Hunger in America 2014 Study at the Care Pantry at South Covington United Methodist Church (UMC) in Covington, VA.
As I was helping to load a heavy box of food into an older lady's car I asked her if the food that she received from the pantry makes an impact in her life. I think it was a question that she was waiting to be asked all day because she really gave me quite the answer. Her face lit up and she explained that the food helped so so much! She continued and said that the food from the pantry helps to stretch her meals throughout the month. She said that she stretches her meals by watching the Food Channel to get ideas and new recipes that she can try - this was exciting to hear as many times people don't get the proper education on preparing meals and cooking. It's easier to get snacks or a quick frozen meal that you can warm up in the microwave, I know that I have been guilty of this many times. But the times where I have prepared meals and used fresh produce have been great. The food is healthier, I feel empowered, and I am learning a new skill. All of these ideas translated to this older lady's experiences and she was making sure to use her food wisely. Hearing about this was very encouraging!
From our conversation I immediately thought of the partnership between Feeding America Southwest Virginia and the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE). We are working hard to educate people on food use and preparation which shows them that you can indeed "stretch" your food. It is a developing process and innovative programs are constantly being initiated but even though the ideas are new we are continually making headway in southwest Virginia.
In addition to the food she receives from the pantry the lady told me that she goes to the dollar store and gets bread and other inexpensive items for her meals. Her favorite item from the store is liver and she even invited me over for a liver dinner. I wasn't able to make it but I still thanked for the offer! This thought then developed into another reason how the pantry food makes an impact on her life. She said that she thoroughly enjoys coming to the Care Pantry at South Covington UMC for the social aspect. She was excited and was talking the whole time and telling stories while waiting at the pantry. Her goal was to meet new people and make friends and just enjoy the company. She told me that she lives alone and isn't able to get out much so the trip to the food pantry is a much anticipated trip for her to have a little fun and enjoy people and the endless stories that we tell and create!
I must say that it was a privlege to meet this older lady and to hear some of her story. She had moved to Virginia from New York after experiencing a great deal of turmoil and pain at the hand of her family. She was tired of it and decided to start anew in Virginia and she has been doing her best ever since. She was so full of joy and brought joy to others, I felt great after speaking with her and I truly enjoyed our conversation. I was also honored to see that I was working for a nonprofit that was providing a true need and that was such a blessing to this older lady and so many of the other clients at the food pantry in Covington.
As for the Hunger in America study it went really well and it was the best one that I have been to. Every person that we asked to take the survey agreed and so we had a lot of respones which will provide a great deal of data for Feeding America to analyze. This data is crucial and will help us to be able to better serve our partnering agencies, such as the food pantries, in addition to providing better service to the many individuals that rely on us to provide a basic staple for their well being and life.
I walked away from the study realizing that I had learned so much about food insecurity and had made some great new friends, and all I did was ask a few questions. It was amazing to see the doors that opened up when I stepped out of my comfort zone and took the time to learn from someone and invest in their life. It was exciting and I am going to make sure to continue to ask questions and have a passion for learning people's stories in hopes of helping them in any way that I can.
What questions do you ask?