“We always share our food, we are not muertos de hambre.” That’s a slang term used by my family, for poor, hungry people. Those are words I heard from my mom all the time as a kid. We never denied people who were visiting us food or the chance to get seconds or take leftovers home. We always made more than enough for everyone. There were times I was not sure who my mom and grandma were cooking for because there was always enough for an entire army. I was never sure as a kid why they cooked like that and were always so willing to share with others. It was not until I was older that I found out why.
When my mom was a kid, she grew up very poor. There was never enough food or clothing or money for anything. She shared her shoes and clothes with 2 other sisters and 2 brothers. They had to either, grow, cook or raise their food, so nothing was ever wasted. She has told me of times when there was one pot of beans and it had to last for more than a week. My grandmother would go without so the kids could eat. That is why when my mom was raising her own family, she always made sure we had enough for everyone who was hungry. We were never allowed to throw out our food and had to eat everything on our plate. My mom and dad never had to use government programs and they are very proud of that, but for my grandma that was a different story.
I remember going with her as a kid to stand in line for “government cheese” – we call them TEFAP or commodities now. She would wait in the sun or cold for hours to get her box of food. There was always cheese, eggs, bread and canned goods. My grandma could prepare a feast with that food. When she passed away, we found cans of fruit, salmon and spam stored all over the house. She was going to be ready for any catastrophe.
So working here at Roadrunner I get to see women like my grandma waiting in line for food to feed their grandchildren and families. They walk like my grandma did and wait in the hot sun. Watching them smile and laugh with each other while they wait brings back some of the best memories. I can only hope that one day their grandchildren are not embarrassed that their family had to do this, but proud of the courage they had, to do anything to feed their family.
(Food distribution site for people experiencing hunger.)
In Las Cruces everyone knows everyone, and I have not been to one distribution where I do not run into someone I know or someone’s grandma. I am so honored to be able to help them and to have them thank me for helping the community. I serve this community with pride and honor and would do anything to help them. I can’t imagine there will come a time when I leave a distribution and do not cry in my car, trying to understand why there are still so many hungry in my little town. It makes me so proud to see these community members help each other and take care of other even when they are in need too. One day I am hoping to work myself out of a job, by working to ensure that everyone has the food they need. Then there will be no more hungry people, and kids will go to bed with a full stomach. One day!
(The Organ Mountains and City of Las Cruces.)
Rachel Anaya is Community Relations Manager at Roadrunner Food Bank’s Southern Branch.