From a child receiving a hot lunch to a volunteer sorting apples to a truck driver delivering donated food to an individual making a donation. These are the stories that paint the full picture of the issue of hunger in America.
I spent my youth in the Navy, and when I got out I began working as a chef. I knew nothing and so I taught myself everything. I worked hard, and eventually worked my way up. I helped open one of the most prominent restaurants in Boston and in the meantime married my beautiful wife, Tammy, and helped raise our three children.
Cancer is never something you expect. After noticing some symptoms, my wife convinced me to see a doctor. He gave us the news: Melanoma. Suddenly, everything changed. Once you're diagnosed with cancer, your life will never be the same.
The chemo and surgeries left no room for my career. I couldn't work. My wife tried to keep working but it was too much — being my caregiver and raising our three kids demanded every minute of her time. Tammy worked harder than she's ever worked — but unfortunately, it wasn't for any pay.
With no income, we went through our savings and my 401k before hitting rock bottom. We had no money, but we still needed to eat. My wife knew about the food pantry through her work with a local nonprofit— but neither of us wanted to visit. We didn't think it was for people like us. Ultimately though, we swallowed our pride and did what we had to do to feed our family.
When I visited the food pantry, I realized I was wrong. It was for people like us — people who simply needed help during a tough time. By providing us with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and more, the food pantry helped my family survive during a time when I was too sick to provide. I am incredibly grateful for their help. I can deal with cancer, but I'm not sure I could deal with my children going hungry.
These past few years have been devastating to all of us, but the good news is, I'm cancer free now. I still have a significant amount of physical therapy to go through before I can go back to work, but I'm hopeful I'll get there. With the support of my family, I know I can do anything. They've been my rock; my heroes. Together, we've persevered. Together, we've emerged from this challenge stronger, thankful and more hopeful than ever before.
My husband and I had good careers. I worked for the State of Mississippi for 31 years. My husband served in the military and after that worked for a local university. We raised two children and had a fine life. We both liked our careers but were more than happy to retire after we paid our dues — we looked forward to the life of leisure that came with our golden years.
Our life of leisure didn't last long. Two years later, our three granddaughters came to live with us. They were very young — two, six and eight years old. My husband and I were getting by just fine on our retirement income, but suddenly, with three extra mouths to feed, our pensions didn't go as far as they used to.
I was ashamed to ask for help at first — I mean, we raised our grown children on our own. Thankfully I never had to actually ask. There's a food pantry at our church, and the woman who runs it said, "Roberta, you need to sign up. Charity begins at home." So we signed up, and it helped me feed my family.
We've come a long way since we first started using the pantry. I'm grateful and thankful for what it provided in our time of need. Now I'm in school to get a degree in medical coding and billing, and I'm finding myself in a position to give back. I make sure to volunteer at the food pantry every month with my grandkids — I want to instill in them the value of helping people in need.
I graduate next May, and I'm looking forward to the future. With my new career, I'll be able to provide a better life for my family. We'll have the freedom to do fun, family things, but most importantly, I'll be able to help my grandchildren get an education of their own. I want them to grow up to be self-sufficient. They are smart — I know they'll be okay. They've been through some rough times, but from here on out their lives will only get better.
Tragedy struck my life two years ago. My daughter was killed, leaving no one but me to raise her children - who range from age two to 14 - including a set of five-year-old twins. Coping with the death of a daughter and six new mouths to feed is tough. But I didn't ask for a dime, I just stretched the dollars I earned as a full-time caregiver to the max — until I lost my job.
I know these children have gone through so much — it's painful to look in their eyes and know they will never see their momma again. I want to provide everything I can to my grandchildren, but after losing my job, I would lie awake wondering how I was going to feed them. That uncertainty — it's not a good feeling.
I learned about the food pantry — supported by Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana — through a friend of mine who saw me struggling. You know, I didn't go right away because I was ashamed. But then I realized shame wasn't going to feed these six children. When I showed up at the food pantry, they took care of me. They gave me food and said "If you're ever running low, you just call us. Even if we're not open, we'll make sure you have enough to feed those kids." Since then, I've never had to worry about feeding my grandchildren. The food pantry has been my angel.
The past couple of years have been tough on all of us. We have our bad days, but we have our good days too. The support I receive from the food pantry has helped me get through, and so has the joy I find in my grandchildren. Every time I look in their eyes, I see a part of my daughter in them — and I know she'll always be with us. Life sure has thrown us a hard ball, but if we hang in there and stick together, things will be all right. I know eventually, we're going to come out on top.
Today our church has decided to partner with the Maryland Food Bank of Anna Arundel County to help with the back pack program. We already have mobile feeding unit and food pantry to help the less fortunate we didn't know how we were going to help with another program but we received a call from the food bank telling us they had partnered with Giant Food and Target stores and wanted to support us with this. We also received phone calls from two local area schools telling us they were collecting for us to support the program. God works miracles by putting good hearted people in our path willing to help now we can help in the war on hunger in another way God is so good.
Brian and Amy are both originally from New Hampshire. They met in elementary school, parted ways and reunited 30 years later as adults. They married in 2012 and are raising their children from previous relationships: 13-year-old Dennis, 8-year-old Caitlin, and 7-year-old Jillian. Amy recently lost her job and Brian's work is seasonal. He does a little bit of everything: "A little technician, truck driver, haul oil," he says. He's been doing this kind of work for the last ten years, but for the past five, it's been seasonal, which makes it hard to make ends meet.
"The rent is so expensive and pay keeps going down and bills keep going up," says Amy. It's gotten so difficult that they've had the cable and other utilities shut off and they've had to turn to their parents and other family members for help. A friend told them about the food pantry right before Thanksgiving. And they used all the food they got to prepare a holiday dinner. "They [the food pantry] gave us a whole basket. It was great," says Amy. "[Without the food pantry], we would have been here by ourselves with nothing."
"We had a big turkey, stuffing, they gave us a lot of stuff, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, corn, green beans, everything, I didn't really have to buy anything, so it was nice," says Amy. Both Brian and Amy looking ahead to better days when they don't have to live paycheck to paycheck. But for now they're grateful they can turn to their local food pantry for support. "Thank you. Definitely we're grateful…Everyone's been really nice…They're just very kind and generous," says Amy.
I have been living with diabetes for several years. A couple years back, a friend told me about a diabetes management class offered by the Food Bank of Corpus Christi. I thought it sounded perfect, because diabetes is a pretty serious disorder, and I was not staying on top if it properly. So I signed up.
The classes educated me on what foods I should eat, how to prepare those foods and how to manage my medicine. Equally important however, the classes provided me with a strong support system. Walking into the classes, my face would light up — just like a light bulb — because I knew I was walking into a community of people who care.
As it turned out, I would need that community more than ever. About midway through the course, I was laid off from a job I had been at for 33 years. I was devastated and my income was immediately reduced. Left to live off of a fix income, I struggled. I definitely couldn't afford to buy the good foods my classes were recommending.
But then I learned that the Food Bank of Corpus Christi also runs a diabetes management pantry. What a blessing! After visiting, I walked out with a box of foods aimed at improving my health — like whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruit and vegetables like Brussels sprouts. I do love Brussels sprouts.
The diabetes programs have been a life saver for me. Through this program, I have lost 40 pounds, and feel healthier than I have in a long time. I wouldn't be in the same situation without the help of the food bank. They've given me so much more than food and education, they've given me hope that I'll be able to see my son graduate college, meet my grandchildren and enjoy my retirement.
Diabetes is a serious disorder, but it doesn't have to control me. The food bank taught me that. Now I'm in control of my future, and from where I'm sitting, the future looks bright.
At first, we thought our lack of employment would be just a bump in the road. But then two years passed without us having any income at all. We used up our savings and we were forced to start thinking about our options. I remembered a food pantry — served by Los Angeles Regional Food Bank — I used to send volunteers to when I was working for a nonprofit.
When I showed up one morning, to say I was intimidated would be an understatement. But the staff and volunteers were so supportive, and having food took a huge load of my shoulders. As I looked around, I saw many of the people there were just like me — facing the same situation. It helped me realize that in our struggle, we were not alone.
It's been years, but now I can safely say we are on our way up. My husband got a full-time job at a local nonprofit, and I've been interviewing. The most important thing though, is that our kids are doing great. The food pantry had something to do with that I think. It provided us with some certainty during an uncertain time. When we knew nothing else, we knew we would have dinner - and that gave us the strength we needed to keep pressing on.