The lead story in The New York Times on the first Sunday of this year was "Living on Nothing but Food Stamps." According to the report, about 6 million Americans claim to have no income other than food stamps. About one in 50 Americans now live in a household where there is no cash income, and the only income received is in the form of food stamps from the government.
The byline of the report was Cape Coral, Florida. The Cape Coral and Ft. Myers communities are among the places in our country most affected by the Great Recession. The housing market collapsed. Workers in construction fled to other states. Unemployment is extremely high. Foreclosed homes are selling cheaply.
Overall, Florida is one of the states that have been hit the hardest by the recession. According to this article in the Times, the number of people in Florida whose only income was food stamps increased by 113 percent from 2007 to 2009. There are now 415,608 people in Florida whose only income is food stamps.
These disturbing statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. They represent only people in the most extreme predicament. There are so many more families and individuals who are struggling during this economy.
This is a moment to be grateful for the ministries of providing food, meals, and other necessities being offered by so many of our local churches. These ministries receive their supplies from many sources, including regular donations of church members. They function by the volunteer service of many caring people who are motivated by the love of Jesus Christ.
During Advocacy Days at Children's Week at the state legislature on April 12th and following, many of us will be present to advocate for public policies that provide assistance to the poor and disadvantaged in our state, especially the children.
The theme of the 2010 Florida Annual Conference will be "Transforming the World by Eradicating Extreme Hunger." We shall seek guidance in how to participate in the divine work of providence and overcoming of injustice and human need.
As we begin this New Year in a cold winter during hard times, let us pray for those with need and meditate on the challenge of the Gospel as proclaimed in the Epistle of James:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:14-17).