Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC is in the midst of a major project: on-boarding all of our partner agencies to a new data tracking system called Service Insights. Through this process, we are able to collect more information about the lives of those we serve so that we can more effectively and efficiently work with them. Learn more about Service Insights here.
The data we are receiving is great, but nothing can take the place of being able to feel the experiences of those being served. Our Director of Agency Relations, Nikki McCormick, has assisted at several pantry on-boarding sessions and shares her thoughts below:
He didn’t look disabled, but I thought his spirit definitely looked broken.
The deep lines of worry and sadness around his eyes and mouth got just a bit deeper when I asked if he had ever been to a place like this before. Yes, he had. It had been a while but yes, he’s had to come before to get help with food. And he’ll need to come again, too… Quite frankly, he probably needs to come much more than his pride allows him to.
Turns out that *Steve used to be in construction for over 35 years. Made good money, too. But in the span of 2 weeks in 2000, everything changed.
It was the first day of hunting season when he broke his leg. Badly. The doctors made the necessary repairs and sent him home. Shortly thereafter, he started coughing up blood and headed back to the doctor. Blood clots that formed in his leg post-surgery had traveled to his lungs and brain. Three strokes and mounds of medical bills later, and he’s “fixed.” He was cleared to work part-time, light duty. He couldn’t go back to the job he had done all his life and wasn’t qualified for much else. He couldn’t get financial aid to go to the local community college. He worked a few retail jobs, but everything was on computers, and he didn’t understand them. Seeing no other options, he tried for partial disability for a few years but gave up after the 4th denial. He just “makes it work.”
His social security kicked in 2 years ago, so he got a little relief. He even got a $4 raise this year!!….and that’s when his food stamps were cut from $165/month to $16. He rents a room in town but the refrigerator/freezer just quit working. He lost everything. That’s why he’s here today.
No, his story is not the exception. Nearly everyone I spoke with today is either retired, employed full or part-time, in college, a veteran or disabled. A young lady living with her disabled mom, taking care of her orphaned nephew, working part-time, going to the community college…. a retired veteran… a recently widowed, single mom of 3…
And while the lines in their faces and the wringing of their hands may suggest otherwise, they are far from broken. They are survivors. They are warriors. They are the face of hunger in this country. And I, for one, admire them deeply.
* Name changed, along with minor details, to protect his identity, though he agreed for us to share his story.