Our family’s participation in Catholic Charities’ #End45 campaign started with a trip to our local food bank and community center. Here’s what we learned.
by Heidi Indahl
This past September, Catholic Charities USA began a social media campaign called #End45 to spread awareness of poverty in the United States. Forty-five million Americans live in poverty today. That is 1 in every 7 Americans. When I hear numbers like 1 in 7, I automatically think, “Wow, we have seven people in our family.” Statistically one of us could be living in poverty, and the fact that one of us is not means someone else is. These people are not a rarity, they are a very real part of our communities.
Our family is participating in this campaign by learning more about the needs of our local community. With another family, we visited our local food bank/resource center and the senior center to talk specifically about food resources. While we did bring a small box of food, the purpose of our visit was more educational than service-oriented.
What poverty looks like in our community
This is what we learned about poverty in our community:
- The majority of those receiving services from the food bank are comprised of the working poor (underemployed), the elderly, and the mentally disabled.
- Even in a town of only 3,000 residents there are 140 families registered with the food bank. This does not include those who use the resource for emergency food and utility assistance.
- While each family is given one visit per month as a supplement to other sources of food, they do not turn away any family that comes for an additional visit.
- As a small rural resource center, our local food bank relies heavily on donations and they particularly struggle during the summer months when donations are down.
- In addition to donations and tax revenue, our food bank also raises money by operating a small thrift store. They accept community donations and sell items in the thrift store; all of the profits are invested directly back into the food bank.
- The food bank works closely with other area programs such as the Head Start backpack program and senior meals. The backpack program is able to order their supplies through the Channel One Food Bank network and receive the items they need at much better prices.
- When we visited the senior center, we also learned how being a rural community affects meals for seniors. The food comes from our county seat to be redistributed in the form of daily lunches on site and through Meals on Wheels. The number of meals served each day varies, and residents must sign up in advance. We learned that Tuesday and Thursday are popular days because of the social opportunities available for playing cards after lunch.
- Because the food comes from about a half an hour away each day, the coordination of this program is a big job, a job which is currently being done without a paid site coordinator.
Awareness + educaation = action
The two most important things we learned about poverty in our community are the unique challenges facing rural communities and the degree to which meeting residents’ needs relies on volunteer hours.
As we left the food shelf, my 12 year old went back inside alone. When he came back, he asked me to sign a release allowing him to go volunteer his time there.
Awareness plus education equals targeted action based on the real needs of the community.
You can learn more about #End45 and how Catholic Charities USA is helping people out of poverty, visit their website.