A little after 1:00 in the afternoon, Monday-Saturday, my wife asks the dogs if they want to go check the mail… which means walking from the front door to the mail box by the street. For the dogs it’s a quick patrol of the front yard. Once the mail is collected and the dogs determine our front yard is safe, they go back inside.
“Checking the mail” is a daily ritual for most of us anywhere in the country. Even in an electronic world we make a trek to the mail box to see if there is anything special in the mail box. Usually it is bills and flyers… but sometimes it’s something special like an invitation to a wedding or thank you note or a note from a family member or friend. When I was growing up, on occasion, I would even find a “special delivery” letter!
Another ritual most of us have is checking our pantry or looking in the refrigerator to see what’s for breakfast… or lunch… or dinner. Unless we haven’t had time to make it to a grocery store, most of us find what we are looking for. But for one in six people on the South Plains going to the pantry isn’t a sure thing. There are times during the month when they are not sure where or how they will get their next meal. They are people who are food insecure.
The “food insecure” are the people we serve at the South Plains Food Bank every day; People whose pantries are empty. Sometimes these people are seniors living on a fixed income. As food and fuel prices rise, they have less money for food. Sometimes they are people who are working, but just don’t make enough to buy all the groceries they need for themselves and their families. Other times they are veterans with disabilities that prevent them from finding a regular job. Or they may be children going to school without breakfast. There are many faces to hunger. And what I have discovered by being at the food bank, these are people I went to school with, people I go to church with, people who are my neighbors.
So what do mailboxes and food pantries have to do with one another? On Saturday, May 11, you have a chance to go to your pantry and then your mailbox to help feed hungry neighbors. It’s the annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. Simply leave your donation of canned or dried foods by the mailbox and your letter carrier will pick it up for special delivery to the food bank. Stamp Out Hunger is the largest one day food drive in the nation.
The food you donate on Saturday will be the food we give to families during the summer months. Summer is a time of the year when the need remains high, but donations are at a low. Your food donation will help ensure we have the food we need to keep kids, seniors, and others fed. And if you can’t leave food by your mail box please consider making an online gift. Every dollar we receive turns into the equivalent of five meals.
When you think about foods to donate, think about what you enjoy and what you would want to serve your friends and family. Please consider items like canned tuna or chicken packed in water. They can be used to create lots of nutritious dishes. Canned vegetables with reduced sodium or fruits packed in light syrup. Peanut butter is always appreciated as a good source of protien and fiber. Low sugar cereals and whole grain products help round out a healthy meal.
However you choose to donate, it will be a special delivery for the families we serve!
"What does it mean to feed a hungry person?"
The question was asked by a friend of mine who was visiting the South Plains Food Bank. While it seems like an easy question, I think what he was really asking was what difference does it make? It's a good question and made me think.
Sure, feeding a hungry person meets their immediate nutritional needs and their stomach stops hurting. We feed the hungry out of compassion. But in reality, feeding the hungry means different things to different people.
For a hungry school child, it's the difference between passing a test or not passing a test.
For a hungry senior citizen, it's the difference between being able to afford medication or not taking medication.
For a working parent struggling to put food on the table, it the difference between being able to sit down around their dinner table and be a family or not.
Feeding the hungry is more than just a hunger issue. Feeding the hungry is about education, health and creating family. People who are hungry drag us all down. But when we take care of children, seniors and the working poor, we are not only being compassionate, we are building up our community and our country. That's what feeding the hungry means to me.
This year, the South Plains Food Bank will help feed 1 in 6 people in our area. It will have a different impact on every man, woman, and child we help feed, but it will make a difference to them... and it will make our community stronger.
Would you like to find out more about the SPFB and how you can help? Stop by for a visit. -Free Box Lunch and Tour. I would love to show you around.
David Weaver, CEO
Mary Solis, our Operations manager, came into my office the last week in September and said, “I need you to work the dock.”
“Working the dock” means going outside and loading boxes of food into the cars of clients when we are busy. Working the dock keeps me in touch with muscles I’d forgotten. More importantly, it keeps me in touch with the people we see every day.
Working the dock is a humbling experience.
Every car that rolls up is a story. Hunger is part of their story. And when I work the dock, I become a small part of their story too.
On this particular Tuesday, I met Mr. Lemon, a dignified elderly gentleman who walks with a cane. He stands tall. I can tell he doesn’t want to be coming to the food bank. He apologizes for having to get food, but on a fixed income and with rising fuel prices, he doesn’t know what else to do. When his car is loaded he shakes my hand and says thank you.
Watching him drive away, I wondered what kind of difference our food box will make for Mr. Lemon and his wife that night. He had such a quiet dignity. I hope he feels no shame in asking for help.
Cameron with cat eye sunglasses arrives in an old beat up Saturn station wagon packed with clothing and boxes. It is obvious she is living out of her car. She rolls down the window and asks me to put her food box a vacant space she has carved out in the passenger seat behind her. A box of dry goods, a box of frozen goods, a box of produce, and a bag of apples from our apple orchard. It just fits in the space. I close the door. She looks at me, nods and smiles. She’s gone.
Was she going to a friend’s house or a relative’s home? Or will she find herself alone in her car? I can’t help but worry.
Stacy the single mom with two wiggling children in car seats in the back is next. Steam is coming from under the hood of her car. I’m worried her motor is on fire. She laughs and says no, just a radiator hose leak. Her father has promised to fix it that evening. The trunk pops open and she helps us put food in the back. She pulls a couple of bananas out of the produce box and gives one each to her kids. “They didn’t get much for breakfast this morning. Now it looks like we’ll have a feast. God bless you.” The steam from under the hood has stopped. She starts the motor and takes off.
So the line continues. Car after car. Story after story the faces of hunger come into focus leaving an imprint, a memory, an impression. So many different faces. The realization that hunger doesn’t’ discriminate.
It’s all part of working the dock at the South Plains Food Bank.
Someone is always “working the dock” at the South Plains Food Bank. The dock, wherever it is, is where we connect with those we feed.
This year, we connected with one in six people on the South Plains providing hope and nourishment --one in six people who are your neighbors and your friends. That’s what we do, we feed the hungry, we give hope and we enrich lives.
Cricket Court is one of our Kids Cafe sites – a place where children 18 years-old and younger can get a free hot nutritious meal after school. At Cricket Court we provide meals for up to 40 children per day. When school started they were having trouble rounding up enough volunteers to serve the children, so I went over to help out.
I was dressed in my slacks, a short sleeve shirt, and the loafers I always wear when I work the dock. Two little boys were looking me over when I walked in. They were six and seven years old, dressed nicely but in worn sneakers. Schondale, the older kid looked at me and said, “You wore your Sunday Shoes! My mom only let’s me wear my Sunday Shoes for church and special occasions. Why do you have your Sunday Shoes on?”
I started to tell him that this is what I always wear. But then I thought about where I was and what I was doing and who I was feeding. I was working the dock and it was indeed a special occasion.
Anytime we feed our neighbors in need, it is a special gift to them and to our community.
The impact on the lives of those we serve is dramatic and real. You are part of their story now. You’re part of our story: Feeding People, Giving Hope, Enriching Lives. Thank you for wearing your Sunday shoes with me.
This time next fall, the South Plains Food Bank will be celebrating 30 years of compassion and 30 years of action. Thirty years of wearing our Sunday shoes.
But in the meantime, there is work to be done. Hunger won’t wait for the 1 in 6 on the South Plains who seek help at the South Plains Food Bank our one of our more than 200 agencies. Hunger doesn’t discriminate.
Recently I was on the L – one of Chicago’s public modes of transportation – heading to Midway Airport after a Feeding America conference.
I looking like quit the tourist with my phone out capturing snapshots of the city as it roared by out the window. I had luggage in tow and was seated toward the back of the train car in one of the single seats.
At one of the stops, a small frail lady entered and took a seat across the aisle and one row up from me. She watched me click away for a few minutes as the train rushed to the next station.
After a few minutes, I said, “Hi. How are you?” Because that’s what us Southern folks do – we talk to everyone pretty much!
She said, “Fine.”
I thought that would be the end of the conversation, but it wasn’t.
It was actually the beginning of a lesson as I sat on the L and was schooled about life from this little old woman who could have been my grandmother.
She was in her 80’s and was originally from France she told me. She had come here when she was a child and loved it. She begged her Father to allow her stay in the United States with her uncle and his family. Her Father agreed. All of her relatives had since passed away and now she was pretty much alone.
The train stopped and I, being a country girl who has never taken public transportation in my hometown, was surprised to see high school students board the train. Some of them had parents, or at least some sort of adult figure with them, while others were riding with their friends.
My friend was quick to educate me in the ways of the world.
“Green cards,” she huffed!
Where I’m from a green card is referred to as an immigration document, so I was a little confused how we had entered that course of conversation but she went on without prompting.
“They ride for free with a green card. They get groceries for free and even cell phones for free with a green card. Not me. I have to put money on my card to ride,” she said showing me her rail pass indeed was not green.
“I guess you live on your social security or retirement,” I asked her.
She explained she received about $1,300 a month and had Medicare, but she didn’t have Part D. She went on to explain that her medicine alone cost her $300 to $400 dollars a month. She didn’t really tell me where they rest of her money went, but I could tell by the look of her clothes, she was living pretty frugal.
I asked her how she made it each month.
She put both hands in front of her face and with her thumbs and pointer finger pretended to grasp something small and break it.
It took me a minute.
“You break your medicine in half?” I confirmed.
“Yes. I have to if I want to afford everything I need to survive every month,” She said.
“I bet you would qualify for some senior programs and be able to get some assistance with your medication. You might even qualify for Food Stamps, which is now called SNAP,” I explained.
She waved her hand at me as if brushing me away.
“I would never ask for help. I could not do such a thing.”
We rode in silence for three more stops to Midway.
I never told her my story – how I had to ask for help.
Why does it still make me feel ashamed to tell a total stranger that I had received SNAP benefits?
Would my story have made a difference to this proud woman?
What will she do this winter? She has already been forced to spilt her pills in half – not taking the correct dose for her ailments, what else will she be forced to do to survive?
She deserves so much more than to live out her final years just surviving.
Even as I have returned home to mounds of paperwork and deadlines, I haven’t been able to forget her.
I don’t even know her name.
But she schooled me on the L in Chicago and I will never forget her.
I read this news story yesterday: http://gma.yahoo.com/slammed-using-food-stamps-ga-woman-seeks-apology-121005811--abc-news-savings-and-investment.html and I must confess it brought back a painful memory.
For those who don’t know, I am a single mother with a child who has several chronic health problems. For a while after my son was born, due to his health and constant needs, I was unable to work and was receiving help from all the above: Women Infant and Children Program (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and my son received Medicaid. I even sought out food assistance from the South Plains Food Bank, where I now work.
This woman’s story reminds me of a local shopping experience I encountered.
I was in line at an ‘upscale’ grocery store in town and had several ‘high end’ items in my cart due to my son’s special dietary needs caused by his some of his medical conditions.
Some of the items in my cart included: vegan and vegetarian food ite
ms as well as soy milk, soy yogurts, and a probiotic drink.
Now please note I always tried to block everyone’s view of my Lone Star Card, but of course there was a problem with the price of one of the items so there I was – on display, holding my card, waiting for a price check.
As the two women behind me grew more impatient one looked at the other and said, “I wish I could afford soy milk for my family, but we work for a living.” The other lady replied, “I know, uh!”
I was mortified.
Some of you are going to pat yourselves on the back and say, “Well those items are understandable, but what about the chips, sodas, birthday cakes, and candy?”
Been there, too! Yep, I had that cart one time. My son was turning two and I had NO MONEY!
So I did it. I went to the store and used my SNAP benefits to purchase some chips and dip, sodas, some cheese and crackers, some candy for the kids at the party, and yes – a Birthday cake. My family and some church friends were coming over for my son’s ‘party.’ They brought the presents. I had nothing for him.It was March; I had finally scored a part-time job, but paid out all my income in part-time child care, medical bills, and medical supplies over what was provided by Medicaid, and trying to keep a roof over our heads, keep the lights on, and have enough gas in my car to make it to work.
I hate the stigma some people put on those swiping the Lone Star Card.
I ask this of you.
The next time you are in line at the grocery store and you see someone paying with ‘Food Stamps,’ before you start judging what is in their cart, open your mouth with a witty comment, or feel condemnation – stop.
Please just stop yourself. Make eye contact and smile.
You just made them feel human again – no longer like a second class citizen.
That wasn’t too hard, now was it!
To build muscle
and lose fat
, you need lots of healthy foods. Proteins to build & maintain muscle. Carbs for energy. Fruits & veggies for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Water for hydration & recovery. And healthy fats to help fat loss.
Unfortunately, the rising food prices make it hard to eat healthy. Your paycheck is most likely not rising as fast. Worst case you're student which makes it even harder. These 20 tips will help you eat healthy on a budget.
1. Buy Whole Foods. Unprocessed foods are cheaper and more nutritious than processed foods. They also give you total control over the ingredients. Avoid anything that comes from a box 90% of the time.
- Proteins. Ground beef, frozen chicken breast, tuna cans, calves' liver, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, eggs, milk, whey, ...
- Carbs. Pasta, rice, oats, potatoes, beans, apples, bananas, raisins, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, ...
- Fats. Olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds, real butter, mixed nuts, ...
2. Buy Cheap Proteins. You need 1g protein per pound of body-weight per day to build and maintain muscle. Eating whole protein with each meal also helps fat loss as protein has a higher thermic effect than other foods.
Keep the steaks & salmon for special occasions. Buy eggs, milk, whey, mackerel, tuna, calves liver, frozen chicken breast, cottage cheese, ... Read the post with the 10 cheapest sources of protein for more ideas.
3. Buy Frozen Fruits & Veggies. Unfreeze berries in microwave and eat warm with cottage cheese. Put frozen spinach in a colander the night before and try one of these recipes the next day. Try also frozen beans & broccoli. Benefits:
- Save Money. Often half the price of fresh. Almost infinite shelf life when kept in freezer. And you can buy in bulk to get more discount.
- Save Time. Frozen fruits & veggies are pre-washed and pre-cut, which saves preparation time. Time is money.
- Nutrient Dense. If frozen right when picked, frozen fruits & veggies can contain more nutrients than fresh ones.
4. Buy Generic Food. And store brands. Raw foods like rice, pasta, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, frozen fruits/veggies, ... taste like brand name foods once you get used to them. But they'll save you money on packaging & advertising.
5. Buy Supplements. They're cheap and make your life easier, however whole food is better. You can use supplements, but make sure the bulk of your diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods.
- Whey. Cheapest protein you'll find. 1 scoop ON whey is 24g protein/30g serving. At 2 scoops/day, a 10lbs bag will last 10 weeks for 84,99$.
- Fish Oil. Cheaper than fish. 1tsp Carlson Fish Oil is 1600mg omega-3. At 1tsp/day, 1 bottle will last 40 days for 23,04$.
- Multi-vitamins. Vitamin deficiency is common. 1 bottle AST Multi Pro 32x contains 100 servings and will last 6 weeks for 17.03$.