Voices: Feed the People – compassion over charity

The United States has declared victory over the coronavirus. With the federal government anticipating a vaccine by the end of the year, the crisis looks to be over sooner rather than later. According to the feds’ appraisal, we will be able to stop distancing, dispose of our masks, and resume the normal pace of our day-to-day lives.

The facts on the ground, however, are these: One hundred eighty thousand people in the United States have died from COVID-19. Forty million are unemployed. Tens of millions are going hungry. Forty million more face eviction or foreclosure amid this pandemic.

Congress, by passing the CARES Act in April, has ensured that every large bank, corporation and firm receives trillions of dollars in funding to “survive” the economic impacts of COVID-19. Meanwhile, small businesses continue to struggle against the looming recession, and the market share of small businesses have decreased by 30% in just the last few months. Congress has refused any more direct aid aside from a one-time payment of $1,200, and are now on vacation instead of aiding the people they represent.

The state and the economic system it upholds have utterly failed to contain the virus or to provide even the most basic necessities for people. When this is the case, people have to organize in solidarity with one another to fill the enormous chasms that the state and economy have left behind.

This is where Rocky Mountain Horizon and its flagship program, Feed the People, come in. We are a grassroots organization giving food items to anyone who asks, with no questions asked. Through Feed the People, we give out nonperishable foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, toiletries and snacks to anyone and everyone who stops by.

Our mission is simple: people deserve food no matter who they are or where they come from. When our hunger is met, we can organize to fight for better conditions in other ways: clothing drives, educational seminars, car repairs, childcare, and neighborhood safety. All are welcome, none are turned away.

Ours is a simple, yet revolutionary approach: we feed everyone because everyone needs to be fed.

After all, there is no reason for anyone to go hungry or homeless today. As we write this, there are more unoccupied homes than there are homeless people in America; our country wastes fruits, baked goods and other foods while many go hungry. Meanwhile, money is poured into banks, corporations, bloated military and police budgets, and rising Congressional salaries.

There is a nationwide surplus of housing as foreclosed property or vacant hotel rooms, yet the streets teem with tent cities and evictions threaten people’s precarious housing. This abject cruelty is apparent across the entire nation, and Missoula is no exception. Many of us are suffering through no fault of our own, and yet we are met with nothing but false cries of victory and increased policing.

We reject this cruelty. People have lost their jobs and are likely to lose their housing while the titans of industry are raising the prices on these basic needs only to make a little more profit. Even the most devious, Machiavellian politician should understand that people need to eat and live indoors during a pandemic, if only to keep their elected office. Our ruling class is so corrupt, incompetent, and short-sighted that even such a simple truth eludes them.

We feed everyone, because everyone needs to be fed. If the state cannot or will not do its job, then it’s up to us.

Combating hunger and raising food security is the first step, an act of human solidarity straight from the heart, and a moral imperative in these dark times. Hunger is a physical, mental, and spiritual degradation, especially when there is plenty of food to be had.

We are quick to blame someone’s work ethic or their financial restraint, but what a hungry person needs is understanding and compassion. This is the central philosophy of Feed the People: compassion and solidarity rather than charity motivate our movement. We feed everyone, because everyone needs to be fed.

But we can’t do it alone. People have donated generously to our cause with money, food, toiletries and kind words. We are humbled and grateful for this support, but we require more to keep expanding our operations. Please visit our Facebook page at Rocky Mountain Horizon, where you will find our Venmo and PayPal accounts for direct online donations.

All of our proceeds go to the purchase of food; we pay all our overhead costs. Feel free to donate non-perishable food or fresh, uncut fruit so we can keep up our supply. As we continue to grow, we can apply for permits from the Health Department and start preparing cooked meals to people in addition to staples like rice, beans, and fruit.

The most important resources are time and people: we need volunteers to work the Feed the People food stands. It is only two hours a week, with flexible arrangements. Every Saturday and Sunday, we set up a table from 12 a.m. 2 p.m. that is open to the public.

With more volunteers, we would be able to operate this program every single day, in multiple neighborhoods, to give out more food and spread our ideas. Bring a mask, gloves and hope for the future. Come on out and meet your neighbors, help build a community network, and represent the call for justice we hear in the streets.

In a world beset by greed, cruelty, despair, and nihilism, we must sound the clarion call for a better, more just world. We must imagine a world where justice is not merely the punitive, repressive weapon of the state, but a form of collective love put into action. We must not merely punish the criminal, but correct systemic wrongs and injustices that breed desperation and crime. We must build a world where work is joyfully undertaken for the betterment of the community, rather than an empty quest for a paycheck.

And above all, we must make sure that everyone has enough to eat.

No one is coming to save our communities, so we must do it ourselves. Many of us are alone, uncertain and compelled by fear. It does not have to be this way. We must fundamentally challenge ourselves in ways we have not considered before. There can be no return to normal: the battle for the future is now. We must dare to dream, dare to struggle, dare to win. We must reach out our hands to those whose hands are empty, as equals and members of the human family.

Mutual aid is the only way we will weather this storm. As the systems we have long relied upon continue to collapse, we will need to work together to keep one another safe. We cannot rely on the economic or state apparatus to fulfill human needs. We need to be responsible for one another.

Please check us out on Facebook, leave a donation, and come help us feed the people. Let’s get to work.

Kate, Boston, and Charlie – Missoula