I had never really thought about the terms “food insecure” or “food scarcity” before I started working for Roadrunner this past July. Sure, I heard the statistics about how New Mexico was the worst in the entire nation for hungry people and then one day it clicked – I had been one of those people who had sometimes wondered where or how I would get my next meal. Wondering if I had enough in my “change cup” at home to buy a box of $.79 Mac and Cheese? Oh, and if I was lucky, maybe I had enough to treat myself and add hot dogs for another $.99? As I anxiously counted out my change I thought to myself, “yes, success! There’s enough to add hot dogs to dinner for tonight.” And then a sigh of relief as I knew at least I would have dinner.
There were a few times in my life where I had to “visit” my change cup in hopes that I managed to somehow throw enough of my change in there to come in handy when I needed it. During this time, I remember feeling stressed out and desperate at times. I remember thinking to myself, “How do people do this? How did I end up here with no resources for food? It’s not supposed to be like this!”
My first Mobile Food Pantry was the week of the 4th of July holiday and was an eye opening experience to see how many New Mexicans need assistance and need help obtaining this basic necessity on a regular basis. Throughout the last few months, I’ve visited with numerous partner agencies and met so many friendly, caring people. By doing this my perceptions, thoughts and even attitude has shifted.
Talking with people who are hungry, takes me back and reminds me about the time when I personally was “food insecure” and experienced food scarcity first hand. It was a time when I had limited resources. It was a time I felt alone, but I wasn’t. And as I casually chatted with hungry people, I realized they were going through the exact same thing I had been and thinking the exact same thing, “Where is my next meal coming from?”
I always make it a point to talk to people at our agencies and ask them how their day is going and how being able to come to a pantry helps them. And their responses vary but they all share the same theme: They appreciate the help, are very grateful for any food they receive and how they wouldn’t make it without our help.
Today I measure success a bit differently than I did back then. It’s not about wishing and hoping for enough change to buy a $.79 box of mac and cheese. It’s about helping my community and helping those people that feel alone, stressed and desperate to feel connected to community.
And I realize, it starts with me, at home, doing the right thing. I find myself being much more careful when measuring out portions for dinner and making sure to eat leftovers and not be so wasteful. I’ve also started carrying little cracker snack packs in my car and handing them out to people asking for food or money out on our street corners here in Albuquerque.
It takes us all as a community to solve hunger together and its start with just one person taking the time to educate, understand and have compassion for each person we come into contact with who just might need our help. It’s about doing what we can on a daily basis to help our fellow human.
Denise Grey is the Community Programs Manager at Roadrunner Food Bank.