But cooking a meal at home has to be one of the easiest ways to take the poor with you, especially because there's so much more to it than the simple economics of saving money.
The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving. Over 4 million will die this year.To translate this to my family, it would mean that my husband eats three meals a day, snacks when he wants to, and has chocolate cake for dessert. I would get lunch every day. My kids would be starving. Knowing that no decent man would allow his wife and kids to go hungry while he stuffed himself every day, how can we indulge ourselves knowing that 2/3 of the world are in need?
And the problem is growing. Bread for the World reports that 854 million people across the world are hungry, up from 852 million a year ago.
Photographer Peter Menzel and author-journalist Faith D'Alusio have highlighted this disparity in their beautifully photographed and informative book, Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. When compared to the family of five in a refugee camp in Chad who live off five pounds of millet and a jar of peanut oil per week, my fully stocked pantry, fridge full of food and fifty-item grocery list seem ridiculously extravagant.
And I think that's the point. If there isn't a need to eat out, then doing so is an extravagance -- a treat that by definition should be a rarity. Wanting to order in a pizza just because I don't feel like cooking is almost a slap in the face to those people who stand in line for hours to get a bag of rice.
So is there ever a justification for eating out? I think so. Meals are celebrations, occasions for people to gather together and appreciate the bounty of the Earth. Cooking is an art form, and done well, it can literally enhance every aspect of our being. We receive nourishment and fulfillment through our pleasure. Eating at a restaurant is an act of appreciation that gives us the opportunity to further the cook's art. And it's inherently enjoyable.
In fact, I think it's one of the fundamental rights of human beings -- the right to enjoy an abundance of food and social interaction within our communities. Of course, there's many people who can't eat out because they're starving, or poor, or because their community is at war and it isn't safe to leave their homes. People in areas of famine do not enjoy an abundance of food; they can barely imagine the idea of leaving a home filled with good things to eat and paying extra money for someone else to cook and serve us.
If we eat out, let it be for the right reasons. Let it be to fully appreciate the blessings we have been given and the delight of a varied Earth. And let's take the poor with us. For every meal we eat outside our home, donate half what we spend to a charity providing food to the needy. For those of us who eat out on a monthly basis, consider Bread for the World's monthly giving program Bakers Dozen.
Most importantly, when we say grace before our meal, think of those who will never know the satisfaction of a full belly, or the security that comes from having the liberty to say "I don't feel like cooking tonight. Let's get a pizza."