by Abram Sherrod
Lincoln Elementary Community School Director
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation” in the Psychological Review. The premise was simple, but it would shape the way we view human development from that point on. Maslow’s premise is based on the idea that in order to develop and achieve happiness a number of basic needs must be fulfilled in a linear order. Maslow claims that as humans we all seek to attain self-actualization, which can simply be described as achieving enlightenment. To be enlightened simply means that one is able to grow as a human and achieve success in whatever capacity that individual deems to be successful. However, to achieve self-actualization a number of basic need has to be fulfilled.
As we begin to focus on the communities that we serve, we must remind ourselves that the only way we can expect people to live full and meaningful lives is to secure their most basic needs. For example, Utah suffers from a statistic that is not unique to Utah alone, but is a global concern. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 11.9% of families in Utah suffer from food insecurity. More shockingly, one out of every five children in Utah are not sure where their next meal will come from. Many of the poorest communities in the United States also suffer from being in areas where individuals do not have access to good quality or fresh food, which is called a food desert. It should also be noted that food deserts are more likely to impact people of color.
Many of the individuals who live in South Salt Lake suffer from food insecurity not only because they live in a food desert, but also because intergenerational poverty has plagued this community for a number of years. As a result, families continue on a pattern of growing up in a community with high levels of poverty and then raising children in the same community.
When one truly takes the time to understand the harsh realities that nearly 423,000 individuals in the state of Utah face, the scope of United Way’s mission statement to “improve lives and build strong communities by uniting individuals and organizations with the will, passion, expertise, and resources needed to solve problems” becomes more crucial. As a new staff member at United Way of Salt Lake, I was handed a great opportunity/responsibility to improve the community in which I live. I work in one of the communities with the greatest need in the state of Utah. My work has reaffirmed my belief that in order to help individuals achieving self-actualization, we need to ensure that basic fundamental needs are met before we can expect people to grow intrinsically.
At Lincoln Elementary, we strive to do this by partnering with a number of individuals and organizations in the community. Lincoln houses over 500 students. If one out of every five children in the state of Utah suffers from food insecurity, once can assume that nearly 100 students at Lincoln Elementary are struggling with food insecurity, or have been affected by food insecurity at some point in their lives. Lincoln Elementary tries to limit the amount of food insecurity with its students by working with community partners and individual in the community to create food storage for families in need.
Granite Credit Union has been a huge support to Lincoln students and this initiative!
As the generous staff from Granite Credit Union stocked the shelves of our food pantry it dawned on me that they are not only feeding an empty stomach, but they are contributing to the process of self-actualization for a child. If we are going to impact our communities in meaningful ways, we need to remember that people cannot begin to think about the future unless they are secure in the present. We like to believe that community service makes us stronger community as a whole. However, the act of service increases the odds that individuals in need can live a more fulfilled life. I like to believe that simple acts of service are the first step towards ending hunger and intergenerational poverty.