Pantries Fight Hunger

Empty FridgeAt some point in our lives we all experience that sinking feeling as we peer into an empty refrigerator and reflect on our equally empty checking account.  The term for this circumstance is “food insecurity,” referring to the fact that we aren’t sure where the next meal is coming from, and it probably won’t be even close to nutritionally balanced when it does come.  I especially remember my college days when I was living on financial aid and Ramen Noodles.  Thankfully, this was usually a transitory experience lasting a few days or at most a couple of weeks until the next paycheck came in.  Others are not so lucky.

Almost 30% of the children in our county live at or below the poverty level, experiencing food insecurity on a daily basis.  The cause of poverty and hunger is vast and multi-faceted.  For some, company downsizing can cause difficulties for families unused to privation.  Other families may be experiencing hardships due to medical emergencies or the death of a primary wage earner.  In the past several years, the recession was a major factor for struggling families.

pantry

The food pantry in the South Bend Kroc Center.

Food pantries are an important outlet for those of us who want to combat hunger in our community.  They offer a temporary reprieve for families facing unexpected hunger.    Fortunately for our community, there are over 40 different pantries attempting to alleviate these crises in St. Joseph County alone.  Help can materialize in many forms, and there is a lot you can do!

It’s easy to see a large social problem like hunger and feel powerless, but a little help can go a long way.  The most popular way to fight hunger is to donate non-perishable foods to your local food pantry, such as the one housed in the Kroc Center’s Family Resource Center.  Volunteers are often needed for a variety of tasks to assist with sorting and distributing food.  You can also get involved in fun promotional activities such as Hunger Action Month in September.

For more information on ways you can get involved visit The Kroc Center website or leave a comment here!

The Things We Need

TP

Walk into the nearest bathroom and look around. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Was there toilet paper? Chances are, the answer is yes.

Toothpaste? Soap? Shampoo? Check.

hygiene

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok. Now look under the kitchen sink.
Cleaning supplies? Paper products? Yep.

cleaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check your sock drawer. What’s in there? Well, duh…

socks2

Most of us don’t give much thought to these household basics.  But for many people items like this are hard to come by.

A lot of attention is given to feeding hungry people. And rightfully so.  Food is one of the most important basic needs we have. But remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Food is not the only physiological need.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Human beings also need to perform a certain amount of self care to maintain basic health.  For many families who qualify for nutritional assistance programs like SNAP and WIC, non-food household goods are the most challenging resources to afford.  Homeless and indigent individuals face even greater challenges when the lack of a permanent address prevents access to even these basic assistance programs.

For several hours every week the food pantry at our Family Resource Center is bustling with activity.  But the items requested most often aren’t even edible!  Items like paper products and cleaning supplies.  Diapers.

Ask a homeless man what he needs the most.  New socks.

Ironically, these are also some of the hardest items for us to provide.  Not that we aren’t trying!  A small personal care package is one way we attempt to provide for the additional needs of our homeless individuals.

Homeless Care Package

Homeless Care Package

You can help too!  A few simple ideas to assist us in our Mission:

  • Snag the sample toiletries during hotel stays…maybe even ask for extras, if you’re brave 🙂
  • Buy-one-get-one sale on socks at Wal-Mart? Keep the pack you paid for!  We’ll gladly accept the extra.
  • Still have unopened packages of diapers your kids grew out of last year? We can make good use of them!
  • Be creative!  I’m sure you have lots of ideas on how to help out.  And I’d love to hear all about them.

The Power of a Garden

garden pic

Have you ever noticed how gardens are almost magical places?  They are so quiet and tranquil, yet house a bustle of productivity.  At the risk of sounding like a total hippie, I believe in the healing power of nature.  I know, I know.  Totally cliché, right?  But in fact, a Time Magazine article describes a growing therapeutic trend called “eco-therapy.”

therapy1

Community gardens have been gaining in popularity specifically to combat the growing urbanization of modern day living.  Depression, anxiety, and emotional stress are all thought to be more debilitating due to our overwhelming disconnect from nature.

Additionally, as our diets continue to include more and more processed foods, we no longer get enough vitamins and minerals from naturally occurring sources.  Supplements can be expensive, especially compared to the cost of a packet of seeds or a tray of starter plants.  The Colorado State Extension explains that consuming a wide variety of fresh produce can provide the necessary vitamins and minerals needed as part of a healthy lifestyle.  Many people are discovering the emotional and physical benefits of growing food instead of lawns.

Through a partnership with Unity Gardens, we have hosted a community garden plot since 2009 to provide healthy and sustainable dietary options for the community.  However, fresh food is only one of the benefits of these gardens.  According to the National Gardening Association, they are often a catalyst for neighborhood improvement.  Increasing the healthfulness and beauty of any neighborhood helps inspire pride and ownership for residents.  Even the most broken neighborhoods can benefit from a plot of land that encourages cooperation, communication, and involvement.

If fresh herbs and veggies appeal to you, stop by our gardens to experience the power of nature for yourself!

A Summer Preview

I can hardly believe that summer is right around the corner!  During the coldest days it seemed like the winter would never end, and yet I look outside and see a blue sky filled with sunshine.  I’m looking forward to a summer filled with exciting activities, and we have a lot to live up to.  Last year some amazing things happened at The Family Resources Center:

We were fortunate enough to be a site for The South Bend Community School Corporation’s Summer Food Program, giving all of our neighborhood children the opportunity to have full bellies at lunch time.

The Kroc Center’s summer camp kids did an awesome service project for our gardens,

Garden project

Yay paint!

helping make colorful row markers for all the growing plants,

zucchini

mmm, Zucchini!

and spreading mulch,

mulch

Who knew gardening could be so much fun?!

so we had lots of veggies to distribute in the pantry!

veggies

Yum!

As the school year rounded the corner, we were able to identify and round-up 26 local children to participate in the Target Back to School Shopping Spree, giving them the opportunity to purchase much-needed school supplies that they would be otherwise unable to afford.  Kids, staff, and volunteers all had a blast that day.  Who doesn’t love a good shopping trip?!

shopping

Gettin’ ready for school!

Throughout all the extra activities, the pantry and its dedicated staff continued to fight hunger in our community.  The program served over 1,100 families, feeding a total of 2,638 people, during the summer months.

So, as I stated earlier, we have a lot to live up to!!  Now that the weather is finally warming up, come join us for more fun in the sun.  Check out opportunities you can get involved in at our website!

Go Tell It On The Mountain

As with most new adventures, the first step is always the hardest.  But with proper motivation, it is also the most exciting.  Blogging is definitely an unknown frontier for me.  To prepare, I attempted to figure out what makes bloggers tick.

I started reading lots of posts, paying special attention to the maturation process evident throughout each blog.  I started to notice similarities.  Regardless of the style, topic, or individual author, the over-arching theme I repeatedly observed was PASSION.  Each and every blogger feels so passionately about their “something” that they are compelled to share it.  To connect with others who share their passion.  To introduce new people to their world.  Bloggers are individuals who shout their good news from a mountain top.  Ok, a keyboard.  But really, the internet reaches farther than any mountain, and it’s easier to access.

So, what am I passionate about?

People.

Specifically, being able to help people in need.  This is totally what makes me tick.  Providing, assisting, caring, connecting.  Basic levels of human support and interactions.  Raw emotion and uplifting moments.  Exhausting days and exciting projects.  Chocolate and coffee (staples of the social work diet).  Fortunately, I have the perfect job that incorporates all of these things at The Kroc Center.

As I begin the journey to the top of my mountain, I am looking forward to sharing inspiring stories of strength and courage, discussing important policies that impact our mission, and introducing our team as we strive to support one another.  Oh, did I mention chocolate? And coffee.  Preferably both.