We are a one-income family, and yes, our financial situation is stretched to the limit at times, but we are usually able to survive from paycheck to paycheck and have what we need. It was not always so. Let me tell you a little story.
About 15 years ago, I found out that I was pregnant with my youngest son. At the time, I had a good paying job as a legal assistant working with a well-respected law firm. I managed to work through most of my pregnancy until my last trimester when complications towards the end of my pregnancy caused me to be put on bed rest. Shortly after he was born, I had some additional surgery done, which caused me to be out of work for another 4 to 6 weeks.
When my maternity leave had run its course and it was time to return to work, I started looking at the costs of daycare, formula, diapers, travel to and from downtown (we lived out in the country at the time about a 45 minute drive to work each day). My income vs. the expenses of having a three-year-old and a newborn in daycare and all that young children cost, would have left me with a grand total of about $30.00 a week to bring home.
My husband and I talked about it and we decided that it would be best for me to stay at home with the children. We figured if we cut out some of our extras and tightened our belts, we could manage on his income alone. It was not long before we had to close out my retirement account to help make ends meet, and then a few months later, we had to close my husband’s retirement account just to keep a roof over our heads. We had to apply for food stamps and WIC, and did our best to try and make the meager amount we received stretch through the end of the month. More often than not, my husband and I were eating ramen noodles or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner just to make sure that there was enough food to go around for our three children.
Does that sound familiar?
Food insecurity is an issue facing families in communities across the country, and according to the USDA, one in eight Americans currently struggles with hunger, 42 million people in America, including more than 13 million children. In 2016, it was one in seven Americans. Walmart is committed to providing meals to those in need, and with our “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” campaign, we are calling on all customers and suppliers to join us in helping Feeding America support those struggling with hunger.
You don’t have to be poor, you don’t have to be unemployed for hunger to strike. I’ve seen people look at me in the grocery store as though I was a criminal because I was using food stamps. You don’t need to be on the street to need a helping hand.
A Community Standing Together
I’d like to introduce you to a few residents of McKenney, Virginia. A small town with only 483 residents as of the 2010 census. Life in a House had the chance to join our local food bank, FeedMore, when the mobile pantry delivered food to the residents of McKenney in late April.
Meet Aggie and Deon
Aggie is a mother of 5, widowed twice, who lives in McKenney. She receives social security benefits and has a difficult time making ends meet. She has utilities, lot rent for her mobile home (which she owns), home owners insurance, medications, medical bills and food. She had to let her vehicle go because she could no longer afford the upkeep and the insurance on her fixed income. She now relies on her children and her neighbors to get to the store and to local businesses to get the items that she needs. She loves living in McKenney because the community is so tight-knit, and everyone seems to know everyone else. Aggie comes to the food pantry each month because “fresh food is expensive, and sometimes you just have to do without to pay for other more pressing necessities.”
Aggie loves to cook, and we talked about the “treats” that she would sometimes find in her bag from the Mobile Pantry, such as fresh mushrooms, a 10 lb. bag of potatoes, fresh fruit, onions, even eggs and milk. “You can make a lot of different meals with eggs, potatoes and onions,” she stated.
Deon is in his mid-twenties, and he and his wife visit the mobile pantry occasionally when work is slow and they need help to make ends meet that month. Deon had me laughing with his frank honesty and infectious smile. “Everyone needs help now and again,” he said, “and when you don’t need help one month, you need to get out and volunteer and give back to the community and show thanks for the help you’ve received.”
Deon and Aggie both agree that the Mobile Pantry is desperately needed in their community, and both agreed that they wished it could come twice a month. “Everyone needs fresh fruits and vegetables, but they are expensive,” they said. Deon said, “You can’t get sick when you have no insurance, so you need the fresh fruits and vegetables to help keep you healthy.”
When they were asked what they would tell prospective investors looking to support the Mobile Food Pantry and donate to the FeedMore organization to help Central Virginia’s residents they said, “It’s fine to give them money and buy food to be distributed. You need to know where your money is going though and what it is being spent on, and they need volunteers – so don’t just write a check – get out there and volunteer a few hours a month and see for yourself what your money is doing.”
The FeedMore Mobile Pantry provides staples to the residents of McKenney each month at one of the local churches, Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church which is a FeedMore Partner Agency. Rev. Karen Workman does a fantastic job of organizing the event each month. This month, they decided to attempt a drive-thru method, where residents were given a particular time to come to the church, drive up in their vehicle, and have the volunteers load the items into their vehicle for them. As it was raining and overcast that day, it turned out to be a smashing success!
Rev. Karen said a brief prayer before the distribution began, and thanked each of the volunteers (people from the community as well as the local Walmart) who came out to help with the distribution. Then it was time to get the show on the road, and keep things moving smoothly.
As the cars arrived at the check-in tent, Rev. Karen took their slips that indicated how many members were in their family (which determines the amount of food that you are given), informed the volunteers how many bags they needed, and they were loaded up and on their way in no time. The line moved quickly, everyone was patient and considerate, and it was heartwarming to see that, even a community that relied so heavily on the kindness of local organizations and churches to survive, every one who came through was smiling and had a kind word to say.
“Neighbors helping neighbors,” Aggie says, “that is how we all manage to make ends meet.”
Yes indeed, we thought, as we watched the local Chief of Police offer a resident a ride home, a volunteer from another church hugging an elderly parishioner, and the local dentist helping to package up more bags to be distributed.
Fight Hunger. Spark Change.
As the nations leading hunger-relief organization, the Feeding America network provides food to more than 46 million people in communities across America.
By engaging their suppliers, and the more than 140 million customers who shop at Walmart each week, Walmart can make a positive impact and help those struggling with hunger have access to the food they need.
Walmart has made an initial donation of $1.5 million to Feeding America, and based on your social engagement and support, we aim to reach a total donation of $3 million this spring.
Combining Walmart’s donation, with supplier donations through product purchase and customer donations at the register, we can secure 100 million meals on behalf of the its member food banks.
Three Easy Ways to Get Involved
Generate meals for your local Feeding America food bank by engaging with the Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign on social media.
- Facebook – create original content that uses #FightHunger; like, share and/or react positively to campaign content and click on Walmart-provided campaign content.
- Instagram – create or share content using the campaign hashtag #FightHunger; like or share Walmart-generated campaign content.
- Snapchat – use Walmart provided Fight Hunger. Spark Change. filters nationwide from 4/21 to 5/17.
- Twitter – create original content that uses #FightHunger; like, share, and/or make a campaign tweet a favorite; retweet a message featuring the campaign hashtag #FightHunger; click on Walmart-provided campaign content.
For each visible online act of support, Walmart will donate the equivalent of 10 meals ($0.90) to Feeding America on behalf of member food banks, up to $1.5 million.
Purchase Participating Products
Your local Walmart stores are helping provide meals to those struggling with hunger with select products. When you purchase these products, the supplier will donate the equivalent of one meal ($0.09) on behalf of a Feeding America food bank, up to applicable limits. Additionally, for every Discover card transaction made at U.S. Walmart stores and Walmart.com during the campaign period (4/21 to 5/17/2017) Discover will also donate the equivalent of one meal to Feeding America and its network of member food banks, up to $1 million. See Walmart.com/fighthunger for more details.
Last but not least, you can donate at the register during checkout to your local Feeding America food bank.
While things are still tight at times for our family, we no longer need the assistance of food stamps, although there are times when we need to visit our local food pantry to help make that stretch through the end of the month. By the sheer grace of God, we are able to manage so that another family can be helped.
So the next time you visit your local Walmart, remember your elderly neighbor across the street, or the disabled veteran living next door, or perhaps your son’s best friend’s father who lost his job unexpectedly. Neighbors helping neighbors. Isn’t that what life should be about?
Let’s all stand together to Fight Hunger. Spark Change. for millions this year.