I tilted this post, "Share the Wealth", and I am sure many of you thought of money, cars, or large beautiful homes. I know that's where my mind goes when I hear the word wealth. But at a Hunger Study that I attended yesterday I experienced a different kind of wealth and it was amazing to see the gentle and kind heart behind the sharing that took place.
My first experience was with the Our Daily Food Pantry itself. They were well organized and had ample amount of space for lines and table space for filling out paperwork. They were friendly and made sure to welcome everyone who came through the door in addition to being polite and genuinely kind so that all of the clients and myself and the other intern were comfortable, and in essence happy to be there. But what really surprised me - what I thought was a great idea - is that the pantry had made sandwiches offered with chips and drink for clients and volunteers to enjoy throughout the food pantry distribution time. This small meal was perfect as the clients would go through the line and fill out the required paperwork and then there would be a longer wait to receive their food as it took time for the pantry staff and volunteers to sort and pack the boxes appropriately.
During that wait the clients were able to have a small meal and, of course, the food encouraged conversation and fellowship. It was great and it was incredible to see the pantry distributing the expected food and then also serving a meal! I saw this as sharing the wealth - it wasn't a large sum of money or nice car but just a small simple meal that was, in my view, perfect.
My second experience was a conversation with one of the clients, a middle-aged gentleman, who approached me and started talking about the sporadic weather that Virginia was getting this year. He continued and said that all of the rain as really helped his garden to grow which was exciting because he had that much more to eat! He said that he tends it really well and is always sure to pull the weeds and I could see why - the garden is essentially a part of his livelihood and a substantial food source for him. I was excited for him and I could see that he really enjoyed the fresh vegetables he grew. But then he said a few things that really struck a chord with me. He had an abundance of squash and cucumbers and had been giving them away. He even put a percentage on it and said that he was probably giving away 90% of his harvest. I told him that was incredible and he said that he enjoys giving most of it away and that many people in his community need the food and they love having the fresh produce.
This was kind of crazy to me. Here was a guy who was receiving assistance from a food pantry because he was food insecure and didn't have enough money to purchase enough for a month. He was hungry and doing the best he could with the food from a pantry and his garden but he also recognized the greater need in his community that others could benefit from his garden. He was helping out and sharing the wealth!
The view from the Our Daily Bread Food Pantry in Max Meadows, VA. It was a beautiful day and even better view! But with this beauty comes challenges. Many of our agency partners are in very rural areas of southwest Virginia, a very large geographic area, where people are spread out and quite a distance from both Salem and Abingdon where our distribution centers are located. This makes acquiring food for pantries in this region all the more difficult because of the all the miles that must be traveled for pick ups and deliveries. The logistics of providing food to the hungry of southwest Virginia are quite daunting. We are always looking for innovative ideas that can help us in our mission to feed the hungry so, please, let us know if you have any by commenting below!
This visit was very enjoyable and eye-opening for me and it really made me appreciate the work that Feeding America Southwest Virginia and its partner agencies are doing together, but I also saw a wonderful aspect in that any individual in any community can also create lasting and exponential change.