Unlike Jeff Bridges, who is a wealthy celebrity with access to national distribution for this message, or a Congressman, who is a wealthy celebrity with access to national distribution for his or her message, he is an average American, who during the course of his employment, must face hungry children every day. Since 2000, Artis Hampton, better known in social media as QuraanSupreme Love Allah, has served the students of upstate New York’s Spring Valley High School. He recently contacted the By2015:AMERICA movement for advice on how to bring awareness that lunch time is not on everyone’s student’s schedule.
This problem vexes Quraan. He understands that children cannot learn if they are hungry. He observes the behavior problems that stem from hunger and knows firsthand that it is useless to share philosophy with a young person who feels financially and food insecure. They are not looking for words to tickle their ear and ease their suffering, they want money to purchase food. So, he carries single dollar bills in his pocket and hands them out to students who have earned his trust.
“How long do you think you can sustain that?” Quraan was asked by a teacher.
“Not as long as someone who is making $90,000 a year,” he answered. “I don’t see how you can sit back and let the babies be hungry.”
“It’s not my fault. It’s their parent’s responsibility to feed their children,” he is told.
Quraan has heard every excuse a school administration can give as to why the district cannot carry the burden of feeding children. A deaf ear is turned to the fact that 23 million Americans – a fact that presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeated over and over again – are unemployed. Quraan doesn’t need PBS’s Frontline program to show him the faces of POOR KIDS. Those are the faces that he hands single dollar bills out too.
The concept of rugged individualism is preventing much needed food relief from reaching an entire generation of American children. The USDA estimates that only 1 out of every 3 Americans who currently qualify for food stamps are accessing said benefits. Part of the reason why is how food stamps are framed in our political debates, as a failing of the individual and not a lack of economic opportunity out in the community. America appears to reward suffering without complaint.
What about a child? How do they feel, unable to engage in economic activity and receiving the message that their parents, whom they see daily striving to provide, are somehow failing to tap into their own genius. How do they make sense of this all when they talk with other children who are having he exact same experience. When do the babies come to the conclusion that the government just doesn’t care?
Quraan cares. “When I give one of the babies a dollar and tell them to go get something to eat, I’m not looking for a reward. Not in money. Pay attention in class. Get an education and do for self. The babies I deal with have figured out that its a cold, cold world out here. Ain’t nobody gonna help them, but themselves. Or that’s how they feel. I hope my reaching out to them let’s them know there are a few who want to see them succeed.”
True indeed, Sir. True indeed.