While many families are looking forward to vacation, thousands of families are scrambling to figure out how to put food on the table over the next few months. There are more than 300,000 children in the Delaware Valley who are eligible for free and reduced meals in school. More than 231,000 of those children live in Pennsylvania and nearly 72,000 children live in New Jersey all within Philabundance’s nine county service area in the Delaware Valley. These families rely on free and reduced meals during the school year and without access to those meals, it will be a challenge to ensure there is food on the table this summer.
Read how our guest blogger Janine struggled with food insecurity during her childhood, and how the kindness of community members changed her life forever.
The image some of us conjure up of someone who is food insecure, or in need of food, may be in the form of a homeless person, or someone who takes advantage of government programs when they really don’t need to. A few individuals may fit this stereotype, but most food insecure people in our country do not. They look just like you and me
A food insecure person looks like the guy with whom you used to work or the man that used to coach your child’s little league team. She was your teacher, who grew too old to continue to teach or your neighbor down the street whose house went into foreclosure. Food insecure people are the soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan and come home to nothing and no one. They are people from all income brackets and from all professions. All it takes is the loss of a job, or a medical emergency…It could happen to any one of us, and it happened to me.
My parents separated when I was five. My mother was raised to be a homemaker and was not equipped to support a family, so we moved…often. Many times, I did not know when my next meal would come.
The challenge as a child was hiding what went on in my home. I tried to look and act like everything was fine. However, the reality was life was spiraling out of control. That feeling is too much for a child to handle. At times my mom and I relied on organizations like Philabundance to help provide food—other times we settled for what little food we had in the pantry. I have lived in poverty; I have been abused; I have been neglected; I was unwanted, unloved and homeless.
The statistics state that I would never be able to rise above my circumstances and that I would repeat the cycle with my own children. However, the problem with statistics is that they didn’t factor in the powerful affect that one person had on my life.
One woman made a difference in my life by seeing in me what I did not see in myself: the possibilities. Renee, my fathers first wife, used to say I was a diamond in the rough, and all I needed was some polish. Her love and effort to get me back on my feet allowed me to flourish and grow. The changes in me, slow at first, brought about a desire to change my circumstances so that the cycle would not continue. By breaking the cycle, my children have never known poverty and have never been without a meal.
Renee died more than fifteen years ago. She might not have known the impact her kindness, love, and support made in my life but she reached out to me with the thought that one person can make a difference. By collecting cans of food, donating spare change, and attending Philabundance benefits & events you are fighting hunger and like the woman who made a difference in my life, you are making a difference as well. It may not seem like much to you, but to someone like me who needed that help to survive, it means the world. So please consider being a hunger hero this summer because hunger doesn’t take a vacation.
Janine is a Language Facilitator in a Bucks County middle school. She lives in Warminster with her husband Chuck, three teenagers and their family dog.