Family Food Box Update: Serving rural communities takes a coordinated effort

July 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

CAFB’s work is well-known in a major city like Austin, but did you know we also serve rural communities throughout Central Texas? More than 50 Partner Agencies (and more to come!) support the Summer Family Nutrition program, and bring us closer to reaching the estimated 114,000 eligible families in our 21-county service territory. Poor children in rural communities face additional educational, social and economic challenges in comparison to their urban counterparts because of the isolation and limited access to services. A culture of self-reliance, often characterized by families choosing to live in rural areas, also make them less likely to seek and access the government programs designed to lift families out of poverty and promote good nutrition.

A great study by The Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, “The Forgotten Fifth: Child Poverty in Rural America” provides the facts:

  • Historically, poverty rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Child poverty is no different.
  • Rural children have higher poverty rates than urban children.
  • Since 1990, the gap between rural and urban child poverty is growing.
  • Rural children are more likely to experience deep poverty.
  • Rural children are in poverty for longer spells.
  • Poor rural children are more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty (at the county level).

Tiffany Conner, SFNP Program Coordinator and Brandon Pettet, Agency Relations Representative chronicled their experience in rural Temple, Texas, a small city with an estimated 58,000 residents.

Brandon:

We left Austin at 6:30 a.m. and made it up [to Love of Christ Ministry] before 8 a.m.  I’ve been to several pantries, but this was a unique visit for me for two reasons: the different types of assistance  available to the clients, and the volunteers who assist with making it all come together.

We met coordinators Ron and Sylvia as soon as we arrived.  Ron took us on a tour of the facility. It’s a good-sized building and very well organized.  There are five different churches in the surrounding Temple area that come together in a coordinated effort to maintain a solid volunteer base.  Most of the volunteers I met with have been volunteering for nearly 10 years.  These volunteers were kind and welcoming.  It was amazing to see how busy it was but, at the same time, how easily the clients flowed through building to the different rooms directed by volunteers.

Tiffany:

My first thought upon meeting Ron and Sylvia of Love of Christ was that Bell County residents were receiving much more than food and clothing.  Ron and Sylvia are the type of people who remind you of the aunt or uncle with whom you wiled away youthful, fun-filled summers. It’s instantly apparent that many of the people who are served by their pantry are also like family to Ron and Sylvia.

Brandon:

Initially, clients are directed to the intake room and given numbered yellow sheets which determine their spot in line.  Then, they are sent through the clothing room.  Next, they are sent to a room with produce, bread and pastries and some other non-food items such as car care and toys for children.  Finally, the clients are sent through the main room which houses all the Family Food Boxes as well as frozen goods and the more common staples. The internet was not working, so Tiffany and I were the only two doing intake.  We were lucky enough to have air cards so we were still able to prescreen nearly 60 new households in a little over two hours. It was an extremely successful trip, but there is still a need for assistance in the area.   I look forward to returning next Tuesday to assist them with this great program!

Tiffany:

For me, the day was all about the smiles.  Without exception, every individual I screened for the Summer Family Nutrition Program offered a gracious smile, which is its own reward. How many people can say one of the best parts of their job is the smiles they see on a daily basis?  I’m that lucky.

And then there are the stories.  The granddaughter of one woman I screened and approved for the program shared with me her plans to learn to play the guitar this summer.  Her precocity was detectable from the beginning.  Her grandmother was approved, and as the little girl left,  I waved a final goodbye and said, “I’m going to be looking for your band in a few years, okay?”  Her response was an even brighter, toothier smile. This type of payment can’t be quantified.

If I am taking anything from my experience at Love of Christ in Temple, or with the Capital Area Food Bank thus far, it is that the human face of hunger is not uniform: the face of hunger is male, it is female, it is young, it is old, it is black, it is white, it is unpredictable, but ultimately, it is human.  What CAFB and the Summer Family Nutrition Program are about is much, much larger than providing food for hungry families.  It’s about community and caring, and it’s about providing people with the opportunities to live the lives they deserve and do the things they love.  Everyone deserves such an opportunity.  Thankfully, there are people like Ron and Silvia of Love of Christ who have made it their mission to blunt the force of life’s unexpected blows with food, clothes, and glowing, smiling faces.  It’s my great honor to be enlisted alongside them in the battle.

You can help:

Take the Happy, Healthy Summer Pledge so children facing great challenges in rural communities may receive the nutrition to succeed in school and in life. Learn more.

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