Friday, February 14, 2014

Memphis Blues

Recently I participated in one of our mobile pantries. What is a mobile pantry you ask? Well, in short, it's just like it sounds, taking food to a location.  But, it's really a lot more than that. To some, it's vitally needed food for their family.

Memphis, Texas, is a sweet quaint little town that anyone who's ever driven highway 287 between Amarillo and Dallas knows as one of the "slowdown spots" dotting that commute. It's the county seat for Hall County, which has the highest food insecurity rates in our service area. Because the need is so vast, the local partnering agencies don't have the capacity, resources, or ability to meet the need in their communities. That's where we come in! We work with the County Extension Agent, a local church, and local volunteers to deliver food directly to individuals, 12,565 pounds to 215 families. It's no small task and that's why it takes so many groups to put it together. We give them what we call a "family box." It's 35 lbs. or food that will supplement the pantry for a family for up to a week.   
We opened shop about 1:00 pm and a well of emotional stirring began as we started down the line of recipients. Edna, our Agency Relations Coordinator knows these people because she's here every month checking people in, making sure they qualify, and facilitating our mobile pantry. She's a bit of a rock star to the people in the line. I heard one call her the "Food Lady," and another Miss Edna. 
The stories of lives start to flood in. "My aunt is sick, and I have her kids in my house. We just don't have enough money," said a young mother.

"Miss Edna, my $15 in food stamps will not last the whole month or a week for that matter," said a sweet -- faced senior.
"I work for the school, and it's just not enough since my ailing parents moved in with us," said a mother.
"My wife's in jail, my kids have to have food. I'll make sure they have food first," said a first-time dad.
I realized there was a tear rolling its way down my cheek as I heard the countless stories of hardships, fixed income expenditures, and kids needing food their parents couldn't provide. It was at that moment that I realized the true deeply profound work we do. We enrich lives, and also just provide an ear to listen. I heard a comment about last month's giveaway. A sweet little lady received a jar of Nutella in her box. She was so excited about it because for her it's much too expensive in the store. So you can imagine the excitement she felt when she opened her box.  
Yes, I'll admit it; sometimes I forget the things the Food Bank does. I get caught up in the stresses of event planning, policy work, and exhaustive lists of things I'd like to accomplish, and lose sight of the work I am really doing. It's in those moments that I realize I need to see clients. I need to remember this stress is worth every ounce. It's a refresher course on why I chose this career.
Memphis may have the reason to sing the blues, but we are there to lighten their load.