fingerlakeswanderer

fingerlakeswanderer
Birthday
May 09
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cassandra
Bio
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.

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JULY 20, 2010 8:25AM

Dear Congress: We the People are Starving

Rate: 79 Flag

 

food pantry photos 7-10 001

(volunteer--in turquoise, seeing how long it's taking to get through the line)

Tonight, I worked with other food bank volunteers to feed 15 percent of the town where I live.

Fifteen percent. 

food pantry photos 7-10 002

(two long-term volunteers as we neared the end)

Tonight, we started with the largest shipment of food--six palletts--that we have ever received. I had never seen so much food. Cans and boxes  stacked high on the tables, and, behind each table, unopened cardboard boxes made skyscrapers--some taller than me (who is 5 foot 1).  Back in the storeroom, probably twice as much brown boxes waited if they were to be needed. 

We had hot dogs, tuna, three different kinds of soup, two different kinds of canned vegetables, vegetarian beans, two different kinds of cereal, chicken stuffing, three different kinds of pasta, pasta sauce with meat, pork and beans, cookies, margarine, chocolate milk, eggs, and cheese. On the "greens" table, much of it from the organic garden we keep to supplement the food pantry, was lettuce, tomatoes, and other leafy greens (I think I saw collard greens, but quite frankly, I was so busy I never got a chance to take stock.)

As soon as I walked in, I could feel the anticipation. A quiet sense that we were going to get "hit". Maybe because the line was already quite long by 5:15, but also because volunteers were already working,  in the midst of putting the boxes together for the homebound. Just putting those boxes together depleted what was on the table, and so I spent the next 30 minutes in continuous motion, box cutter in hand, opening the boxes behind me and restocking the tables so that when people came through, they could efficiently move through the line. 

food pantry photos 7-10 003

(what was left on the first table)

Afternoon thunderstorms had done nothing to break the humidity. Within the old firehouse where we distribute food, I had long since broken a sweat, and the rebound headache that had threatened, buffeted by the pressure system in freefall, was surging along my eyebrows. I kept swigging the seltzer, as if drinking water was going to both kill the headache and make me capable of keeping up with what was building outside. 

Ten minutes before six, the line was quite simply, ridiculous. It went out the door and snaked down the country highway that runs through town. I hoped the rain would hold off. We had no shelter for those who would be waiting in the rain. At the same time, they were broiling in the heat. But as we saw the numbers building, we knew we had to open more food and have it ready. So we worked. And worked. 

food pantry photos 7-10 004

(me, staring where there had once been a mountain of stuffing, spaghetti sauce, pasta--you can see what's left)

Patricia Brhel runs the food pantry. Anytime I want to complain about pain, I shut my mouth. Pat is one of the smartest women I know. She also has rheumatoid arthritis, and walks with crutches, braces on arms and legs to support her joints. In addition to running the food pantry, Pat runs the community center, writes for the local paper, and cares for a disabled daughter. The community does not have the money to pay her for her services, so everything that Pat does is volunteer labor.  Ted, her assistant, who had been there since morning unpacking palletts, was checking with each of the volunteers to make sure we were ready. Pat nodded her head, and it began. 

What happened in the next 60 minutes, I barely have a memory of. It was work that involved smiling and speaking to each person as they passed through the line, joking with the kids as they selected out the few items that parents allow them to help carry, and this steady rhythm of bending, cutting open a box, unloading its contents, and placing food on the tables. At one point, I remember slinging bags of pasta into the pasta area, trying to keep up with the demand.

When there is more than one item offered, each "unit" gets a choice of one. So, for example, tonight, people had a choice between bran flakes or corn flakes. They had a choice of egg noodles, macaroni, or ziti. (Are you sensing a pattern here--lots of carbs, some protein, and the greens we can provide from the garden.)

The surge never stopped. On a normal night, we'll be extremely busy for 15-20 minutes, and then, for the rest of the 90 minutes, people will trickle in. Tonight was a hurricane blowing through. Despite having several cases of meat sauce and those cases of spaghetti, I found myself shouting, "Ted! More meat sauce please! And pasta!" I opened cases of cereal as if I was distributing manna.  Again. And again. Sometimes, Ted was so busy trying to get food for other volunteers that I would run back to the storeroom and grab a couple of cases myself, hoping to make it back before the table was bare. 

As I passed Ted on my way out of the storeroom, I started spewing profanities. "Bleeping Congress better bleeping pass the unemployment benefits extension," I said so I thought only he could hear. "It's going to get worse." 

Pat overheard me, two cases of meat sauce balanced in her arms, and commented that she was glad the President had spoken to Congress about its delaying tactics. Summer is normally more busy than the school year. Why? Because the kids who would normally get "free breakfast and lunch" are now home, and suddenly, parents who can barely feed their kids as it is now have 20 more meals to provide their children. 

Hunger doesn't take a vacation. 

Around 7:15, when a lone man wandered into the food pantry, I was ashamed. The tables were down to a few items, and in some cases, were Mother Hubbard bare. 

Pat wrote to me later. 

"We did have a new record tonight, exceeding even last Thanksgiving's numbers," she said. "We served 174 households and went through 242 units (cans of tuna, packages of cheese, etc.) this represented 145 children, 228 adults and 60 seniors for, a record number of people, 433!"

The population of my small town is close to 3,000.

433 people made the trek to get food. 

We, your people, Congress, are hungry. 

Stop fucking around and pass the unemployment benefits extension. Now. Please. 

Our next food pantry is August 2. 

 

all photos courtesy of Patricia Brhel

Patricia Brhel is my heroine. I do not know how she does it, but I thank whatever deity that you pray to that she does. 

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Comments

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Amazing. Not entirely surprising.
Thank you for taking us along with you. It is important to remember the urgency here. You have described one city on one particular day. Imagine the hundreds of other cities on all the other days. You said it:
"Hunger doesn't take a vacation." _r
How many of the people in line looked scrawny?
Malusinka,
Many of the people in line looked scrawny. A lot of them were overweight, but as has been pointed out myriad times, the food that the poor can afford is full of fat and calories and little nutrition.

Oh? and the children? Their bony faces make me cry.
It is so easy to look the other way and avoid what is uncomfortable. How far away from this need are so many? Such important work this is and such a service for those who need it and will come forward.
thank you for this.
433 people out of 3,000? Wow! Truly an amazing but sad statistic. More proof that the Party of No is totally out of touch with our current reality.
Good for you. I am thinking that Congress doesn't solve so many more problems than it does. Keep on doing what you're doing.
I wish you'd send this to your congress people. Those who live in ivory towers may not realize what it's like on Main Street. They may not care, actually, but they need to be confronted with this reality--before too many starve to death. If/when that happens, they won't have a constituency to vote them into office again and again. I wonder if they've thought of that.

Thanks for this, Lorraine. It hurts to read but it's necessary pain. I just wish I could do more to help. Rated. D
Good for you. I am thinking that Congress doesn't solve so many more problems than it does. Keep on doing what you're doing.

And Malusinka -- people that don't get enough food or the right kind of food or much food often look "fat." They don't always or necessarily often look scrawny.
It is people like you and the other volunteers that give people hope! You were not only distributing food, you were generously giving your love! Thank you!
It is people like you and the other volunteers that give people hope! You were not only distributing food, you were generously giving your love! Thank you!
Lorraine did a great job of describing last night's distribution! One thing that state and national representatives can do for us is to vote for the bills that help us help the hungry. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization that just went through the US Senate, the HPNAP and TEFAP emergency feeding funds that come through New York's and other states and other programs are all necessary for us to offer the selection and quantity of food we provide. With them we can make sure that all 433 people get food that they can use and need to make breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can always have access to protein, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and the occasional treat. Without them we are reduced to gleaning, which means giving people whatever local groceries are willing to throw out (wilted lettuce, moldy cheese, out of date cookies and chips) or whatever farmers don't care to harvest, (damaged or surplus crops), from their fields. We also need to keep what help is available in the form of extended benefits and unemployment checks coming so that people can pay their rent or mortgage and their electric bills. Please let your representatives know that these forms of help are absolutely essential to many of our most vulnerable citizens.
There's no excuse not to pass the extension to unemployment benefits, and most certainly this idiocy about how people won't have the incentive to get a job if it gets extended is offensive. A country that can put a man on the moon (we first set foot on the moon 52 years ago today) should be able to feed its people.
terrific maybe today at least there'll be a wildly overdue benefits extension so rated.
You're a good egg for doing this. We have two food pantries and a weekly supper in my town. For a dozen years off and on, I've volunteered, and the sad thing is that it's the same, nothing has changed, still the same long lines of hungry lonely folks. The other thing is that these are sponsored by churches, two of them Catholic, one of them involved a few years ago with a pedophile priest. I'm glad they're there, the Catholic church, in spite of the dogma and policy.
Bless your food bank. It's a vital need . . . when our family went through a major downturn a few years ago, the food bank made it possible for us to get through the month, each month, for the several months it took for us to get employment . . .
And the shame of it all is there is no reason anyone in America should go hungry, no reason at all!!
R
let me tell you something woman, you are one of my heroes. It never fails that you inform and humble me in your relentless endeavors to make this a better world. this post moved me to tears. food lines shouldn't be happening like this. THIS IS AMERICA. we have plenty. if nothing, we have grains, dairy and meat. We CAN feed our people. the question is why aren't we?
would a project having able people work for the food suport be effective?
This would remove the stigma of "holding up your hand" and also be a way to provide services that are otherwise to expensive.

service like visiting elderly people and asist them if needed.
Maintaining parks / gardens ect (urban farming?)

These people dispite there need for help all have a some skills that should be used for the greater good until they find work again.
(it might even look good on there cv)
Timely post. Thank you. Fortunately my unemployed family members have not had to use food banks yet. But I fear the number of those in need will only continue to grow.
I bet John Boehner and Mitch McConnell ate damn well last night. One of these days I keep expecting one of them to say, "Let them eat cake!" Assholes!!!
"Hunger doesn't take a vacation." But Congress does. It's beyond disgusting. Thank you for all that you are doing.
Thanks to you and Patricia... to anyone that volunteers and donates. As our elected representatives call us slackers we will need to come together more than ever.
Terrifying, infuriating and foreboding. Yes, indeed, fucking Congress shitheads, extend unemployment insurance benefits - NOW! Thanks, Lorraine, and my kudos to you for your selfless work.
Thank you for reminding us of hunger - which some people are never allowed to forget. Glad to see you up and around and fighting back the headaches.
It's looking like the benefits will be extended late today or tomorrow. About $300 a week, and hopefully without the drug testing proposed by Orrin Hatch.

Something is seriously wrong, beyond broken, when we can spend $1 trillion on useless and counterproductive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and people have to stand in line to get some canned tuna and pasta.
When I was growing up, my parents took me to volunteer every weekend at a food pantry on the lower east side of Manhattan. While I was in NYC briefly this summer, I went back to volunteer one Saturday and, although the work this food pantry does fills me with hope, I was saddened to see the same elderly women walking through the door to get their hot meals as I had seen every week as a child and teenager.

Hunger in your hometown is heartbreaking -- thanks for writing about this.
So happy to see this is an EP! :)
What a fantastic post. The thing is, this is happening everywhere, and theres no help in sight. How dare Congress go home to their nice homes and leave the unemployment situation unresolved. The deficit? My Ass. Bush wasted more money in eight years than all the other presidents combined. This was great, Lakes
Um, Kent, I think your fingers got shifted to the right as you typed. We landed on the moon 41, not 52 years ago today.

Minor matters of date, I can address. My feelings on this issue are another matter.

I will say that passing the unemployment extension is not a solution, just a bandaid. There were people hungry before the extension lapsed. The extension does not get people employed, and does not address the needs of people who are unable to be employed for various reasons such as infirmity.

But those 433 people aren't spending much money, and that donated food is food they wont' have to buy. There's an economic impact there.

But my ideal solution isn't the government borrowing yet more money to get money into the economy. I'd much rather seen local entrepreneurs borrowing that money. We do need to pass the unemployment extension NOW, but we need to find a longer-term solution that doesn't involve the Republicans and Democrats.

I don't know the solution -- but I do believe that every volunteer, every person seeking to start a new business, or hiring a disabled person or senior, looking at a need and seeking to do something about it, is part of that solution.
There was a letter to the editor in a big daily in our area recently from a farmer saying that if you're poor, you're either drug-addicted or lazy.

Our school district recently decided it'd be cheaper to feed every kid for free (about 85-90% of kids in our district qualify for free/reduced lunch anyway, and it was cheaper to just lump everyone together rather than pay for more staff time to handle payments).

The "outrage" over that coming from some of the (wealthy) parents here really was hilarious, even though it was pointed out many times the move would streamline paperwork and save the district money. "We're teaching the kids they're getting something for free!" (Really...? How many kids write a check each month to pay for their own lunches...?) I always wanted to do a follow-up story after a few months to see how many of those parents were still paying for their kids' lunches like some vowed to do. I'm guessing that number was ZERO.

I have a master's degree and fifteen years of experience in my field, and the only job I can find right now is taking pictures of homes in foreclosure--there are more of those every month here. Things are not good. Our community (also about 3,000) has our own "Pat"...people like her are a real blessing. Thanks to both of you for working so hard.
I find certain parts of this post and many of the comments baffling. Take this, for example, from the post: "We, your people, Congress, are hungry."

Or this comment: "How dare Congress go home to their nice homes," & etc.

The assumption behind these kinds of remarks is that the people in Congress actually care about things such as unemployment and hunger. But they don't. I'm sorry, but they just don't.

Oh sure, they will do things occasionally, but it's not at the top of their list. This is because to a large extent they no longer represent "we the people."

I mean, look at it this way: Does the food bank have golden parachutes waiting for members of Congress when they leave office? Do hungry people with bad teeth and no health care have large sums of money to donate to them? Of course not. So when there's really nothing in it for the members of Congress, when you can't offer anything that will enrich the members of Congress and make their lives better, why should they act?

In short, we're turning into one of these little third-world countries, where the rulers line their pockets and the people go without. We're not all the way there yet, but we're getting there.

Remember all those pictures of the looters in Iraq, stealing the furniture and fixtures out of the government buildings? Now, imagine that that's the United States, and the looters are the members of Congress. Then you'll have a pretty good idea of who is representing us, and what we're turning into.
I'm afraid I'm feeling some agreement with mishma666...which is always worrying.

there is a plutocracy issue in both parties...some blue dogs are opposing unemployment benefits too.

is the assumption that the unemployed and the hungry won't vote?

15 percent of your town...this number is unbelievable. so unbelievable.

excellent article lorraine.
Great post -- needs to make it into Congress. Should the Republicans filibuster, which they should be made to do, they should have to LISTEN to stories like this...Sorry things are so tough but good job getting out and helping.
rated for compassion
"Bleeping Congress better bleeping pass the unemployment benefits extension"

Amen. I find it interesting that the same people who are stonewalling while talking about a balanced budget had no problem voting for similar extensions under Bush, or for that matter in giving trillions in tax cuts to the wealthy.
Incredibly moving piece. Thank you for your compassion to those in need. I can't help but think about Malusinka's comment. As they say in life, some people get it and others don't. Be well.
Thank you for volunteering.
Excellent post.If the members of Congress read it would they be as moved as I was???
The only person who would feel that unemployment benefits were adequate to keep a person from looking for work has never had to try and support a family on them. I will stop now because I feel a rant coming on.
Once I'm done being awestruck at your touching volunteerism (and your compelling reportage of it), I will get around to being pissed at the Supreme Council of Shitheads who think there is still a debate to be had over this. I would like to punch my ticket to the Lorraine Berry and her Volunteer Heroes Fan Club. Thank you for your hard work.
There's a food bank at a church in my neighborhood, a Second Harvest type that distributes surplus food from supermarkets, including fresh(ish) produce. I think everyone pays $2 a bag but that's recent. All the volunteers take food home, also at $2 a bag. When it was free my friend used to bring me and some other neighbors she thought were needy embarrassing amounts, more than I could use. Though there are plenty of takers, they throw food away every week. I don't understand and my friend's explanations don't make sense.
mishima
I do agree with you. This is a plutocracy--actually, as Dan Savage called it, a "kakistocracy."
I know that food banks are a bandaid. But it's either that or let people starve while somebody organizes the revolution.
You have inspired me to write to my congressmen, and write a check to the food bank in my town.
My blood boils and my heart breaks reading this. Even more when someone starts bitching and complaining about what goes on in their lives and they don't have to worry about a thing. Very well done FLW. I pray for these people, our nation and that this comment sees the light of day. Congrats on the well-deserved EP. More importantly, thank you for volunteering to help these people and bring us their story.
Too bad these tears won't move Congress or the recession or the food line. xoxo
While they go home to their cool homes and lavish dinners. Everyone of them should be voted out of office this year!
They wonder why poor people are fatter. Not because they are lazy but because it stretches a budget further to have carbs...
I hope someone reads this with some power.
Hunger is on our doorstep. What arrives behind hunger?

You've clearly shown we don't have to go any farther than our own town to meet people who need the basics - it's not just 'overseas' and we need to bring our donations 'home' now. The concept of foreign aid is so disconsonant when we look to the left and to the right - and into the mirror - and see deep need growing day by day. In case of emergency, place the mask on yourself first before attempting to assist others.
James:
The reason I asked is that I wanted to know Lorraine's impression. I've lived in a country where many, many people were hungry. From the commentary I observed in the wake of the Haitian earthquake, many Americans have no clue as to what hunger is or looks like.

I'm proud that we have a society where that's true. I certainly think that people, and in particular, children, should never know real, bone-deep, never-ending, gut-twisting hunger.

You can be overweight and hungry, as all dieters know, but there's a fundamental difference between not enough to eat for dinner tonight and never enough to eat for dinner.

I don't live in the US and I don't know what it is like on the front lines. I asked the question because I wanted an answer, not to be snarky.
Sad to think this is going on across our nation! Thanks for keeping us aware.
R
Malusinka--
I overheard a heartbreaking conversation between mother and child. It seems she lets her kids pick out "their" food. One little girl hoards hers and eats it slowly, so she can stretch it out. They were discussing her brother, who had consumed his "little box of cookies" immediately.
I see people who are as thin as their bones; I see people who look bloated.
We also serve the mentally disabled and those who collect disability.
I know that one family is Ukranian, has a bunch of kids, and they all look as if they need feeding.
It's hard to tell the difference between "hungry" and "starving," but I know that people are going to bed on one meal a day. We have evidence of it at the pantry.
I get very sensitive about the use of the word "starving" in the United States. People who are starving are never overweight - they are dying. Their bodies are digesting themselves.

I totally appreciate that people need help with the groceries. Food banks are great for filling in the gaps where one's own money, food stamps, WIC, etc. are not fully meeting a family's needs. But having watched a dear friend actually starve to death due to anorexia (she was under 60 lbs when she died), and my husband having served a mission in sub-Saharan Africa, I get my quills up when people talk about overweight, average-weight or even slim Americans as "starving." Or actually, people who have the ability to drive down to the local food bank and stand in line as "starving." We really (thankfully) have no clue what widespread starvation looks like in our own country.

I'm glad the service exists, though. Because indeed, it is a good thing when people are meeting their caloric needs. I will definitely remember to pick up a few extra items at the grocery this week to drop off at the soup kitchen.
D&R--I'm not going to quibble with you. Yes. Of course. People in other parts of the world are starving to death in the streets. My 19-year old daughter saw it up close and personal this past year, and she has told me of her trauma. So, of course "starving" may be an overstatement.
On the other hand, these kids go to bed hungry. They're lucky if they get one meal a day in the summer. And the stuff they do eat is junk--the stuff that can be gotten rid of as a tax write-off by food producers.
On the other hand, we spend an awful lot of time proclaiming that we are the "greatest nation on earth." So why hunger, here, ever? Why are there homeless?
I appreciate that your hackles go up when you hear the word "starving." You should see my hackles go up when someone mentions the DRC. I'm not oblivious. And I appreciate your point.


For those of you who can't write a check to your local food bank, my cousin reported a wonderful thing: she has a plethora of vegetables this year because of the heat and rain. She called her local food bank and they are delighted to take any and all excess of her hands. If you've got extra veggies, consider donating them. I promise you, they'll be appreciated.
maybe if you tug yer forelock while you ask, "please sir, may we have more?" they will find an extra can of tuna, beans more likely.

there is a contemptible aspect of american character, visible in the rich as 'don't feed them them, it encourages laziness,' and in the poor as ' i know i'm a loser, but could i please scavenge your dumpster?'

if america had citizen initiative, the people wouldn't have to beg for food, or jobs or peace. if america had citizens, they would have citizen initiative. but america just has serfs, and beggars.
What a provocative discussion you've engendered, Lorraine! Thank you for your service--you are a work horse and community builder. I wish there were hundreds of Lorraine's in the world.

As for the unemployment thing, I have niggling information in my brain that I wish I didn't have. Perhaps you can help me out with it. I have a very good friend who, despite her advanced degree, works as a secretary. I'm guessing her hourly pay is $12/hour. Her husband, also with an advanced degree but with a history of hourly labor and temporary work, has been out of a job for a year. They have two children, 21 and 18, who have never worked. (On paper that sounds bad, but I think both kids have diagnosable issues). I have been keeping my eye out for work for her husband and occasionally suggest out-of-the-box ideas like "So-and-so works part-time at such-and-such, and since that is such a strong area of interest for (Hubby), maybe he should consider looking for a part-time job there and try to move up. Even if he doesn't move up, at least it's an area of great fascination for him, and he'd be great at it." (I'm leaving out the all-important details here that would seriously connect the dots for you, but oh well). Her answer (every time)? "Hubby has no interest in finding a job when he can make just as much money from unemployment. He tells me that all the time." When I protest that getting out of the house might be good for him (He seems depressed, etc.), she says he prefers to read his science magazines and play video games all day. (He's 55). My friend speaks with disgust. I asked her how she felt about the Congress's delay re unemployment and she sounded mixed. On the one hand, she can use the help. Her hubby's $200/week helps immensely given her own scant pay, but she also thinks that only when his unemployment runs out will he seriously consider finding a job.

Lorraine, I know this sounds like it's right out of a Rush Limbaugh script, but these people have been good friends of ours for 20 years, and it's kind of confounding to me in terms of how to think about this issue.
If I could jump in on Lainey's comment, the way to think about it is, it seems to me, there are lots of different people out there. I've known people like your friends. I've known people who keep collecting unemployment as long as possible while making cash money on the side. "It takes all kinds." These people aren't the norm, not who the generalizations should be made from and not who should determine national policy. People who are desperate for jobs and looking for them are the norm.
Thanks for writing this. Many people are really suffering. R
I have been a volunteer for food banks before Lorraine and know this heartache. The one I remember the most ran right out of food except for cans of veggies like green beans and corn. That was a couple of years ago.
I never will forget one young woman coming in and begging for diapers for her child. I slipped her a $20 out of my purse and and she thanked me with many tears in her eyes.

I think it was the faces of the children that will be with me forever. I will never forget the eyes of the children looking over the tables with those wide eyes. I went home and cried every time I volunteered.....
You are a hell of a woman Lorraine.
Lorraine, on so many levels this is an important post. One is the 15% figure; that is staggering. Based on the pictures you posted, your area doesn't seem to have any significant minority population. I raise that point because so many of the sh*ts who oppose unemployment benefits and anything else that smacks of welfare seem to think that most of the people collecting it are minorities, specifically African Americans. Even some of the geniuses in our beloved Congress probably think that or if they don't, they do nothing to disabuse their scanty-brained consituents of that belief.

I feel sorry for your tiny little body for having such a busy evening at the food bank, but thank you and all others who volunteer for caring enough about your neighbors to work to help them.

Lezlie
The poor have always been among us (who said that? someone famous....) But it was never this country's idea to create poor--until the last 35 years. The change has come. The great accumulated wealth of this nation has slipped through our fingers in places like Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
You walk the walk. How anyone can turn a blind eye is beyond me.
Thank you for doing this, Lorraine. I've been working on hunger issues in Indianapolis for the past eight years. Every day, Second Helpings (secondhelpings.org) feeds over 2,500 with food that was destined for the landfill. Pretty amazing--and pretty astonishing that the need, in the last eight years, has only grown.
My God! What a dire picture you have painted for us! Thank you for working so hard. This is awful. I'm weeping.
We, the People, need to hear more about this stuff. Rated.
A truly marvelous top quality post, makes you wonder how it made the front page here? Must have been a slow news day for crap!
I give what I can, you actively work on behalf of the poor. That means you outrank me.
It is unfortunate that there are always political angles in the mix. Mary Gravitt correctly pointed out that LBJ funded the VietNam war as did Bush the Lesser by borrowing instead of taxation lest the peasants revolt before they had gotten away with the loot.
The results were the ugly inflation that the actual culprits goated Jimmy Carter with, and the current economic malaise that we are enduring.
The food-banks are excellent charities and a great place to give your time and resources.
(R)ated for shouting this from the housetops!
One thing I didn't mention yesterday but wanted to is that many volunteers are also food bank clients. (Many are not.) But those who volunteer before we open get to be first in line, ensuring that they will get a full box of food (no, not extras, just that they get first choice of everything). We have a misc. table, where the odd items that get donated go. This is the special table, where things like herbs and spices, or the items that people donate go. (I once donated a bunch of "exotic" boxed dinners I was sure I was going to make--they were snapped up immediately. We have a lot of people who would love to eat more than pasta and beans.)

As I mentioned, if you have extra stuff in your gardens, please consider donating it to the food bank. Fresh vegetables are a luxury.

I was asked if people work for the food. Well, as I mentioned, some do by directly volunteering in the food bank. Others work in the organic garden, which provides us with fresh veggies throughout the summer.

The food bank is run entirely by volunteer labor (including Pat--who does not get paid), and by our association with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, the parent org. for food banks along the Southern Tier (the border between NY and PA).

I'm gratified by how well this piece has been received. I've been especially thrilled that people have shared this with their facebook friends, or they've twittered it.

I just want people to be aware that there are food banks from one end of this country to the other, and if each of us could make a small commitment ($5 a month?) to support the local food bank, it would go a long way toward getting us through this mess, in which we live in a system in which the rich and the poor live in different worlds.

But, as Pat points out, what we are seeing in the food bank (we add 5-7 families per opening), the middle class are our newest clients.
I have had need of the food shelf in the past. Thank you for that reminder. I will be making a donation this week because of you.

Hugs
Lorraine - thank you for helping us remember that it isn't just the holiday season when we need to donate what we can to food banks. The number of children living in food-insecure homes these days just breaks my heart. Our camp just did a service project at a local food bank - after working at the center, they picked 65 lbs. of fresh blueberries and donated them. The blueberry farm ended up donating the blueberries when they heard what they were for - might be worth others trying the same.
Thank you for writing what needs to be said. Congress finally passed the unemployment benefits yesterday.
Susan May
I never knew that this kind of volunteer organization (food pantry, soup kitchen, etc.) did not exist everywhere. Here in the UK, I am unaware of anything like it. The government steps in, I believe in the form of the welfare state, which is big. It's astonishing given the USA's relative wealth and power in the world that "we the people" have to do the real hands-on work to help each other eat. Kudos to you and Patricia and people like you who give of themselves.
Lorraine -- I remain in perpetual awe. You may not be the only person who owns the same passions and concerns you do, but you may well live in them more fully than anyone I know or have ever known. There. That's out of the way. Now then: "Starving." Yes, it is the right word. Perhaps technically not all those people are actually starving (or in the catobolic end-stages of starvation) but it is splitting hairs, especially in the wealthiest, most powerful
(and most arrogant) nation on earth. They are starving, and not only for food, but for inspiration and leadership. It's not forthcoming from Congress any time soon, so it must come from the first responders, those who will at least put water on this fire. That's where you, Lorraine, and people like you, come in. You respond. Every time, to every thing, it seems. And this is at least the short-term answer. You don't do this out of guilt or pressure; you do it out of love. As Paul Tillich wrote: "In mutal assistance what is most important is not the allevition of need but the actualization of love...Those who fight against death and disintegration through all kinds of relief agencies know this...there is no love that is given that does not become help. Where help is given without love, there new suffering grows from the help."

We the People are starving not only for food and leadership but for love. Our nation is not an officially loving one, and the plutocracy which owns its resources is starving us, some of food, all of love. Yet there are those who go out daily and with love and passion dispense help by means of that love. This may, in the end, be all we have, but you have created a spark, you have lit a fire, and it will grow. We do what we can. Some do more than that. Bless you dear friend for always doing more.
AJ,
Thank you. I'm so humbled by what you've said, I don't know how to respond.
Lorraine
Thank you so much for your honesty, you put your whole heart into this article........We need more people like you in the world.....Rated.