A Focus On Dignity
In a world hungry for excess, many Americans find it unbelievable that minutes from their home others may be hungry for food. But from our actual experience seeing poverty close up, we are struck by an even greater question: With circumstances so desperate, why don’t more people ask for our help? The vast majority of our clients would rather do anything than ask for support. In fact, we know for sure that more people need our assistance than are willing to ask for it.
Why? Because getting free food comes at too high a “price”.
To appreciate this reluctance, you have to understand that “price” is more than dollars and cents. At most food pantries/agencies getting assistance is not always easy or anonymous. For some they have to pay the price of lost self-esteem and lost time spent in line. For many, this price is simply too high, and consequently, many, including families with growing kids, are suffering hunger silently and unnecessarily.
We recognize the importance of maintaining dignity and we do not just want to “hand out” food; our goal is to offer a “neighbor’s” help and support in a time of need. Like the firemen down the block or the police around the corner, we strive to be part of the neighborhood safety net. Trying to provide hunger relief without a focus on dignity is counterproductive. That’s why we are doing everything we can to honor the self-respect of our clients as they move through this tough patch in their lives.
We have been amazed at how focusing on dignity has made a huge difference in the way our clients perceive getting support. Our Community Food Center, for example, feels more like a grocery store than a food pantry, where shoppers can choose items they most need off the shelf rather than getting a pre-filled bag selected by someone else.
Given our struggling economy, the tables are turning and some of our donors and volunteers have become our clients, we look forward to the day when they will be only donors and volunteers. To see hunger from both sides of the check-out line is to have a valuable perspective on human dignity and what it’s going to take to ensure a hunger-free society in our lifetime.
I am proud to be a member of the Philabundance team. You are part of our team, too. I hope this blog will offer us many opportunities to share ideas about ending hunger for good. It’s my favorite subject. Can you tell?