September is Hunger Action Month – a month where people all over America join to spread the word and take action on the hunger crisis, and dedicate themselves to a solution. Throughout Hunger Action month, we will tell the story of volunteers, donors, and food donors who take action to join the cause of taking hunger off the map!
Joseph Schroeder is a Kansas native and an associate at the DC law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. For the past two years, he’s also been a monthly donor to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Joseph loves Kansas City BBQ and the occasional sugary snack. “I have a sweet tooth,” he confesses. But over the last few years, he’s grown a little more health conscious. “I’ve tried to focus more on my diet and what I eat”, he notes, and laughs as he says he’s found that vegetables can actually taste good. He’s noticed, though, that nutritious food is often higher priced—especially fresh fruits and vegetables. He also realizes that good food isn’t easy for everyone to access.
“If people don’t have a car, and have to work multiple jobs, they don’t have the time or the ability to walk 30 minutes to a grocery store to find fresh produce. And, even if they can get there, fresh produce is…expensive. It’s something we don’t always think about,” Joseph said. “If I can make the situation better . . . then that’s worth the small sacrifice of money out of a paycheck each month.”
Joseph’s monthly donations aren’t motivated solely by his awareness of the increased cost of healthier food. He wants to help others because he feels that it’s simply the right thing to do. He grew up in a faith tradition, he shares, and in his view, one of the best parts of that experience was being taught to care about other people as “brothers and sisters”, not as strangers.
He also knows what a toll hunger takes on his own ability to be productive. “When I’m hungry, my focus will go down. If I’m writing a brief that is difficult and I’m hungry, then at some point I’ll be forced to stop and get food because my brain simply won’t be able to handle it any more. If I try and go to sleep hungry, I simply won’t be able to fall asleep. For me, it just seems like an inconvenience, but for those dealing with food insecurity it must seem like this constant source of oppression.”
What moves Joseph the most is when he thinks about children who go hungry. “I was lucky,” he says. “But if the same me had been born into different (circumstances), my life could be so different. And it wouldn’t be my fault or anything I did, and it’s not those kids’ fault either.”
Everyone can be a little part of the solution, Joseph notes, in helping children and in making sure struggling families won’t have to decide between paying for medicine or rent and paying for food.
“I see people who are struggling every day,” Joseph remarked, describing his walk to work each morning. “It’s easy to think, ‘Oh gosh, this is a problem—someone should do something about this! The government should do something about this!’ And while I think that may be true, we also have the ability to do something…ourselves.”