Money was tight especially as our family grew to nine. My dad wasn’t able to work consistently so my mom took the late shift at the local Burger King. Knowing our situation, her manager often threw extra burgers on the grill just before closing and handed the bag to my mom as she left the store. We waited up for her in hopes that she would have hot fries and chargrilled burgers as buying fast food or eating out was not something we were able to do. In those lean years, we always had something to eat but it was often provided out of the goodness of those around us and the town’s food stamp program.
Mr. Buehler owned the small grocery store in our community where everyone knew your name. My mom had asked me to pick up milk on my way home after school and handed me a one-dollar stamp to purchased the milk. It was the first time she had ever asked me to do that using one of the stamps. That piece of paper weighed heavily in my pocket all day long as I thought about how I was going to take the milk to the counter and pay for it. Could I slip the paper into Mr. Buehler’s hand without another customer knowing? At dinner that night, would he tell his daughter, a good friend of mine, Kathy Griffin bought milk without real money?
All the angst that a single piece of paper can cause a 10-year-old girl can still be remembered over 50 years later!
Food insecurity, the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, is a growing problem in Fairfax County and our surrounding counties right now. Many households are unable to get access to food on a daily basis. For some that is temporary. For others, it is long term. It affects those in our church and out in the community: children, college students, the elderly and other marginalized individuals and families. You may even have a neighbor who is quietly struggling as my family did.
Food insecurity also comes with the burden of guilt and shame that you can’t provide something so basic as food in the quantities needed for yourself and those in your care. It sneaks under the radar and makes one feel different and alone. Be watching for ways you can help fight food insecurity in your neighborhoods!