I don’t know what it’s like to truly be hungry. I don’t have a medical condition that affects my ability to eat certain foods. While we aren’t rich and do have debt (credit cards, student loans, etc), we never struggle to buy groceries. Hell I don’t even diet (maybe I should but that’s a different blog post on a different day). I have attempted food bank challenges in the past but trying to survive on extremely limited resources for only a week isn’t really about me being hungry. It’s about bringing awareness to the situation and it is an eye-opening experience for those that participate. It’s hard for me to even fathom what it feels like mentally, emotionally, and physically to be hungry. Really hungry and wondering how you will feed your family tonight, tomorrow, and everyday after that.
Back in December when I wrote about Intentional Acts of Kindness, I pledged to do more including volunteering in my community. So last month, I spent the day at my local food bank, the Interfaith Community Services Food Bank (ICS). It’s an organization that I’ve donated to in the past, knowing they are helping feed hungry families in our community. Today I wanted to share what I learned that day.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program is in place to help supplement the food needs of low-income families in our community. Each family receives the same standard bag of surplus goods provided by the USDA along with other donations acquired by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Bigger families receive additional bags depending upon the size of their household.
While I am sure that any food is appreciated, I have to admit the bag of standard food given is pretty sad. Especially since you only get ONE visit a month. Some food pantry locations, like ICS, also provide additional food items including bread, produce, and dairy or meat depending upon availability.
The additional food items that ICS consistently supply makes it a very popular food pantry location in Tucson. Some clients travel across town to visit the ICS food pantry rather than one closer to them. Clients are allowed to shop for 5 different additional items from the pantry shelves. The volunteers keep each shelf stocked with variety of products. Allowing clients to choose their own additional products makes the experience more like a regular grocery store visit.
When fresh food items are available, clients get additional food. On the day I visited they also had meat, earlier in the day there were a few different choices until the end of the day when only sliced turkey breast was left. There was no dairy or produce that day because the selection of fresh food is very dependent upon restaurants and grocery stores donating overstock items.
I learned they almost always have bread and bagels to offer their clients. They have several local bakeries and businesses that regularly donate their day old bread including Eegees, Einsteins Bagels, and the Village Bakehouse.
The selection of extra fresh food options vary each day so there are no guarantees, but the volunteers of the ICS Food Bank work hard to keep the shelves stocked and clients happy.
In fact, I think the friendly attitude and helpfulness of the volunteers is amazing and likely why so many clients visit. They average 100 clients (or 100 families) each day. Considering that clients can only visit once a month, that means they help lots of hungry Southern Arizona families.
This actually leads me to an important point–the primary focus of the food bank is food, but they try to meet all their clients’ needs. Donations of toiletries, diapers, and pet food are also appreciated. I love donating to the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona because as a mom I can’t imagine having to choose between clean diapers and food. Unlike most drop off locations for the Diaper Bank, the ICS food pantry will accept opened packages of diapers. It’s a perfect solution when a new brand doesn’t work for your kiddo, or when they move up a size halfway through the package. Adult diapers are also greatly appreciated!
How you can help the hungry in Tucson:
Check out the ICS website for a list of their most needed items. Hold a food drive, pick up extra items when you find a great sale, or consider donating your time. As with most organizations cash donations are greatly appreciate.
How you can help the hungry anywhere:
Check out Feeding America for ways to help nationally, including advocating and volunteering, raising funds, and donating to your own local food pantry.