Al Roker: Let’s celebrate the Black leaders feeding their communities

Al Roker in front of Today Show sign
February 1, 2022
by Al Roker

I’ve seen a lot in my time as a journalist, but there’s one thing that continues to inspire me: how we care for each other. And that’s perhaps most evident in how we feed our neighbors facing hunger. Every day across the country, life-changing work is being done to provide food for people who need a little extra help affording groceries. From Detroit to Miami, Boston to San Francisco, and everywhere in between, amazing people are working towards a day when hunger is no longer an issue in America.

And they should be celebrated. Because, frankly, we’re due for a little more celebrating these days. So, what better time than Black History Month to celebrate how neighbors are helping neighbors, especially in the Black community.

People like Chef Grant, an Army medic who retired after 20 years in the service and then continued serving his community. He went to school to become a chef and now works at a soup kitchen in Georgia. “If I see someone in need and I’m blessed to be able to help them in some way, that’s what I’m going to do. It’s just the right thing to do,” he said.

Or, in Detroit, Pastor Semmeal Thomas. He runs a food pantry that serves one of the neediest communities in the city. Since the pandemic, he’s been delivering food to his neighbors facing hunger – especially seniors who can’t leave their homes. “Feeding people helps us enrich our community,” he said. “But I believe poverty is a justice issue. Not only do we have to feed people, but we also have to address the systems that don’t allow our neighbors to take care of themselves.”

These heroes – and so many more in the Black community – deserve to be celebrated. And while we celebrate this incredible work, I know there is still so much work to be done. In 2020 alone, nearly 1 in 4 Black individuals were at risk of hunger. That’s more than three times the rate in white households.

And, as Pastor Thomas said, what we ultimately need to do is address and dismantle those systems that perpetuate hunger among all communities, but especially in the Black community.
That may seem like a tall task. And unquestionably it is. It’s not something that happens overnight, or in a year. It’s really hard work and, I’m comforted to know that it’s work Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks across the country, are doing. By working within high-need communities to build opportunities and break down barriers to success, Feeding America is taking steps every day to ensure the Black community not only has a place at the table, but leads the conversation.

 As we celebrate Black History Month and honor the work of Black leaders feeding their neighbors across the country, I again quote Pastor Thomas from Detroit. Because not only do we need more celebrations these days, we need more hope. And that’s exactly what these heroes are doing – helping light the way to a hopeful future.

“What we’re doing is creating a culture where people are gaining hope. For some, that’s spiritual. For others, it’s emotional. And for others, it’s physical through food.”