Skip to content

Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Hunger at Home

June 30, 2009

For over 25 years, the primary focus of my professional career has been food.

In my personal life, food has played a major role, falling just behind faith, family, and friends.

I create, prepare, and sell food for a living. When I’m not working, I’m traveling, eating, and writing about traveling and eating. I eat a lot. When recognized while out of town, I’m often asked, “Aren’t you that guy who eats a lot?” Again, food.

I grew up in a modest middle class home, raised by a single working mom, though I never wanted for food. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve been truly hungry— possibly never.

In my life, I have been food rich. I once ate a 32-course, five-hour meal at The French Laundry, the nation’s premiere restaurant. In a few weeks, I’m going back there to participate in another culinary bacchanalia.

I realize how lucky I have been.

Millions have not been so lucky. While you’re reading this, a significant number of our nation’s seniors are debating on whether to pay the water bill or buy groceries. Over the course of a day, 12.4 million children are living at risk of hunger. Real skipping-meals, days-without-food hunger— not in some remote foreign country— here in America.

While we’re planning our next family vacation, there are millions of parents hoping to just make it through the night. They have no clue as to what they’ll feed their children for breakfast.

Of all of the 50 states, Mississippi is at the top of the list for food insecurity. Walker Satterwhite, Executive Director of the Mississippi Food Network, told me recently that last year MFN was feeding 65,000 needy Mississippians each month. Today, that number— due to the change in the economic climate— has risen almost 50% to 100,000 people.

MFN supplies 320 food pantries and soup kitchens across Mississippi with over one million pounds of food every month, but there is still a huge void. “Many Mississippi communities with larger populations have multiple non-profits, large numbers of giving churches, public transportation and friends and family who can assist the needy,” Satterwhite said. “This is not the case in many rural areas. We are seeking out churches, civic groups, and non-profits in the extreme rural areas to take advantage of our program in underserved areas. We have the expertise to assist these organizations in the process of opening these agencies.”

If you are reading this, and live in one of those smaller communities that need help in feeding its under-resourced citizens, please call Mississippi Food Network 601-353-7286.

Walker Satterwhite is one of my heroes. This state is full of heroes. Cookie and Bill Prout formed Christian Services in Hattiesburg in 1986. They prepare and serve 600 meals per day. They also prepare food for Meals on Wheels, which feeds seniors who are homebound. As if that weren’t enough, the Prouts prepare food and distribute it out of a delivery van in three underprivileged neighborhoods in town.

I never focus on how someone got to the point of needing food. That’s a problem for someone else to solve. I care that there are children in my town who are going to bed hungry every night. I know that they had nothing to do with the circumstances that put them in that situation.

My son and I visited The Edwards Street Mission in Hattiesburg a few weeks ago and the shelves had been depleted. Edwards Street is feeding 600 families every month. They need help. Today.

They all need help, today. Send food, volunteer time, send money. Just do something, and do it today.

I’ve spent 25 years in the surplus side of the food business. I’m about to spend a large portion of the next 25 in the food-deficit side— making sure that those who don’t have access to food get it. Join me, and join Walker Satterwhite and the 320 agencies supported by the Mississippi Food Network, or the local soup kitchen or mission pantry in your area, and make a difference.

Recent Posts

For the Love of Fish

This month kicked off my 44th year in the restaurant business. The first seven years were spent working for other…

Read more

Big Apple Birthdays

BROOKLYN— Growing up I had relatives in New York. My maternal grandmother and grandfather lived here for 10 years or…

Read more

Simply the Best

For the 26-plus years this column has been in existence I have typed over 1,000 words a week, every week,…

Read more