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’ve been a single dad to my three children for the last six years. One day my wife drove up, dropped off the kids and said she was leaving. It’s been just us four ever since.
I work full time in security for the St. Louis transit system. I work nights so I can be there for my kids during the day. You know, even though I’m working and doing well, I still always come up short – between paying for clothes, insurance, school supplies. Things get expensive.
When I first started raising my children, there were a lot of times when I’ve wondered where I would get the food to feed them. Sometimes I’d only eat once a day so I could make sure they would have three meals. I did not want my children to ask me what was for dinner and have to say there was nothing.
There came a point when I knew I had to ask for help – that I could not do this all on my own. It’s a humbling experience, going to a food pantry, but you got to do what you’ve got to do. The pantry gives me healthy food to feed my kids. Since I found the food pantry, I’ve never had to worry about my children going hungry.
The food pantry has been a huge blessing. And I do hope that someday I won’t have to use it anymore. But in the meantime I am so fortunate that it is there to help. And to everyone that makes the food pantry possible, I am truly thankful to you.
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.
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.
I grew up never going without...without food, shelter or hope. As a child, I would give to the local shelter kitchen at holidays and this just became a habit that has carried on to this day. But little did I know that one day I would be on the receiving end of the help. You see, seven and a half years ago I filed for divorce...it was a very ugly divorce, well is there any that aren't? At the time I was living an hour away from my parents, working for $9 per hour and taking care of two small children, also insert PG&E, water, mortgage, car payment....you get the picture. I was not receiving any financial support at all. The bank claimed the house and my parents had to buy me a car because I could not afford the payments on the vehicle I was driving so the bank took that too. I'm not gonna lie, it was really bleak. There were days that I went without lunch and dinner to make the food stretch for a day or two.
I know the pain of having very little money and trying to figure out how to pay the electric bill, put gas in my car to get to work so I could make money to buy a gallon of milk for the kids. Opening my refrigerator and to see empty shelves made me loose hope. Many nights I cried myself to sleep praying that things would get better. On the outside, no one knew of my struggle...I kept it hidden because I was embarrassed. I sat on a State Agricultural organization board and feared I would lose my position if I let on of my hard times.
The kids and I got creative, you may call that survival mode. There were several months during the winter that we had no heat in the house...propane and electricity is expensive...so we pretended to "camp" in our home. I know more ways to prepare ramen noodles than I care to admit. A friend of mine, when she realized what we were going through, took me to the county office to sign up for the local food bank. You see, I always believed that there were others in far more need that I, so I never utilized the service. That first visit I cried. I cried because I saw the lack of food that the food bank had to give....but not only the lack of food but it was also out dated and what little produce they had was almost spoiled. It pained me to be living in such a rich agricultural area and the level of produce for the taking was dismal. But what came out of that was hope...because when the shelves in the fridge and cupboard are full it gives hope.
Flash forward to last November.......the agricultural organization I belong to (California Women for Agriculture) was having a meeting in Monterey California, at the time I was the State President Elect. I no longer needed assistance from my local food bank, life had started to even out a bit and I was starting to share my story(struggle). Our speaker at the meeting was the Executive Director of a local organization called "Ag Against Hunger". I sat there and listened to the brilliant work they were doing and noticed the tears flowing from my eyes because this organization was giving hope. I started to follow Ag Against Hunger and noticed in May of 2014 they were looking for a Deputy Director. I immediately applied for the job, I may not have had all the qualifications but I knew the struggles and had "real world experience". As of today, I am the Executive Director of Ag Against Hunger.....I get to make sure there are families out there like my kids and I who have "hope" in their refrigerators and cupboards. I like to call AAH "the facilitators of hope"...we are NOT a food bank but rather the legs to get surplus produce to food banks in our tri county area and beyond. We have food banks from all over California, Arizona, Oregon to name a few states and even added Oklahoma. Everyday we are working hard to make a difference.
I am now the State President of California Women for Agriculture and I continue to share my struggle and encourage my fellow members to give to their local food banks. I am quick to remind that "hunger doesn't have a specific look" it could be anyone you know. I've learned so much from my journey, but most importantly is that you never know when you could need help and that it's a hand up not a hand out that we are giving. As hard as it was to go through all of struggle, it has only made me more focused to make sure no one goes without food/hope. Best, Lynn Figone Executive Director-Ag Against Hunger State President- California Women for Agriculture
I am a member of Saginaw Lions, an International club .We help people in need all round the world as well as locally. We hold a "Fight Against Hunger" event in Nov./Dec every year. The food we collect is given to 1st Community Link in Saginaw who give out help to our local community.