I experienced hunger and food insecurity for a number of years after my health crashed and my life fell apart. But I couldn’t eat most of what food pantries give away because what my body can digest is extremely limited – and I feel vibrant and healthy only when I respect my body’s limitations. I counted the few pantry items I could eat as a blessing, though.
My first time there, looking around the room and the line of people slowly making selections from the amply laden tables, I regretted how much food I could not eat. Then, I saw an opportunity for kindness to grow out my gastrointestinal sensitivity. Why not go ahead and accept all the gifts of food presented to me, and then share them with others?
I had a permanent address (by the grace of God). I knew there were many people without a local address living full-time in vehicles parked at Walmart. More than half the times I drove past I saw presumably homeless people panhandling at the parking lot entrance. Without a local address they couldn’t receive food from the food pantry. It was a small community and I knew there were few other resources for them.
So my first day at the food pantry, and every other time I accepted the abundance they provided, I separated the food into three bags: One for me. A second for people who do not have access to a kitchen (or can opener) and need to be able to eat from the packaging. And a third for people with a kitchen.
Yogurt, energy bars, fruit, cans with pull-tab tops, cereal and other easy-to-eat items (along with plastic silverware I tried to remember to carry in my car) went to whoever was at the Walmart entrance. If no one was there, I drove around a while longer looking for people in need. I always found someone.
It took a little more time to identify recipients for the bag of dried beans and cans of other kitchen-requiring food outside my diet. The first time it went to two women and five children who were packing their Walmart purchases into a beat-up vehicle. One time it went to a down-and-out indigenous man with whom I struck up a conversation outside the post office. So many working and disabled people with homes are not making enough money to be confidently free of hunger.
Every time, the conversations we had, and their smiles made me as grateful to be able to share food with others as I was for the food I kept for myself.
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