September is a busy month. As we speak, the Foo Fighters are across the pond, preparing to headline the closing ceremony at the Invictus Games. This event was established, by Prince Harry, to provide a sporting competition for sick, wounded, or injured servicemen and women from around the world. Fourteen nations will send teams to represent them at this wonderful event.
This gig has been highly anticipated by my fellow Foonatics overseas. The Foos are BIG in Great Britain, and having a ticket to this show is a major coup. I’d give my eye teeth to be there, but duty calls. Like I said, September is crazy, and it’s wall-to-wall activity here at Casa Verde.
For a Congressional candidate like my husband, fall means gearing up for the final months of the campaign season. Mark is constantly busy, attending meetings of civic groups and unions and professional organizations, giving interviews to different media outlets, and knocking on the doors of potential constituents, asking for their votes. He’s on the go each day, trying to make contact with as many voters as possible.
He’s not the only one with a lot on his plate. September marks the start of a new school year for many of the programs I manage at work. This makes for long days and lots of late evenings. And of course, my last semester of graduate school began a few weeks ago. I’m now down to double digits in days to graduation. 90 days, in fact. Not that I’m counting or anything.
But there’s something special and exciting happening this semester. I’ve reached the point where all the reading, the writing, the contemplation, and the research – in other words, the past three years of work – are finally going to be put to use.
Because this semester, I conduct my practicum hours. Over the course of the next three months, I’ll complete 90 hours of hands-on, real-life work experience in the field of community outreach and education. I’ve talked the talk, but now it’s time to walk the walk.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know my passion is feeding people. Do you remember when I told you that one child in five goes to bed hungry each night in the good old U.S. of A.? Yeah, that’s still a problem. I’m hell-bent on fixing it, but I’ve got to get my feet wet and learn how things work in the community with regard to feeding the hungry.
To find an agency that serves that role, I needed to look no further than the Tarrant Area Food Bank. Based right here in the Fort, the TAFB serves as a storage and distribution center for over 300 area partners in 13 counties who serve low-income families by providing additional groceries and food sources to help them make it through each month.
This is especially important now that our Congress has allowed a significant cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), leaving program recipients to figure out how to get by with an average of $90 less per month in their food benefits. For most families of four receiving these benefits, that’s about a week’s worth of groceries.
Think about the last time you went to the grocery store. Was anything getting cheaper? Could you feed a family of four on less than $400 a month? And if you could, do you think you’d still be able to do it if you received $90 less, effectively leaving you to buy four weeks’ worth of groceries with only three weeks’ worth of money? Ponder this the next time you go to the store. Low-income families have no choice but to figure it out. Every. Single. Week.
And because this is a puzzle with almost no solution, assistance comes from food banks and community pantries and faith-based programs. These programs collect and distribute additional food to help our country’s poor make ends meet. And it’s still not enough.
Families that deal with food insecurity on a regular basis are forced to make hard choices. Parents skip meals so there is more food for the children. They think their kids aren’t aware, but kids are smart. They know. In many interviews that address hunger issues with the children in these households, most of them say that they know how hard it is for their parents to keep enough food in the house, and that they (these kids) often turn down the food their parents offer, even if they’re still hungry. They don’t want their parents to go without.
I spent almost the whole day last Tuesday attending a conference that the TAFB holds annually. Representatives from across the North Texas area were in attendance, representing some of the 300 agencies who help those with the greatest needs. I talked to people from organizations with dozens of employees and volunteers, and folks from tiny church-based programs that were run by one or two dedicated staffers. They don’t all work the same, but the end goal is universal. They all want to help feed people.
Later that day, I spent some time with my TAFB supervisor conducting a survey at a local church which provides bags of groceries to those nearby residents who need help keeping food on their tables. These are poor, working families. They are not, as some would lead us to believe, parasites who are sucking off the system. Anyone who tells you isn’t speaking from a first-hand perspective.
These are not ‘lazy welfare mothers’ with a houseful of children. They are often single moms or dads who work to support two or three children, and often, elderly parents.
Of the participants I surveyed, most households had two or three adults, and two or three kids. Many of those waiting for their turn to pick up a bag of groceries were elderly, often accompanied by young children. These are grandparents, tending to their grandchildren while the parents are at work.
Do you think just having a job these days guarantees a living wage? Guess again. The working poor are constantly struggling to get by. Raising the minimum wage would go a long way toward helping the hunger problem, the poverty problem, and the homeless problem in this country. But as long as our elected officials think that corporations are people, and continue to give them all the breaks, the poor will keep struggling. And heads up, my friends. The middle class isn’t far behind.
It’s been eye-opening. And disheartening. But there’s no time to sit around and lament the fact that, in a country with so many resources, people still go hungry. Wringing our hands just won’t do. We have to be proactive. At least I do.
It’s my turn to start making a difference. The more time I spend in the trenches, the greater my resolve becomes. I have a big idea, one that will raise both awareness and money to wage the war on hunger. It’s still in its infancy, but it’s got potential. I’m gonna give it my all. Stay tuned.
But you don’t have to wait on me to start making a difference in your own community. Find your local food pantry. Toss a small donation their way, or buy some extra groceries to donate when you shop next time. Volunteer a few hours if you can spare them.
It won’t take much from you, but it will make a huge difference to someone else.