I have been unemployed for the past seven months, I understand cutting back and spending less, because of this life change. In the past seven months my husband and I have eaten out less and tightened our spending. One prospect I have fortunately never been faced with is the inability to buy groceries. For my third day of the Volunteer Odyssey challenge, I worked with, Catholic Charities of West Tennessee, they give groceries to families who cannot afford them, three days a week; through the Fig Tree Food Pantry. What they do is something wonderful and meaningful.
During my time at the food pantry I helped pack bags and boxes for families of varying sizes. I have donated to food pantries over the years through schools, churches, and food drives. Other than the canned vegetables I donated I had never given much thought to what a needy family receives from food banks. The food pantry tries to give the most balanced bag of food as possible to the families. The bag includes canned vegetables, soups, dry noodles, tuna, peanut butter, and many other options. These bags are usually packed ahead of time. A family of 1-3 will receive a bag, a family of 4-5 will receive a larger box, and a family of 6 or larger will receive a box and a bag. In addition to these dry goods the families are provided fresh bread, a variety of meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables (when available). These items are pulled as the families arrive. The amount of meat and produce also depends on the size of the family. On average the food pantry serves 10-15 families a day. On the day I volunteered we served 13 families. My duties this day were to help pack bags of dried goods, greet families as they came in, and help get items together to send with the families
Before I came to Fig Tree Food Pantry, I assumed that when the food pantry is open, families that need groceries just come in to shop. As it turns out, these families are referred to the food pantry by other aide organizations and agencies. Wednesday when I was at the pantry, it was visited by families from Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), Refuge Services, and the Red Cross. Most of the recipients are not homeless, just unable to make ends meet.
One family I met moved to Memphis from Baghdad, Iraq. The parents have a four-year-old daughter. They are alone with no family in Memphis. The food pantry makes special provisions for this family, because they do not eat pork. They make sure to supply them with products that do not contain pork, and instead supply them with beef or chicken. The father told the volunteers that his wife is about to undergo heart surgery. He asked if the volunteers knew a way for him to get someone to stay with his wife, because he is starting a new job.
I also met a single mother of four children; she works in a school cafeteria during the school year. However, she does not make enough to support her family during the summer when school is out. She told me how she spent all of her savings in order to send her oldest son to football camp, because he loves playing. The mother also told of the ways she likes to cook, and her love of trying new recipes. She even gave me some cooking tips. In her cooking she is challenged with making the most out of what she has to offer her children. She was grateful for what she was given and it was very inspiring to see her making the best out of her circumstances.
I loved my time spent at the food pantry. I came away with a greater appreciation for what I have and my family. It is a powerful thing to be able to connect these families with resources they need. Volunteers run the Fig Tree Food Pantry and I could not have asked for a nicer group of people. I hope to go back and help out again.
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