Have you ever really been hungry?
Not, Oh, crap. We missed the last exit with a McDonald’s and will have to wait another 40 miles until we get a Big Mac hungry.
More like, scrounging and counting change and hoping it amounts to a can of baked beans that can tide you over until tomorrow hungry.
I mean, staring at your cupboard and refrigerator and wondering how inventive you can be with ketchup, canned tuna and a bag of rice when preparing your family dinner tonight hungry.
For most of us, “hungry” is the emotion we feel between lunch and dinner. Hungry is the twinge in our tummy that erupts when we opt to forgo the pastry in the morning meeting and realize we’ll have to wait until the afternoon to run out for a chicken burrito (yes, I’ll take the guacamole) at Chipotle.
But for a silent minority, hungry is something far more critical than a passing emotion. Hungry is a state of existence that transcends generations and neighborhoods. Hungry is a scenario facing not only those folks below the poverty line, but also those folks who are considered the “working poor.”
What do you know about poverty, anyway?
I sure as hell didn’t know much about poverty until I started exploring the circumstances. I brushed off those in need as people who perhaps didn't take advantage of the many human services available in Greater Cincinnati. I perceived some of these people to be lazy or mentally challenged – a nearly hopeless cause, trapped in a cycle of disadvantage.
The fact of the matter is, many people living in poverty are the same people who drive your bus, take care of your dry clean-only items or hand that Big Mac over to you through the drive-thru window.
Research shows a family or individual must be making 200% above the poverty level to be considered financially stable and self sufficient. The “poverty line” doesn’t cut it anymore – individuals must make more than $20,000, families of four $42,000 – to be considered economically solvent.
But there are many, many, many families in our area praying to pull together far less than 42 grand.
And those are the families and individuals that receive assistance from the hundreds of human service programs available in the Tri-State.
FreestoreFoodbank is one of those noble agencies.
Freestore has a variety of programs to help those in need. Some of these programs are what you’d expect, including grocery distribution to families with bare cupboards. Freestore also feeds our hungriest children, through a Kids Café program that offers prepared meals to students at local schools, and through a Backpack Program, which sends children home with enough food to tide them over through a weekend at home.
The agency certainly offers many hand outs, but I also am incredibly impressed with Freestore’s “hand up.” Cincinnati COOKS! is a program that helps train those in need, giving low-income, at-risk adults the skills they need to work in the food service industry. The program also strives to place these people in higher paying jobs with benefits and career potential.
So, you’ve read all this and you’re thinking, “That’s great, Kate. Freestore sounds wonderful, but what do you want me to do about it?”
Well, I’ve made my pitch – here’s the ask.
Like many agencies, Freestore is in need of your support this holiday season. Cash is tight for everyone, but even more so for those folks living on the edge of financial stability. More and more people will need Freestore’s services this holiday season, and that means more of us need to step up and make what sacrifice we can to help out.
I’m not asking for your time – though that’s just as valuable (if not more so) as cash for most of us.
I’m asking you to think about what you can contribute financially. Be it a couple cans of green beans or an entire Thanksgiving spread – any effort of any size will make a difference. A whole fryer turkey checks in at $26.55, and a 1/5 a pound of onions is a buck. There’s something for every budget.
Please join me and visit FreestoreFoodbank’s Virtual Food Drive, and consider what contribution you can make.
Let's ensure everyone will have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday.