The Common Good

My Mission: The Salad Bar

"Joselyn, try the kale. It’s crunchy and delicious!”  Welcome to my world. Once or twice a week, though weary and ready for a break, I walk the lunch line with my students encouraging good nutrition. We live in a country that has an abundance of food. Some of that abundance is due to high tech advances in farming, but most is due to God-given geography. The U.S. Department of Agriculture runs programs to share that abundance with people in need, particularly important in these troubled economic times.

Some read Romans 13 and lean toward faith being a personal thing (pay your taxes and don’t break the laws, avoid sexual immorality, debauchery, jealousy, and instead clothe yourself with Christ), but the chapter also says God has established government as his “servant to do good.”

This is why, in a country where the public is encouraged to participate in government, I want to encourage people of faith to voice the heart of God when it comes to issues like feeding the least of these.

I love participating with my church in monthly grocery donations for the local food bank. I have handed backpacks of food for the weekend provided by the United Way to students who would slog through the weekend on little else if not for that program. I’m thankful that I can encourage my students to fully participate in the breakfast and lunch programs offered at my school. I have students in my classroom every day that would not eat healthy meals if these were not provided.

A couple weeks ago, Juan, one of my students, came late to school. When I asked him what he ate for breakfast he replied, “Nothing — there was nothing at home.”  I chided him for being late and missing breakfast at school. At the same time, I also understood that because it was near the end of the month, this working class family had run out of resources. His parents had left early for work and depended on their 9-year-old to wake the other children and walk them to school in time for breakfast. As his teacher, I’ve tried to persuade Juan get to school early so he and his brothers can eat, something he has now achieved for two weeks runningJuan’s situation is like that of most children in my classroom. Their families are the working poor.

We tend not to see many of the problems others face when we are comfortable. It’s easy to donate a few cans of food once a month, or to have a small donation taken out of my check to the United Way.

We also need the Department of Agriculture sharing some of our country’s abundance, in a responsible way, with the least of these. The SNAP program, which the House recently voted to cut $40 billion from, puts healthy food within reach for 28 million people each month, parents serving healthy food to their sons and daughters. I see their faces every day in the lunchroom. I coax them into eating snap peas from the lunch salad bar, but I need not act alone. Through public policy regarding our abundant food supply, our government can do good for Joselyn, Juan, and others in similar situations. Continued funding of SNAP is one way our government can be God’s “servant to do good.”   

Dan Lundberg is a public elementary school teacher in Southern California. His missional teaching serves families in a working-class neighborhood, 91% of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Photo:  JENG_NIAMWHAN / Shutterstock.com

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