This is the sixth part of a series covering my experience with food insecurity. For the introduction to this series, please click here.
41 million Americans struggle getting enough to eat.
Households with children are more likely to be food insecure.
59% of food insecure households got help through a federal program. [Feeding America]
Only 59%. That’s 41% that still struggled.
Sometimes pride gets in the way. Sometimes lack of transportation gets in the way. Sometimes those that are food insecure “make too much money”. This post is about finding help in your community and accepting it. You don’t have to go through SNAP (formerly food stamps), although that is a good place to start. It is income based and the size of your household is taken into consideration as well as certain bills (rent or mortgage, utilities, and childcare). You can apply for the SNAP program through your local Department for Community Based Services.
My downtown area is actually a food desert. The only “grocery stores” within a reasonable walking distance are gas stations and they don’t have any affordable, healthy food. This doesn’t affect me because we are a 2 vehicle family. Not everyone has vehicles though and not everyone has money for a taxi. What we do have, however, is 3 food pantries. One I have used as the featured image for this series. The Shepherds Pantry is just a few streets up from where I live and it is right outside a church. The idea is similar to the little lending libraries that became popular, it’s a small box that anyone has access to at all times. The food inside is “Take what you need, give what you can”. No forms to fill out and you can visit it at night when you are certain that no one will see you. See, there are ways to get around pride sometimes. Another one is right on Main St. Unfortunately they are a once a month type of place. They keep records and you are only allowed to visit once a month. The other one is similar. Not only are you limited to how many times you can visit, but you have to have proof of all those that live with you. I know it’s to keep people from “abusing” the system, but it limits a lot of kids from getting food.
Which did you know that you can visit your school’s Family Resource Center and they might be able to provide your child with a backpack of food for the weekends? One of our local pantries does drive the backpack program for our community and it is a great program. Very discreet and all of the food are easy for a child to open on their own; no can opener required. That’s for the children that might be left alone a lot. It happens.
During the summer, the schools team up with different locations throughout our community to provide lunch to kids 18 and under. They don’t have to provide proof of their age and it’s similar to a grab and go school lunch. Since our public library is a location and we live within walking distance to the library, we utilize this program every summer. I pack my own lunch and we all eat together. It’s important to normalize these types of programs so that they continue.
I’ve also received help from a friend. It just came in as a bag of food that she said she didn’t want anymore. She was cleaning out her pantries. I just smiled and accepted. I knew I would be able to use everything that she gave me and my babies need to eat.
Regardless of what type of help you use, it’s just important that you get help when you need it. Check your community for pantries like the one pictured, ask the churches for help, see if the Family Resource Centers offer anything. Don’t let pride keep you from getting help.