being a mom

Feeding Your Family At A Food Bank Means Confronting Your Poverty Every Day

By  | 

food donation box

There are a lot of misconceptions about food banks. I’ve heard it all, from “they eat better than I do,” to “everyone there was driving a brand new car!” This has never been my experience in the 2 and a half years that I’ve been visiting my city’s food banks off and on.

The bank I visit frequently runs on Saturday. They open their doors at 8 o’clock in the morning, and they fill up fast. I’ve shown up at 8:05 and been number seventy-three in line. People will start queuing up at 7 in the morning to get into the food bank. The host church doesn’t really like this, and recently they actually had to hire security to shoo people away.

Parking is a nightmare. The lot is full of people sitting in their cars waiting to go in. I’ve gotten there and had to park down the street at the mall and walk back to the church. I think a big part of this is because there was just so much anticipated need that happened. My city has been one of the hardest hit in my state. Once inside, we’re issued numbers, and we fill out a card with our name, age, address, number of people in our household, and a declaration of need. At every food bank I’ve been to, you sign a declaration of need. It’s a humiliating experience to say repeatedly that you need help.

We sit at tables in the basement of the church. Often there are too many people for the seats, so people stand against the walls or down on the floor. Sometimes fights break out over “cutting” and “saving places” even though there is only one number per household, and there is no way to steal someone’s paper once filled out. Yet another reason that security is needed.

Numbers are called in groups of three. You go up to some volunteers who compare your ID to the address on your paper. This prevents people from double-dipping, or two people from the same address coming and getting food.

You go to a room to select a bread item. It’s not a loaf of white or wheat, it is donated bread from different bakeries. So you can get like, a loaf of French bread or herb and cheese bread. And while this sounds really great and delicious, they aren’t breads with which you can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Also, they tend to go moldy within a day, so you’d better make sure you’re ready to use it.

Next, we pick a dessert. This is probably my favorite part. The desserts are donated bakery items — muffins, brownies, things like that. Once I even scored a birthday cake. I don’t know why you didn’t want your 50th birthday cake, Russell, but I appreciate it!

There is a meat item. Most of the time, it’s between two cans of tuna or two cans of shredded chicken. I’ve never gotten ground beef, or chicken thighs, or anything like that. Sometimes they have gizzards, or maybe a tube of venison, or you might get a pot roast. But I’ve never been that lucky. They usually do have some ground pork you could get, if you happen to be really early.

Pages: 1 2