Many of us have been victimized by people who spread misinformation about us. It is particularly frustrating when the perpetrator is actually the one violating the rules, whether they be stated or just understood. They launch a campaign of rumors, half-truths and flat-out lies in order to distract attention from their own misdeeds. The Second Harvest Food Bank is being targeted currently and we think that campaign has gone on long enough and deserves a response.
The Second Harvest Food Bank has had three straight years in which we set new records for food distribution, delivering just under 7 million pounds of product to about 200 non-profits in a six-county region this past fiscal year. Since we started the program in 1982 as the Lehigh Valley Food Bank, we have distributed more than 120 million pounds of food assistance. No matter our success, we are under attack.
There are people who are spreading a story that we won’t distribute food to faith-based soup kitchens, that we are “anti-Christian.” That’s an odd assertion, since nearly every one of the food assistance organizations we serve are faith-based. Many of us who work here just happen to be moved to do the work we do by our faith. But that is only the “whisper down the alley” distortion that inevitably happens in these circumstances.
One of those faith-based groups, which was getting a lot of food from us for many years, recently underwent a routine monitoring visit, required of us by our food industry and government partners. What we discovered is that the pastor there was expecting recipients of our food to pray with him. For many, that may be just what is needed. It’s possible that prayer might well be the best thing for that individual. Maybe even if it is just one person who objects, in America, that one person matters.
You see, there is this pesky little document called the Bill of Rights. We have fought many wars protecting those rights. The Bill of Rights frowns on people pushing their religion on others when it involves the public’s funds. Believer or not, I’m obligated by the law to prohibit our agencies from doing just that.
The agency violating the rules is contacting anyone and everyone who will listen to his distortion of the facts. So, if someone tells you that the Second Harvest Food Bank is doing something wrong, let us know, so we can fix it. But if they are pushing stories like the one above, tell them the Bill of Rights also protects their right of free speech, even if it’s dreamt-up bunk.
So many folks in the Lehigh Valley are supporters of the Second Harvest Food Bank. We thank each of you for making it possible for us to serve everyone who needs us, regardless of their faith. Really, regardless of anything but that they are in need.