Food Stamp Challenge – Day Four

Posted on Sep 19, 2014 in NEWS AND REPORTS | Comments Off on Food Stamp Challenge – Day Four

Food Stamp Challenge – Day Four

Half way through the experience and I find myself feeling quite convicted.  I can’t put my finger on it yet… still seeking to hear from God… but I keep coming back to the words I once read by Mark Batterson, “A change of pace plus a change of place, brings a change of perspective.”  This week I am becoming more mindful of the many things I take for granted so often.

Today, after my toast (and yes, a small coffee since they are free at McDonalds this week!) I set out to visit a local food pantry.  It’s becoming obvious to me the struggle is real for families living off food stamps alone.  Supplemental food is almost always needed.  I am thankful for the food pantries scattered throughout our communities who represent God’s grace to others in their time of need.

At the Urban Mission we operate a food pantry called “God’s Pantry.”  In July 2014 we made the switch to the Client Choice Pantry model.  This approach gives participants a choice when it comes to choosing what types of food they wish to take home with them that month.  So far we’ve received pretty good feedback from those participating in the program, but it’s a work in progress for sure.

Although I am quite familiar with the inner workings of God’s Pantry at the Mission, I wanted to go through the process myself.  I decided to go on a Wednesday as this is the busiest day for our pantry.  When I arrived  I was told to sit outside the door until Ms. Patti, the Warehouse Secretary, was ready.  When it was my time, I sat down beside her and was asked a series of questions.  Name, address, date of birth, phone number, income, number of people in my family, names and ages of family members.  Did I bring my ID?  A copy of two utility bills?  After ten minutes or so, I was then given my card which I needed to keep with me and present each month I visited the pantry.

It was then my turn to go shopping.

Now I admit, I am partial to our volunteers.  I am proud of the crew we have at the Urban Mission and am thankful for their consistent and selfless service.  Our patnry volunteers are some of the finest.  Their job is not easy.  In fact, they are oftentimes the first face of the Mission and are called to represent us well.

The volunteers were out in full force when I arrived – welcoming guests, stocking shelves, walking shoppers through the pantry, and carrying groceries out to cars.

I was told I must present my card before I could shop.  I was then given a buggy and paired up with a volunteer.  As we walked through the aisles I was told how many of each item I was allowed to get.  I was also encouraged to take as many veggies as I wanted along with some personal care items that happened to be on the shelves that day.

By the time I finished I had a cart full of the following foods:  a big bag of frozen chicken, eggs, bread, cereal, spaghetti, red peppers, a bag of corn, apples, avocados, tomatoes, a gallon of juice, two bottles of water,  a few cans of veggies, banana bread, raisins, vegetable oil, a pack of soap and paper cups.

I thanked the volunteers for their help, took a few pictures, and was told to be on my way as they needed to get back to work.

Walking back to the office, I was thankful for the experience.  I decided to post few pictures of my visit but each time I look at them I am reminded it isn’t always smiles when people go to a pantry.  Many people are hurting, probably hungry, and oftentimes embarassed.  I am hopeful our Choice Pantry approach provides a bit more dignity for those who need the assistance of a pantry for a season.

It was now lunchtime.  I had my third tuna sandwich for the week, some carrots, and some veggies from the Urban Mission Unity Kitchen.

For dinner, my husband and I had some friends over.  I had been waiting for this meal… I mean visit… all week.  The menu included chicken, potatoes, and veggies.  I did make peach cobbler but since it wasn’t on my shopping list I decided to hold off and hope there would be leftovers when the Challenge was over.

The time spent around the dinner table with our friends provided an opportunity to share a bit more about the Challenge.  I quickly realized I wasn’t supposed to be talking about the challenges I was facing this week, but the challenges millions of people face each day.