Food banks and food pantries
Hi all, I'm more or less a lurker here, and have learned a lot of good ideas. I've been where a lot of you are, and I'm very fortunate that, after a lot of hard work and hard-core belt-tightening for about the last 5 years (since my divorce), things have eased financially for me... but I still scrimp like I'm gonna lose my job tomorrow *crosses fingers that it doesn't happen - likely won't, but never say never...* Speaking of my job, that's the reason for my post. I work at The Food Bank and have the best job in the world. The reason for my post is that I see lots of mention of food banks and pantries, and just wanted to make sure that everyone's aware of the differences, and where best to find help. Food Banks generally don't serve the public... they serve as the warehouse for and distribute food to the Food Pantries in the area. Food banks solicit local manufacturers and groceries for their near-date product, overruns, whatever. Pantries are where you can go to get emergency supplies, sometimes requiring a referral, sometimes not. I know that here in Omaha, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and a private organization have emergency supplies for immediate need. (I saw the earlier post about the area SalArmy not having a pantry, I hope the OP alerts the main office in the area, that's probably not a good thing.) You should also be able to get a list of pantries from your local United Way First Call For Help, in the phone book or go to http://www.211.org/. You can also call your nearest Food Bank, and they should be able to give you the location of a pantry that can help. There are also usually meal-service providers (formerly known as soup kitchens) in virtually every community in the country. Some you can just walk in to, some you have to apply for; some you'll have to listen to some religious speeches, some are just providing a meal. Again, the United Way should be able to help. I think the main reason I wanted to post this is that there is obviously still a stigma about accessing these services. "Only bums go to soup kitchens" or "I should be able to provide for myself." Nothing could be further from the truth. The way things are going now, the "haves" have way more and the "have-nots" are getting poorer all the time. Even in a pretty affluent town like Omaha, there are 52,000 people (just in my county! a new stat, we have to update the website) living below the poverty line... and throughout this country, over half of the families needing food assistance have at least one person working. Of course there are people who abuse the system, but the majority of people who access pantries and meal-services do it because they have to choose between rent and food, and "this month rent is going to win." I also hope that those here who are struggling will look into the food stamp program. I'm actually not a big fan of it, simply because I believe in less government - but the funds for food stamps are in the federal budget, and it's there to be used (although cuts are discussed ALL the time). The application process is a pain in the ass, I know... but many states are trying to simplify it so that more people who need the benefit can have it. Most states now have an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card that looks like a credit/debit card, so that there's no fumbling for actual "food stamps" and embarrassment that can go along with that. My point is to please avail yourselves of the help that is there. It's not necessarily convenient, and most pantries are non-profits and therefore have no money either and so are at the mercy of whatever they can get at their food bank for free, but we all work hard to help people who really need it.