The below piece was pro­duced as a part of a Passover sup­ple­ment for Dwelling in a Time of Plagues in response to the idea of lib­er­a­tion from the plague of food insecurity.

Before I had a name any­one rec­og­nized, before I had a book or two James Beard awards, I was pen­ni­less and food inse­cure, and Pesach was com­ing. The reces­sion hit hard, and I won­dered, in shame, how did I get here? How could a big guy, like me, a chef search­ing for a kitchen, run out of mon­ey for food? How did I get here? 

I tucked my tail, I went to Jew­ish Social Ser­vices, and in an instant, I was saved from the con­se­quences of not eat­ing and being left with­out a home. I real­ized then I was Ruth. Ruth, the mar­gin­al­ized; Ruth, the con­vert; Ruth at the inter­sec­tion of so many iden­ti­ties and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and fears. Ruth the glean­er, the for­ager, the searcher for a life beyond her heart­break­ing station. 

Food inse­cu­ri­ty is a her­itage as well as a con­di­tion. Over 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are cur­rent­ly food inse­cure. It’s liv­ing pay­check to pay­check, liv­ing in food deserts with lit­tle con­sis­tent access to ade­quate food and nutri­tion; food inse­cu­ri­ty haunts the rich­est nation on earth. Food inse­cu­ri­ty isn’t just a side effect of the pan­dem­ic; it is the con­se­quence of Native removal, the enslave­ment of Africans, the ghet­toiza­tion of immi­grants, sys­temic racism and lit­tle inflect­ed cru­el­ties on the work­ing poor that make eat­ing, and eat­ing healthy, choic­es rather than givens. I was not alone; we are a whole nation of Ruths, wait­ing to glean, wait­ing for our neigh­bor to end our dance with this most humil­i­at­ing of plagues. 

One day we will have parks full of gar­dens in which to for­age fruits and veg­eta­bles and herbs… 

We will reduce food waste and donate food as a gen­er­al practice. 

We will pay meals for­ward and send plates to our neigh­bors again… 

We will give until no one needs to glean.

To down­load the full Passover sup­ple­ment, which includes ten authors and ten artists respond­ing to ten mod­ern plagues, please click here

Dwelling in a Time of Plagues is a Jew­ish cre­ative response to real-world plagues of our time. Col­lec­tive­ly, the com­mis­sions in this con­stel­la­tion of art projects around North Amer­i­ca grap­ple with con­tem­po­rary crises: the glob­al pan­dem­ic, insti­tu­tion­al racism, xeno­pho­bia, ageism, forced iso­la­tion, and the cli­mate cri­sis. Dwelling is gen­er­ous­ly sup­port­ed by CANVAS.

Michael W. Twit­ty is a not­ed culi­nary and cul­tur­al his­to­ri­an and the cre­ator of Afro­culi­nar­ia, the first blog devot­ed to African Amer­i­can his­toric food­ways and their lega­cies. Twit­ty has appeared through­out the media, includ­ing on NPRs The Splen­did Table, and has giv­en more than 250 talks in the Unit­ed States and abroad.