Hunger in America must end – period.
In this current economy the most unusual people are turning up at food banks and feeding centers as a last resort…
…in just one day I met some people I would never have expected to find there.
Ted – Just over a year ago Ted lost his job as a manager at a local building company that was forced to close through lack of work. With four children to feed, house and clothe he quickly ran through his savings and was left with just unemployment benefit and food stamps to provide for his family. At age 56 he found himself applying for jobs like flipping burgers that were always given to teenagers and younger people. There was no work in the construction business which was the only industry in which he was really skilled. He tried doing odd jobs, but there were so many in his situation that he could barely find any work and when he did he had to do it so cheaply that he couldn’t make any money. Having used all his food stamps to feed his family and finding nothing left for himself, out of desperation he turned up at the food center just to get a square meal. “It was so humiliating,” he told me but real hunger drove him to take what he thought were desperate measures. His final words as we parted were, “I just wish that when I had money I had thought to help people who were in need.”
Lucy – When she moved from the East Coast to California to take care of her aging mother Lucy didn’t think it would take long to find a job as an elementary school teacher. Her plan was to earn enough money to pay the bills and have enough left over to have someone come in and sit with her mother, who needed constant attention, while she was at work. With the State budget cuts Lucy soon found out that teachers were being laid off rather than hired and since she was new to the state she wasn’t entitled to many of the benefits she might otherwise have received. “All my life I have provided for myself,” Lucy told me as we sat and ate together. “I am so grateful to those who have made it possible for me to come here and at least have one good meal but I just wish that I could get back to looking after my mother and myself again.” Lucy helps out in the kitchen while a neighbor sits with her mother for a couple of hours. “I don’t have money to give to pay for the food I get, but at least I can do something to help out.”
Lizzy is what we used to call a “bag lady” and probably more typical of someone you would expect to see at the feeding center. Homeless for years and now quite elderly Lizzy will never settle down in a conventional fashion. I got the impression that she didn’t often talk about herself these days, probably because she feels that no one really wants to listen but when I pressed her for her story she told me that she had grown up in an abusive family and run away from home at a very young age. She made her living on the streets, had several relationships that went from bad to worse and started walking or hitching rides from town to town making a little money wherever she could but never able to settle down. As the years rolled on it just became a lifestyle and now at age 63 it is all that she knows. As I listened to her story I couldn’t find it in my heart to condemn her. It may be that it is her own fault that she has ended up where she is, but talking with Lizzy for just a few minutes left me with an overwhelming sadness and most of all a real desire to help.
Pictures and some identifying information have been changed, but the stories are real.