There was a time when I had to use the Emergency Food Shelf.
My ex-husband and I had gotten married a few months earlier, and we’d moved to Vermont after my internship at a farm in Wisconsin fell through. We both got jobs and found an apartment, but at the end of that summer, we looked at our finances and realized we had barely enough to pay the next month’s rent.
We were living off the culled gone-by fruits and vegetables I brought home from my job as produce manager at an all-organic market, plus a big bag of rice. We’d eat what we could at our jobs–him at the restaurant where he managed to get part-time work, me the left-overs from the deli case at the end of the day, and I’d try to make something filling for the rest of the meals.
When we realized our options–stay and pay that last month’s rent and have nothing to live on or put in the gas tank, or high-tail it back to South Dakota where we had a bit more of a safety net of friends and contacts, we high-tailed it.
There was about a week or so when we didn’t have anyplace to live except the free camping park. It was summer, though, so we set up our tent and kept the rest of our belongings locked in the car. Our friends let us shower and fed us occasional meals. Then, we found a house we could afford outside of town, and we both found jobs with previous employers.
But paying that deposit and first month’s rent on the house took up the last of our funds, and we just didn’t have anything to eat. We tried to apply for food stamps, but the simple fact that our car was too new made us ineligible. They sent us to the emergency food pantry, located at the Trinity Lutheran Church.
During that two weeks or so between our getting back to Vermillion and getting paid from our work, we relied on the supplemental assistance of that safety net. Though it was a scary time, I felt good that my mother had always set the example of buying an extra can or two of beans, an extra box or bag of rice–because I had done the same before we’d gotten into those dire straits, and once we got back on our feet, I did it again.
I am hearing a lot of stories on the radio about how local food pantries all over the country are “drying up.” Most people who use those services aren’t doing it all the time–they use it when they really need it, and many of those who do use it also donate to it when they are flush.
It doesn’t take a heck of a lot of cash to pick up something extra when you’re at the grocery store–heck, a can of organic beans is only a buck! Grab something you’d eat–something nourishing and easy to use, and drop it in that donation box on the way out the door.
A well-stocked food pantry is in the best interest of the entire community, and you never know when you, or someone you know, might really need it.