Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Community Food Shelf

     Photo courtesy of apium on Flickr
      Hennepin County Community College recently opened
      a food shelf on its facility. It’s manned completely by volunteers.

Ever work in a food shelf, dispersing the donated food that sits upon the shelves and in the refrigerators and freezers to hungry families? Believe me, it ain’t fun! It takes some sense of control and steadiness.
by Charlie Leck

It’s easy to kind of fall apart when you see the need. It hurts even more when you see the sense of pride that these hungry folks have. They don’t want free food. They don’t want to be visiting food shelves to ask for free food. The problem is, they’re hungry and they have hungry children. They realized they must swallow their pride. It hurts to look such a person in the eye, but you do it. You smile and greet them as equals, friends, members of the community; and you give as graciously and generously as you can.

Only seldom is there some blame to place on those seeking help. The blame goes mostly to the system (the organized government both local and national). Many who are willing and able to work, can’t – for one reason or another. It isn’t that they won’t. They can’t! Jobs are still scarce in America – especially jobs for the untrained.

And, as a food shelf worker, you often have to look into the eyes of hungry children – damned hungry children who are cuter than all-get-out and have no responsibility for any of this. Zero!

At a minimum, a third of the people fed by food shelves are hungry children – minimum!

A lot of the adults served by food shelves are disabled people and senior citizens with retirement income that won’t stretch far enough to handle housing, energy costs, clothing and food.

Some of these people get food stamps. Those government stamps just don’t stretch far enough to get a family through an entire month. Have you looked at the price of groceries lately?

Now Congress is in a debate about severely reducing the number of food stamps provided to low-income Americans. This debate is a god-danged shame! We’re talking here of only a relatively few pikers who take advantage of the system. Who we’re feeding are children, the lowest income families, the disabled and seniors with very low retirement benefits.

Please, for God’s sake (and I mean that), contact your Congressperson and Senators and tell them not to reduce the food stamp benefits provided to unfortunate Americans. A vote may take place any day, so make sure you speak up and speak out against any reduction in food stamp benefits.

Don’t know how to make contact with your Congressman?
Go to this list of Congresspersons! Select your representative and click on the name. All the contact information (address, email address and phone numbers will come up). Sending an email is probably the best and easiest thing to do. Tell them not to reduce the budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is commonly known as food stamps. Tell them there are too many hungry people in America. Tell them, if they don’t believe it, they should volunteer to work for awhile in a community food shelf.

Find your local food shelf!
The second thing I’d ask is that you find your local food shelf. If you can’t volunteer time, please give generously. Either provide food for their shelves or just give them money so they can buy what they need.

I decided, a few years ago, with the help of our handy computer, to keep track of every penny I spend on groceries and beverages (including wine) and on dining out. Then I determined that I would give 10 percent of that amount to local food shelves and the food shelf downtown in my church. I give most of it to the local organization. If you do this, you’re going to be surprised about how much you spend on feeding yourself. I also make sure that this amount I give doesn’t impact the amounts I already give to charities and my church (in other words, doesn’t take away from those amounts of regular giving).

And, I decided to give some volunteer time to the food shelf; that is, stocking the shelves with the foods donated by various neighbors and grocery stores. I also help distribute that food to the families that come, searching for help.

I ain’t braggin’ my dear readers. I’m askin’ you to think about some kind of commitment to hungry people. No one should be hungry in America, but, unfortunately, there are many hungry people who need our help.


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