Christmas for me is always influenced by what else is going on in my life. Last year Christmas was all but lost. A very dear friend was in a serious car accident the week after Thanksgiving and was in the hospital or rehab until February. It was a depressing holiday at best.
This year is going to be remembered as the speediest Christmas in years. One of the ways I deal with the commercial craziness of Christmas is to be in total denial until after Thanksgiving. This year with less than four weeks between the holidays seems more crazed than usual.
But no matter what year, Loaves & Fishes is bombarded with activity in December: Record numbers of families needing help, media calling looking for that “feel good” holiday story, and countless donors sending money and food.
While speaking with a reporter this week – who was focused on Christmas – I found myself saying “The Christmas work of Loaves & Fishes extends far beyond Dec. 25.” May it be so in our hearts as well as our hands.
Posted in Loaves and Fishes
Tagged Charlotte, Christmas, donate, feed, feeding the hungry, food pantry, groceries, hunger, hungry, Loaves & Fishes, providing, thanks
We are compiling the results of our yearly client survey. One response stood out. When asked “What do you do when you run out of food?” the client replied “I eat oatmeal for three days.” That was before the decrease in SNAP benefits took effect.
Every family in the United States who receives SNAP (Food Stamps) will see a decrease in their benefits beginning this month. A family of four will receive $36 less per month in benefits. We at Loaves & Fishes decided to see what $36 of groceries actually looks like. Shopping at a chain supermarket known for low prices, we found out just how many meals $36 can provide.
There is really no good time this could have happened, but this is a very bad time. With the recent delays caused by NCFAST, the coming of cold weather, and the holidays upon us, we expect to see more need for emergency food than ever.
Posted in Loaves and Fishes
Tagged Charlotte, feeding the hungry, food, food pantry, Food Stamps, groceries, hunger, hungry, Loaves & Fishes, poverty, SNAP
Every once in a while we do something at Loaves & Fishes that just seems so perfect, I want to tell the world about it. That’s how I feel about the theme for this year’s Third Annual Loaves & Fishes Non-Event. What started out years ago as a “Cheese Ball” has evolved into an invitation to simply stay home!
In an office full of Downton Abbey fanatics, this year’s invitation theme features one of our very own board members posing as Lord Grantham inviting everyone to “Keep Calm and donate so Loaves & Fishes can carry on! ”. The invitation can be found on our website, www.loavesandfishes.org.
We have struggled for years with hosting a special event to benefit Loaves & Fishes. It all began with a formal gala, The Cheese Ball, held in Founder’s Hall to raise awareness of hunger in our community.
After a number of years we realized that as much fun as it was to attend, folks left knowing not much more about the actual mission of Loaves & Fishes than they came with. So we “brought the party to our house.” Our Feed the Need event, a low country boil and live auction, was held in our warehouse. Finally folks could see exactly what they were supporting.
But then calendars began to fill up for everyone, and doing a dinner for several hundred folks the same month as year-end inventory in the warehouse didn’t seem like such a good idea. So we decided what we needed was a “non-event”- an invitation to support Loaves & Fishes and stay home on a Saturday night. What a gift for everyone.
Everyone wins – folks can support our work without having to get all dressed up, our warehouse can continue to function through this very busy time in the pantries, and our staff can devote all their time to making sure Loaves & Fishes does what it was designed to do – get groceries to neighbors in need. Lord Grantham himself couldn’t have planned it better.
I had the pleasure of seeing my 9 year old granddaughter off to her first day of 4th grade this morning. She got up at 6 a.m. with no complaint, dressed herself all in pink, except for her brown cowgirl boots of course, and sat down to pancakes, bacon and orange juice. She was so far ahead of schedule that we played a few turns of the perpetual Monopoly game set up on the dining room table where she’s about to beat me. Then quick official first day of school pictures and a grin and wave and she was out the door.
As she left with her Daddy for school I was having the usual Nana moments – wasn’t it only last year that her father was starting Kindergarten in a plaid shirt and jeans and a backpack bigger than he was? But as I was loading the dishwasher I began to think of the hundreds of thousands of children going off to their first day of school this year. I can only hope and pray that they are awakened with a loving word, celebrated and enjoyed for the unique miracles they are, and provided with a healthy breakfast.
48% of the 126,803 people that Loaves & Fishes assisted with food last year were children. May their new school year include no hungry days.
Posted in Our Stories
Tagged breakfast, children, feeding the hungry, first day of school, food, groceries, hunger, hungry, Loaves & Fishes, new school year, school
We have been fortunate to have Elizabeth Cooper, a junior marketing major from Clemson, interning with us this summer. Here Elizabeth shares her experiences volunteering in our food pantries…
Most people can relate to the above statement in one way or another. While the sole purpose of traveling to the grocery store is to pick up what you need for the week, more times than not it often ends up being a social outing—especially if you shop at the closest one to your neighborhood. Growing up, I used to love going to the grocery store with my mom, and not just because that meant I could select my special cereal for the week. Now don’t get me wrong, the main purpose for going to the store is to purchase food for the week, but there happens to be some other small incentives that come along with that.
Our clients are now becoming comfortable with the idea of client choice, in turn allowing them to have a sense of dignity when visiting a pantry. Unlike our old model, clients now have the opportunity to hand-select their grocery items, just like someone would in their local Harris Teeter. In addition, a volunteer walks around from start to finish with each client, ensuring that they are receiving the food that they are eligible for depending on their family size. While attending the pantry, clients can feel a little vulnerable and discouraged in the fact that they are in their current financial situation. However, it brings me great comfort and joy in saying that there has not been one pantry that does not have a multitude of volunteers who offer a warm greeting or a comforting hug to each client that walks through our pantries doors. How’s that for your local grocery store?
Throughout my time at Loaves & Fishes I have volunteered and visited several of our pantries around town. I have seen clients choosing cake mix or sweet treats as one of their items. After digging a little deeper with a few clients, I discovered that these parents want the best for their children; making every birthday or special occasion as great as the previous one, regardless of their financial situation. In addition, a sense of community is formed in the waiting rooms. Just like a grocery store, our pantries serve as a place where clients can share their stories or build a new friendship while waiting to be served. Even if it’s just the small talk that occurs in the pantry waiting room, clients and volunteers have the ability to make a connection that’s a little deeper than what is on the surface. This allows a certain barrier to be broken and a sense of acceptance to be formed during their visit to the pantry. Not only have I picked up on the fact that there is a certain sense of community within the pantries, but there is a sense of friendship that can easily be overlooked. It’s something as simple as a friendly face, a warm smile, and an encouraging hug “hello” or “goodbye” from our volunteers, that sets our pantries apart from a regular grocery store experience.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO WE. (Birthday song for twins - Sung to trad. tune)
I am old enough not to get too excited about birthdays – after all it seems like they come just weeks apart. And they tend to veer towards being festivals instead of days. But there is still something special about that one day a year. I was lucky enough to share a birthday with my sister for the first 58 years of my life. And after she died it took a while for me to get used to having a birthday all to myself. But now I’m starting to think of it as “my” birthday instead of “our” birthday.
One of the most poignant calls I ever heard left on an answering machine came into the Loaves & Fishes office more than 20 years ago. It was a Monday morning and the message was from a young mother. She had picked up food from Loaves & Fishes on Friday morning. When she got home and went through the food she found a cake mix. Her son’s birthday was the next day and if not for Loaves & Fishes he wouldn’t have had a cake to celebrate turning seven. I know that made his 7th birthday seem official to him, regardless of the circumstances.
I wonder how many people have used food provided by Loaves & Fishes to celebrate a birthday or other important day in their life? We never know the full import of our deeds, good or bad, and we do well to remember that. That little boy is in his late twenties by now. Hope he is making a difference for someone who is following in his steps.
Posted in Our Stories
Tagged birthday, cake, Charlotte, feed, feeding the hungry, food, food pantry, groceries, hunger, hungry, Loaves & Fishes, providing
Our guest blogger is Margery Adams, a spring intern from UNCC. Margery shares her thoughts about the true meaning of hunger through an open letter to other students.
A note to my fellow students:
I say this so often it seems to be my life motto these days. “I’m hungry”, “There’s nothing here to eat”, “Why is take-out so expensive”, “Do I have enough money in my bank account for Taco Bell so I don’t have to eat the canned peas in my pantry”, we’ve said them all before. Scavenging for food off of my friends dinner plates, inviting my parents up to see my apartment…and take me out to dinner, ramen noodles every night- sometimes I act like I haven’t eaten for days. I thought I had it so bad, like every other college student. It wasn’t until I started interning at Loaves & Fishes that I realized how ignorant and blind I had truly been. I wasn’t hungry, I was picky. I was used to home cooked meals, eating out at my favorite restaurants and dinner leftovers from my brother who lived ten minutes down the road. Never once had I experienced an empty pantry, never once had my belly gone un-fed. It wasn’t until I was fully submerged in my work at Loaves & Fishes that I realized how many people in the Charlotte area had, in fact, experienced a growling belly, a limited amount of food on their empty pantry shelves, and the uncertainty of where their next meal would come from. I found that my meaning of “hungry” was strikingly different from theirs.
I was humbled the first time I visited the pantry at Holy Comforter and met some of the visiting clients. They weren’t just grabbing different foods and throwing them in their cart. They definitely weren’t trying to decide which snack would be better at 2 in the morning. They were busy calculating the meals they would make for their families in the weeks to come. Strategically planning their children’s packed lunches for school. They were choosing food that would keep their bellies full and satisfied. Why couldn’t I put that kind of thought into buying groceries? I suddenly knew why. I was never nervous about where my next meal would come from. If worse came to worse, I could eat those canned peas that had been sitting patiently in my pantry. Some people don’t have that sense of comfort. Some people don’t have that can of peas waiting.
And so I urge you fellow students, the next time you open that fridge and mutter, “There’s nothing here to eat”, perhaps you should reevaluate what your meaning of “nothing” really is.
It happened again. This time I was being shown around a church by the Associate Pastor. She was showing me their food pantry – a small space but with a very good assortment of food available. As we were talking about feeding the hungry she said “I need to make a full disclosure”. I should have known what was coming, but was still taken by surprise. “I was a client of Loaves & Fishes several years ago”.
She went on to explain that she had grown up firmly middle class, but several simultaneous misfortunes had put her in a crisis where she literally had nothing to eat. As we so often hear – in the years since her Loaves & Fishes visit, she had returned to school, finished college and attended graduate school. She is now fully employed and totally independent. And has a passion for providing food to all who need it.
I don’t know why I am surprised after all these years. Countless people have taken me aside to confide they were once recipients of Loaves & Fishes’ help. It happens in churches, when I’m talking to groups of corporate folks and among new volunteers. Just one more reminder that “the hungry” look just like you and me. Indeed it could be any of us tomorrow.
Posted in Our Stories
Tagged feed, feeding the hungry, food, food pantry, groceries, hunger, hungry, Loaves & Fishes, poverty, providing, volunteer
Good days and bad days….days of calm and days of chaos. We all have them. At Loaves & Fishes today we are beginning a new season – holidays are over, Scouting for Food on Feb. 2 was a rousing success, and we just held an Open House for all our friends and supporters to see our enlarged warehouse space, renovated offices and celebrate the Snyder’s-Lance company’s donation of “Lancey” – a beautiful new 18-foot delivery truck!
And although we expect calmer and quieter days ahead, we know that things keep happening – life will bring surprises both good and bad. I have spent some time travelling in Alaska and have been fascinated each visit by watching glaciers calve – the timeless breaking off of huge chunks of snow and ice which slide down into the sea. There is no warning but a deafening roar as the ice hits the water. I often think about that during chaotic days here – no matter what is going on in Charlotte, or in my life, the glaciers in Alaska are continuing their eternal activity.
And so does the heart of Loaves & Fishes keep beating – volunteers continue to appear at the phone center daily to take food referrals and operate our 19 food pantries and show up at the warehouse to sort and pack donated food. Individuals and churches faithfully send money so that we can purchase perishables. The glaciers continue their slow slide to the sea and Loaves & Fishes continues to provide food to hungry families no matter what kind of day we’re having – which fills me with both comfort, that it’s not all about me, and gratitude.