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Hunger Is Grants: Making a difference one food bank at a time

April 2, 2015

Hunger in America is real.

The scenarios that force families to rely on food bank assistance are countless and varied. Already, 1 in 5 children in America live in households lacking consistent access to adequate food. Without the help of food banks like Sweet Home Emergency Ministries (SHEM) in Oregon, these numbers could be even more staggering. SHEM was one of the 198 charities selected to receive a grant from the Hunger Is initiative.

With their grant, SHEM was able to purchase fresh milk. Cindy Rice, food bank manager, explains, “Milk is really expensive to purchase and it’s so important for families, people are so grateful for it.” Serving more than 2,000 members of the community each month, SHEM provides a monthly food box to a household that includes enough food for each person to have 3 meals a day for up to five days. On a weekly basis clients can come in for fresh bread, vegetables and perishables.

These three families utilize SHEM for food assistance, including a first time client, and share their stories—illuminating just how real the hunger struggle in America is.

Family One

Q: How would your describe your family’s current situation?
A: Our family just got a 25-foot travel trailer and moved to Sweet Home, Oregon. Before that, we were homeless for 6 months. We have a 9-year-old grandson that lives with us, so there are 3 adults and 1 child in our trailer.

Q: How does having access to Sweet Home Emergency Ministries Impact your family?
A: The food bank is the difference between having food to eat and going to bed hungry.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you and your family face fight now?
A: The small amount of space in our trailer can cause a lot of stress. Also, making sure our trailer is weatherproof—our roof leaks and the flooring is dangerously rotted. We deal with daily physical disabilities, which makes it hard for us to cope. It’s been difficult for our grandson to make friends and fit in at school.

Q: What is your hope for the future of your family?
A: That we can be happy together, despite the challenges and hard times we live each day. We are looking for good jobs and would like to improve our living situation soon.

Q: How does milk make a big difference to you and your family?
A: It’s hard to provide a nutritious diet for all of us in the trailer, with food story and refrigeration limitations. We do our best with the resources we have available. Milk helps our grandson get the calcium he needs to have strong bones and teeth.

 

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Family Two

Q: How would your describe your family’s current situation?
A: My husband and I are trying to raise our grandchildren, as their parents are not able to. We have two grandsons who are in the sixth and seventh grade and a granddaughter in the second grade. It is very expensive to raise a family today. Due to the economy, we lost our home and now are homeless. Sometimes, we can stay with friends—often in a basement or garage.

Some friends will let us store food items in a refrigerator or allow us to cook a meal in their home. We try to feed our family good meals, but it’s so hard, especially when cooking isn’t always possible. We eat a lot of ready to eat items, because we don’t always have a way to keep food cold or cook them. These are not always the best kind of foods for growing children.

Sometimes, we must even sleep in our vehicle. With three school age children, trying to go to school is very difficult for them. The boys are especially embarrassed of our living situation. The older kids are unkind and can be very hurtful with words and teasing. Our granddaughter doesn’t understand why we can’t live in a house anymore with a real bed of her own. It’s depressing and frustrating to be in this place.

Q: How does having access to Sweet Home Emergency Ministries Impact your family?
A: We are grateful for SHEM in Sweet Home. They help our family not be hungry. Even with food stamps, there’s never enough food to go around, and it feels like the boys never really get filled up. It’s hard, too, over the weekends, when there’s no school, so the kids don’t always get breakfast or lunch during the day. SHEM provides enough food to help bridge the gap between an empty stomach and enough to stop the ache. I spend a lot of time trying to devise ways to stretch the food we have. It’s hard, very hard for us to live like this. SHEM tries hard to provide food for so many people in Sweet Home and they truly care that we are struggling here.”

Q: What is your hope for the future of your family?
A: I have hopes that my grandchildren will get good educations and eventually attend college. That dream seems far off and often unreachable, for them, but I hope and pray they do make it. I hope to someday have a stable home again, where we can live together and not have to keep up this constant movement to other places. My husband is in poor health and sometimes we can’t even get the health care he needs. We should be enjoying retirement, not struggling to just get through each day

Q: How does milk make a big difference to you and your family?
A: The kids really need milk. It’s a good source of protein and when we can’t cook somewhere, we are all able to have cereal and milk as an easy-to-fix, but also nutritious meal.

Family 3 (first time visitors to SHEM)

Q: How would your describe your family’s current situation?
A: I’m a single mom, with two children—ages 8 and 6. We haven’t ever been to SHEM before, but have just moved here to a small rental home to start over. The house isn’t that great and has lots of problems with the heating and plumbing, but it’s all we can afford with our resources, there’s little left at the end of the month. It’s spring break, and the meals the kids received at school really help stretch our food for us.

Q: How does having access to Sweet Home Emergency Ministries Impact your family?
A: SHEM gave my family peace of mind, knowing we would not go hungry. It’s hard to watch your babies go to bed hungry. I’ve even skipped meals just to make sure they have enough so they can get to sleep. The people at SHEM have treated us s respectfully and kindly.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you and your family face fight now?
A: Finding a part time job that pays enough and a schedule that works for my family.

Q: What is your hope for the future of your family?
A: I hope for a better life for my kids, where they don’t have to go to the food bank for assistance, but they can be the ones helping others find their way too.

Q: How does milk make a big difference to you and your family?
A: Receiving milk today was just wonderful for us, especially as the end of the month looms ahead, and the food stamp benefits are gone for the month. We’ll have to ration it carefully to make it last. Thank you, SHEM, for caring about our family.