“They said they now know the face of hunger — it’s like looking in a mirror; it could be anyone.”
January 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
I spend a lot of time in food pantries all across our 21 county service area. In the more than nine years I’ve worked at the Food Bank, the lines, faces and volunteers never cease to amaze me. I am grateful to have a job that allows me to connect with so many people, on so many levels. Whether I am speaking with a volunteer or providing food to a client, I am always receiving more than I give. Here’s an inside look at my day at CAFB’s Reaching Out Center in Pflugerville:
I start my day with volunteer orientation and training, stressing the importance of talking and connecting with those who they are helping, not just “doing a job.” Even though distribution starts at 2 p.m., it’s not unusual for clients to begin filling the waiting area early, and many show up hours before the scheduled distribution time. This gives me a chance to do what I love – getting to know the families. On this particular day, the volunteers and I met a six-year-old girl, Chloe, her dad and grandmother. As Chloe grinned, she showed me where she lost her tooth. She says she’s hoping the tooth fairy will visit her. Two other clients, Anne and Martha, both retired and on fixed incomes, car-pool monthly to the food pantry.
I watched a volunteer look a young man in the eye, welcome him with a friendly voice and touch on the shoulder. The young man, who had been staring at the floor, looked-up, relaxed his shoulders and followed the volunteer to make his food selections. He later shared that he had been laid-off from his job, and is working as a day laborer until he finds something better. I watch this similar scene throughout the day — volunteers smiling, client heads rising from the “floor stare,” and children smiling and hugging boxes of cereal.
This was a record setting day, serving 276 families; 1,287 people in those families. After we finish serving the clients, clean-up time gives me an opportunity to reconnect with the volunteers and share experiences of the day. The volunteers said they were shocked by the amount of people they served, and had no idea the need was so great in their community. Others said they couldn’t believe the number of children needing assistance or that these families looked like the families they see at school. They said they now know the face of hunger — it’s like looking in a mirror; it could be anyone.
This is my hunger story.