"The Sixteen Point Nine Percent"

A guest column by HNO Board Member, Joanna Samuelson

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!
People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem,
you will weep no more.
How gracious he will be when you cry for help!
As soon as he hears, he will answer you.

Isaiah 30:18-19

These words of Isaiah offered hope and assurance to the people of ancient Judah during the time of a foreign military invasion: God is present. God is compassionate. God is just. God hears and God answers the cries of those who have been forgotten and those who have lost hope.

How do you hear these prophetic words in our socioeconomic and political context today?

Who are the ones who have been left behind?

Who has been pushed to the margins of our society?

Whose cries are ignored within our own communities?

Whose voices are unheard?

Whose stories, untold?

Through the Hunger Network in Ohio, we are called to listen to the cries of those who are hungry within our own state. We know that Ohio’s household food insecurity rate is 16.9%, which is statistically significantly higher than the U.S. national average of 14.3% (Feeding America, 2014).

We also know that statistics tell only part of the story.

One of the ways in which we can share God’s compassion and justice for those who have been forgotten is by listening at a deeper level. “Sixteen point nine per cent” is more than just a statistic about hunger in Ohio. Each adult and child who are food insecure within our own state have names that are meant to be known. They have voices that are meant to be heard. They have stories that are meant to be told. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our veterans, our elderly, our disabled and our children. They are our sisters and brothers, and they are children of God, too!

O God of Compassion,
Give us ears to hear and hearts to listen
to those who have been forgotten.
May their stories change us and inspire us
to seek justice and to effect change
that God’s abundance
would finally be shared and known by all.