Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
There is no shame in getting food from a food bank. The shame is in not getting the food if you really need it. The Dare to Care organization started back in the 1960s when a child starved to death on Thanksgiving Day here in Louisville, KY. I remember when that happened. If I remember correctly there was outrage because the parents had been too embarrassed to ask for help from friends and family. In those days asking for help was like admitting personal failure. Personal failure was the worst that could happen to someone back then.
There were no food banks back in that time either. Getting food was a word of mouth thing where people gathered a jar of this or a bottle of that from their pantry and someone left it all in a box on the doorstep of the recipient. This saved the dignity of the recipient from embarrassment (called shame back then) and no thanks were necessary.
There actually was a food stamp program in those days but it was totally different than it is today. Food stamps had to be bought and you could double your purchasing power. You paid a certain amount of money to be able to buy a larger amount of food. If you were paying for food stamps you kept your dignity.
Today there is a shameful stigma surrounding getting food from a food bank. Well let me tell ya, I get food bank food. Although I haven’t gotten any for about a month; I do depend on the mobile food bank to supplement my income.
A person shouldn’t let embarrassment or shame keep them from getting food when they need it. We have entirely too much food waste today. I can’t speak for other places but in this area there is more than one type food bank. I live in a large city. The food banks in rural areas or other countries are probably different but similar.
Church food pantry:
The place where you go to get immediate emergency food. In our area we can visit the church pantry 3 times a year. If the church is in a poverty area the food box is pretty small. Thats only because there are more people getting the food so it must be stretched farther. The emergency food box will help you get by for a couple of days. Maybe up to a week. I’ve gotten the emergency food only about half a dozen times in the last 35 years.
Weekly mobile food bank:
This is the food distribution I depend on most because it has the fresh produce that I’m constantly canning or freezing. This is the once a week distribution of produce and short dated bread. “Better to give away than to throw away” food distribution. Food from local grocery stores and local farmers is donated rather than let it go to a landfill. It also keeps people from dumpster diving for food behind the stores. Think of this food as the same as you would find on the discount table inside the stores.
To me, this food is the next best thing to visiting the farmer’s market when you can’t afford the farmer’s market prices. You do have to be very careful with the food you receive though. It must be eaten or preserved right away because it won’t last more than a day or two. If you feel embarrassed about standing in this line, think of it as doing your fair share to prevent edible food from being sent to a landfill. We have too much wasted food. If you simply can’t use everything you get every week then start going only every other week or give some to the neighbors who can’t get there themselves.
Monthly food day or commodity food day:
In our area there is a once a month food give away that is sort of a combination of the church pantry and the weekly mobile produce. Its a larger amount of food because its only once a month and meant to last longer. On this day each month you may get food from restraunts or hotels or other places along with some from the church pantry and the mobile food bank. On special occasions you may get one of these items: a bar of soap, a box of tissues, a bottle of bleach, or a roll of toilet tissue in the monthly food distribution. Non-edible donations are very rare.
Senior commodity food:
If you are 60 or older and on a fixed income you might qualify for the federal senior commodity program. We get 2 pounds of cheese, 4 cans veggies, 2 cans fruit, 2 quarts juice, 1 can or package meat, 2 quart boxes milk, 2 boxes cold cereal or 1 package oatmeal, 2 packages of macaroni or spaghetti, 1 jar peanut butter or 2 pounds beans, and every other month we get a package of powdered milk. Recently they have added a bag of fresh potatoes, onions, and carrots too.
If your utilities happen to be off (for whatever reason) you still need to eat. I would eat at a soup kitchen if necessary. The food is good at most of them. I’ve volunteered many times to help cook and to help serve.
I hope that explains the different food options. I’m pretty sure there are other options but I don’t know about them. Check in your own area about the places where you can get help. Small rural areas usually have fewer options. I write on my calendar pages the date, place, and time for food distribution. I understand not everyone can do the canning and dehydrating food preservation like I do. That’s ok. There is always the option to freeze some meals.
The reason I haven’t been getting food food bank food lately is because I am meeting my Ladybug at her school bus at the same time as the food distribution. I can’t be in two places at exactly the same time. Actually this time away is giving me the opportunity to eat down some of my food supply. I was getting more than I truly need for one person. When school is out I’ll take my little grocery cart and stand in line once again for the mobile food pantry produce.