[Province San Vincenzo Italia] The kids of the middle schools of the villages of Flumignano and Sant’Andrat (Udine) have had an experience that brought them in contact with the poverty of food, which today, unfortunately, in the 21st century in our rich West, many families still suffer.
Every year in Italy on the last Saturday of November, the “National Food Collection Day” is organized by the “Food Bank Foundation” to raise awareness about the problem. They ask people to contribute, through their shopping in supermarkets, to the activity that the Bank Food carries out throughout the year. The Food Bank in fact regularly distributes food to Caritas canteens, communities, parishes and other associations that help people in food emergencies. The food distributed partly comes from the European Union, partly from the recovery of food surpluses donated by supermarkets, restaurants, canteens, etc.
The “Collection” initiative has been proposed to the kids, who have joined with commitment and enthusiasm. At the entrance to the village supermarket, you could find the “yellow bibs” who distributed leaflets to the people, explaining the initiative. They received shopping bags and put the food in the cartons. Some of them did the shopping themselves, buying the food they needed most. The people of the village have been happy to see these young kids so busy and willingly have joined this initiative. The kids were organized in one-hour shifts and it was good to see that at the end of their shift some of them wanted to stay longer in the supermarket.
The activity was preceded by the testimony of an operator of the Caritas Canteen of Udine, one of the places that benefit by the Food Bank. This operator explained to the kids how the canteen service takes place and invited them to visit it, which was done during the Christmas holidays. The kids and their parents brought food purchased for them as gifts and could see the places where people in need go for a meal.
Above all, it has been explained to them that a canteen is a place where not only the body is nourished because every person does not suffer from a “physical” hunger only. We all “hunger” for relationships, affection, respect, and consideration … At the Caritas Canteen they try to give all of this, starting from the welcome of the people, who are greeted and called by name; moreover, in the refectory where people eat, there are no large tables but 4-seats at tables, so as to encourage conversation in the Canteen. There is also a listening center where the workers try to understand the reasons that led a person to turn to the Canteen and try to help them to get out of their situation, where possible. Therefore, they try to promote people, with delicacy and respect. The Mensa operators explained to the kids that from one day to the next anyone can find themselves in a situation of need, but this does not mean that they lose their dignity and their value. We must not forget that in the Poor there is Jesus, who must be served with respect and love even when he is rough and, turned in to his problems, does not even say thank you for what he receives. On the other hand, we too “normal people,” when we have a bad day we do not want to talk to anyone.
The meeting ended with the prayer of the “Our Father”, which reminds us that we are all children of a single Father, poor and rich, Italians and foreigners. For this reason, we cannot remain indifferent if a brother or a sister find themselves in a state of poverty.
Both the kids and their parents were very happy with the experience; they were impressed by the fact that there are many volunteers, people who give free time and energy to help those in need. Among the volunteers, there are also people who in the past had been helped by the Canteen and now they want to return what they have received. We hope that in the future, even some of our kids will get involved in the service at the Canteen!