by Sue Hamre, office manager If you’ve heard the stories, then you know as I do that many of our nation’s families experiencing food insecurity never dreamed they would be on the receiving side of their local food shelf. Some even donated and volunteered at their own local food shelf not so long ago. Others have had their need intensify during the pandemic, and as the underlying, systemic causes (lack of good-paying jobs, high unemployment, medical crises, and housing shortages) have once again disproportionately impacted them.
Minnehaha Food Shelf Board Chair Anne Scheible reports that the number of households served by the food shelf is up significantly. According to Scheible, “The telling number is the number of actual clients served. That number increased from 5,464 in 2019 to 8,369 in 2020.” Scheibel says this is because the food shelf is serving more large families, and especially more children. The number of children increased from 1,377 in 2019 to 3,081 in 2020.
When I think of my neighbors being without food, I know how fortunate I am to have food in my refrigerator and cupboards and the freezer. I understand it’s a luxury to not have to worry about restocking when my supply runs out. I also think back to the time when I wasn’t so fortunate.
I remember the story about how my own family only had food on the table due to the “tab” the grocer in our small town kept for my dad when he couldn’t pay for groceries that week. Sometimes the bill had gone unpaid for months at a time. Dad told me this when I was in my early twenties, and I remember being struck by the kindness and generosity of our neighbor. Over the years, I’ve often thought about Mr. Bussman with a new appreciation and understanding. I know that without his generosity we would undoubtedly have gone hungry.
Today, when I hear the stories-about the medical disaster that wiped out a family’s finances, or the family in which both wage-earners lost their jobs, I think about the food shelfs that have sprung up across the country. Here, in our neighborhood, I’m grateful to the Lake Nokomis and other community members who continue to volunteer at the food shelf each Tuesday. I’m amazed that last week when it was two degrees below zero, many of them were out there handing out bags of groceries. Still in this cold.
March is FoodShare Month. When I donate to the food shelf this month, I’m going to take the time to remember how fortunate I am that I have ample food and that I can buy more food when that runs out. I’m going to pray for the 150,000 women who lost their jobs in January – and for all of those women’s kids who may now be going hungry. I hope by being generous I can help at least one family put food on their table this week.