What a party

by

When Sara approached the counter to register for a food hamper it was very clear that she was uncomfortable. As I talked to her she told me that the crowds were making her uncomfortable. She doesn’t like to be around a lot of people even on a good day. And lately she’s starting to forget what a good day feels like.

My fridge never stays full long. I have five teenagers at home, plus my husband, Robert and I. My kids never feel full – no matter what they eat or how much they eat. I never thought I’d be spending this much on groceries. I always grew up having enough money to buy whatever I wanted; but now I barely have enough money to buy all the things we need. And it’s not going to be any easier now that my best friend, Amy moved in. She was evicted from her apartment after not being able to make her rent again. She told me it’d be temporary until she can get a full-time job again. But I knew she wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for her bad-tempered boyfriend, Josh mouthing off to his employer. He deserved to get fired for it. But doesn’t he care about paying the rent? It almost seems like he doesn’t care how he’s hurting Amy. I’m not a fan of Josh but I know Amy loves him and she’s a close friend. So I agreed to let them move in with me for a bit because I couldn’t live with the idea of her living on the streets. And she won’t go into a shelter because they won’t be allowed to be together.
Now they’re going to be staying with me for a lot longer. Recently Amy was in a terrible car accident. So Robert and I are trying to make the best of our even fuller house. As if things weren’t busy enough we’ve got two more people to sit at the table everyday. Our house is a big party, except without the fun. Sometimes it can be hard to have friends. You don’t want to turn them away but it’s not easy to take them in when you don’t have a lot to spare.

Imagine being at Sara’s table even before getting a food hamper. Since there are so many people in the house and barely any income to cover all the expenses it’s more than likely that you’ve been eating a lot of cheaper foods like rice, beans, potatoes and pasta – all the starchy foods that aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices but make you feel the fullest. These might not be the foods you’re craving at the end of the day; it’s just all the grocery budget can afford so that everyone can continue to see food on the table.

Now that Amy and Josh are living with you things are even tighter. No one wanted to give their identification to register for a food hamper program. They have a lot of fear and uncertainty. They’ve never had to come to a food bank before. But what other options are there? How many more days can everyone skip eating a meal? As a parent, how many more times can you listen to your children tell you there’s nothing to eat? There’s a clear choice: go hungry or ask for a food hamper. Which would you do?

Everyone is anxiously waiting for you to come home. And you can’t wait to get out of our building. This is an experience you never imagined living. But you know that this food hamper means so many different things: you’ll have the money to pay the rent and other bills, and you’ll also all be able to eat dinner for the first time in a few days. Then we call your name.

You thank the volunteer who packed your hamper after giving you the food hamper. But before packing the boxes in your car you take a second to look through the food that you received:

This is a hamper that we packed for a family of seven people.

You’re thankful for what you’ve received but you can’t stop thinking about a few of the things you were hoping to see. There are no eggs or cheese…the kids won’t really like that cereal…and I’ve never cooked cabbage before. And wait, what can the kids take as a snack to school? You’ve got a million questions and thoughts running through your head. Plus you know once you get this stuff home the kids will impulsively want to eat a lot of the items, especially the pretzels and cookies. How can you ask them to wait? This food is all you have until your child tax benefit comes through in a few days.

This food is a blessing and a challenge all in one bundle. You’re going to have to adjust your cooking habits and food preferences a little because what other choice do you have? You could spend a few dollars from your bank account but then your hydro may be cut off because they won’t let your overdue charges run much higher. If you still have a phone setup, you can look forward to the inevitable collection agency calls. Then how do you explain that to the kids? Finally you decide that you’ll find a way to mange through the food because a little sacrifice now will bring better things in the future. Hopefully.

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