungry, whether the disaster is natural or man-made, and whether it's here in the US or overseas. But can't we do it in a way that preserves the dignity of the person needing the assistance?