Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hungry for the Holidays

For many teen parents this is the one time of the year that you may not be hungry. Your friends and family make sure you have a little something or maybe they will feed your kids. I wanted to put this up just in case it might help someone who is hungry this holiday season.

Many organizations, and there are many, refer to what we used to call going hungry as "food insecurity" and it is no surprise that it is related to poverty. According to FEEDING AMERICA:

In 2012, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average[ approximately 20% of all American homes] included households with children (20.0 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (35.4 percent) or single men (23.6 percent).

Poverty is linked to unemployment, according to Feeding America, again, no surprise there. However, unemployment, according to me, and, relative to teen parents, is linked to lack of education, lack of transportation, lack of child care, lack of access to medical, dental and sight treatment. All of this to say that there are many ways in which a person can be or become unemployed. It is not a simple matter of inability or laziness, especially for teen parents.

So, in my last post I wrote about sometimes feeling like that teenage welfare mother, part of that is feeling hunger. I grew up hungry; my son grew up "food insecure." I grew up in a military family and while the government pays poverty level wages to those who enlist without a college degree, on every military installation there is an organization that makes certain that every family is food secure. Also, on military bases you tend to live real close to your neighbors. It is a very small percentage of people living in military housing who would allow their neighbor to go without. There was not a lot of food but there was always just enough food.

When my son was two years old we moved from my mother's house to our own home. It was a tool shed with a bathroom addition. We were food insecure because there was no certainty that I would be able to provide food nor did I have a support system in place to feed us. This was my own doing. I estranged myself from my family and refused food stamps because I was too proud to use them in the grocery store. This was so wrong-headed that in hindsight I cannot believe that I allowed my pride to threaten my child's food security. It forced me to get a job that would support us with help covering the cost of child care the sporadic disbursement of government cheese and milk, and a housing supplement for the rent. Without that support from the state, I would not have been able to afford to get a job. That is pathetic but true. That government cheese went a long way some months.

If you are reading this you have access to a computer, or someone who loves you is reading this on their computer, phone, tablet, whatever, so I am going to make a list of links below to organizations that can help you find food wherever you live in America. You may already be aware of many of them. Maybe the same brochure is still sent with your holiday welfare check that I got with mine listing the shelters, soup kitchens and food banks in my area.

There are MANY organizations and state and local government offices that address hunger issues in America. The problem is that their websites are geared to attract donors and volunteers. They information on how to get to the food that the donors and volunteers provide is often buried deep within the website pages. It is hard to concentrate when you are hungry, so I have provided links to sites that either provide the necessary information on the home page or on a page that can be accessed in 1-3 clicks. If you are reading this and you know of similar resources please post the link.

I am starting this list but what I offer you is this: Do not be too proud to go get food.

One World Everybody Eats lists - right on the home page - cafes where the food can be bought according to your budget or bartered for with volunteering your time.

Panera Cares lists Panera Community Cafes in your area. These are not Panera Restaurants!

United States Department of Agriculture SNAP program. I had to dig for this one. You have to apply for the benefits but the process looks very streamlined and quick.

Feeding America provides Food Bank locations.

Food Pantries has listings of food banks and soup kitchens.

I offer this link with caution. I have not fully vetted it yet and it really is a more long range approach. Even if you don't open an account with Food Insurance, the website will give you great ideas for purchasing and storing foods that will keep longer and allow you to always have a collection of "Staple Foods" in your cupboard, backpack, car or shopping cart.

I am listing Whyhunger because there are a lot of resources on the site but you could starve to death looking for food. Use the link but ignore the search engines they don't work for the hungry; they work for the organizations that would feed you, if you could find them. Go all the way down the page and on the bottom right hand side there is a tiny box just above it, it says " find food", put your zip code in there, click "go" and you will get results.

May your table be full of love and calories all year long.