I started volunteering at a local food bank a couple times a week. I chose to work in the front area where the hampers and other food related items are handed out.
I was curious as to who are the clientele for these organizations and what is involved to qualify for the support?
According to statistics, 1 in 7 people in Canada are food insecure. Out of that number 33% are children. On average there are 1.4 million visits to a local food bank in Canada every month.
As I toured the local food bank I was told that they supply lunch programs for children to most of the schools in the city now. On the day I visited they made 1500 sandwiches to bring distributes to elementary schools.
We all know that our dollar isn’t going as far these days. Whether you rent or own a home, once you get done paying all the bills and expenses not much is left over. It can be intimidating to go into a grocery store these days with the hopes of finding affordable food that is nutritious but doesn’t break your bank account.
Since when does lettuce cost $7.00 a head? It wasn’t long ago when you could buy a dozen eggs for less than a buck. Now you are lucky to find them for under $5.00.
As I stocked the shelves with donated items I was curious as to what people would choose as their two items from the dry/canned goods and condiment areas. They have a choice of one sweet or salty snack as well. The most popular is the bags of chips or if available, packages of big Costco muffins. I understand the concept of making it last.
I loaded a shelf with big containers of vinegar and thought that no one would want such a big bottle. I was wrong. As soon as the doors were opened the 8 bottles were gone. The more I think about it the more sense it makes. There is lots you can do with vinegar. You can clean with it, as a hair conditioner or use it in dressings and flavoring.
The foodbank I volunteer for has a big homeless population. I was surprised to see that it had all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. There was no one group that was over represented.
A Lot of people are very skinny and you have to feel for them. I admire how tough they are too. I noticed their hands. I have experienced frostbite and it isn’t pleasant. It can be quite painful. Long term exposure can cause permanent damage. I wish I had a box of mittens to hand out along with the muffins. The more practical side of me knows that they would probably just get abandoned somewhere or not used.
Humans are adaptable to their environments. As I get to know this curious group I am fascinated by their inventiveness.
What do you do with a jello package when you live on the streets? I asked someone the other day? I was informed you can put it in a bottle of water and make jello or just drink it. The same goes for cake mixes. You can add water and if you have access to a microwave you can cook it.
Buns are selected over sliced bread. White bread is chosen more than brown. Honey is available quite often and leads to the obvious question…”Do you have any peanut butter?”
I sigh as I am a big fan of peanut butter and honey. When peanut butter is available it goes in the hampers and is not usually available for people of no fixed address. I am tempted to go buy a few boxes of small jars of it to put under the counter and bring out when someone asks. The challenge is that once expectations are there it becomes hard to go back. The foodbank adheres to strict rules. They have to. Some days the food is plentiful and the selections are vast. Other days there isn’t enough to fill the shelves up completely so rationing is needed to make it last.
I have never known what it is like to go hungry and I don’t wish that feeling on anyone.
I look into the faces of the little kids that come in with their parents. I hug them in the light in my heart.
We have become a society of haves and have nots more than ever before seen. The gaps seem to be getting larger.
If you see that bin in the grocery store marked for the foodbank and you can afford a few dollars to donate I would encourage you to do it.
I have a new understanding of what it takes to feed a community and feel grateful for my lifestyle and new appreciation for peanut butter.