Recently, former food bank client Debbie Howard came by to tell us how much she appreciated our help when she was in trouble.
Before it happened to her, she may have had some preconceived ideas of what a food bank client was like: maybe they were lazy or didn’t try hard enough. Then, a series of unexpected events in her life turned her into a food bank client.
Debbie said, “Nearly four years ago, I found myself in a place I never thought I would be, standing in line outside the food bank waiting for it to open. My life had taken several bad turns and I had just gotten home from the worst one. The people waiting with me were kind and supportive, and when the doors opened there was even more kindness and support when I needed it most.
“At the time, I didn’t know how long I would need the help I received I was just grateful that they were there. They helped me with finding resources when I needed help with the power bill. They listened and offered encouragement as well as food boxes.
“It took a while longer than I imagined that it would, but my life has turned around. I have a job that I love and I am able to take care of myself and my daughter. I don’t know where I would be without the ShareNet Food Bank.”
Debbie Howard’s story is unique to her, and one of thousands we receive every year. We may hear these stories every day, but we never lose sight of the individuality of these faces and stories.
Hunger is an issue with many different paths to the same result. People from an astonishing variety of backgrounds and lives face hunger.
Recently, we talked with an elderly couple who’d worked their whole lives, but were now dividing an apple for dinner. You think, well, how can that happen, but it does. Earlier this summer, we spoke with a woman who’d worked for one of the banks that failed, with most of her retirement invested in company stock. After that, the retirement she envisioned was gone. She saw a completely different side of life, and had a new respect for food banks.
Hunger is about more than food: it’s about jobs, education, and the cost of living, housing and food particularly. It’s also about the feasibility of retirement.
The baby boomers working low-wage jobs for whom retirement is not an option are already at food bank doors, and this is just the first wave. For some, health issues or advanced age have forced retirement regardless of funds, and these folks are seeking help.
If we didn’t have enough evidence on site at the food bank, we know children and their families are struggling because we work so closely with our local public schools via our Food to Grow On (F2GO) backpack program. It’s heartbreaking to think of a child or teen malnourished to the point it changes their development, their ability to learn and their behavior in school, but it happens.
ShareNet started out to feed hungry people, not with any loftier goal than that. But now we find we’re in the business of helping turn lives around. We can only do that with your help.
Can the gift of food and community turn lives around? We’ve seen over and over that it can.
Neighbor Aid is the annual campaign which determines the level of service ShareNet is able offer in the coming year. The campaign is underway through the end of 2015.
— Mark Ince is executive director of ShareNet. He can be reached by calling 360-297-2266.