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Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 19 February 2014

HUNGRY CHILDREN: WHY WE NEED ADVOCACY

By Jim Jordal

By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and closes his heart of compassion against him, how does the love of God remain in him? My little children, let's not love in word only, neither with the tongue only, but in deed and truth.

I John 1:16-18, WEB

A few weeks ago reports from Utah indicated that some school districts were turning children away hungry from school lunch lines if their lunch fund accounts had fallen below zero. Some lunchroom workers evidently seized and tossed in the garbage the already served lunches from students whose lunch accounts were short. Others reportedly went so far as to ink stamp on the hands of elementary kids the words MONEY or LUNCH. Some of the more enlightened lunchroom managers replaced regular hot lunches with cold cheese sandwiches, fruit, and milk.

All in all, this news did not sit well with Americans who immediately fired off hundreds of thousands of social media messages asking if this was true and why it was done.

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, it was revealed by delving reporters that some school districts in Minnesota were doing the same.

Now let’s not get too tough on the lunchroom workers who were no doubt only following orders. That doesn’t make their actions right, but it does help us understand the pressure-packed situation. Unfortunately, things like this happen every day, although we don’t generally hear of them because no one wants to take the risk of exposing friends or co-workers.

The treatment of these needy kids touched a nerve of the American public. The immediate cry was "for shame!" That was closely followed by public promises, including that of Governor Dayton, to do something about this situation. Governor Dayton says it will take between 3 and 4 million dollars to solve this problem for a year, which he will include in a forthcoming budget request bill.

This unpleasant reality has evidently been hiding in the bushes for some time. Pressed by school budget constraints and lacking adequate operating funds, school districts have been forced to do things they don’t approve of, just like what happened. And it seems only to grow worse as the vaunted Recovery fails to reach the bottom half of the nation’s people.

It takes advocacy to reveal hidden situations such as this. Charity would attempt to remedy the shortage of lunch funds by either giving individual poor kids gifts of food or money, or perhaps by bestowing larger amounts directly to the school districts. But the problem would only be temporarily lessened, not solved as it should be.

That’s why we need advocacy. Advocates go beyond charity into exposure of evil acts and bad situations. Advocates name names and assign responsibility. Advocates dig into the nitty-gritty of public policy and ask by what right things are done. Advocacy holds the public’s feet to the fire because they point out that these evils exist only because the public has abandoned its moral duty of voting and paying taxes responsibly and expecting honesty and service from elected and appointed officials. It takes advocacy to go beyond the limits of charity.

Perhaps the major Bible verses on advocacy can be found in Proverbs 31:8-9, WEB: "Open your mouth for the mute, In the cause of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And serve justice to the poor and needy." The poor kids denied lunch or embarrassed by having MONEY or LUNCH printed on their hands were left mute and desolate, as the verse says. But somebody opened their mouth in exposure and protest to serve justice to the poor and needy.

That’s advocacy, and we need lots more of it!