May 7 to 11 is Hunger Awareness Week and as these dates approach we consider what this means to us here in Nelson.
For many of us, our thoughts go to those who’ve approached us for spare change. Or maybe your children have come home from school, with stories of Sally, or Joe, who never bring lunch to school, and often fall to sleep in class, or they didn’t get breakfast today. Our insensitive side may say: “Where are those parents, and what have they spent their money on instead of food for their kids?”
Let me take a moment to share a little of what I’ve learned. There is no typical face of the person who might be hungry in our community. It could be a single mom, who’s trying to make ends meet on a minimum wage salary, or income assistance. She’s struggling with the high cost of housing and utilities, while trying to feed and adequately clothe her children.
Or there is the family where both dad and mom are working to make ends meet, keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, everybody clothed, but their paycheques just don’t stretch far enough.
There are young people who are on their own, going to school and working part time, but there is never enough money to meet their needs, and we’re talking about needs, not wants.
That hungry person could be your neighbour, your workmate, classmate, the senior down the street, even the friend you keep missing for coffee.
So then what does Hunger Awareness mean for a city like Nelson?
The faces of hunger in Nelson, as in all of Canada are varied, and the causes are not always the same. What it comes down to is there is no typical face of hunger.
Poverty can touch anyone, or everyone with little warning. The loss of work, unexpected medical or repair bills, rent or utility increases or a dozen other reasons.
So taking this a step further, is there help for those affected by poverty?
Sure, there is government assistance, and yes that is a help, but it does not entirely meet the needs of the average family. Then there are local resources, food banks, soup kitchens, thrift stores and shelters, support groups and agencies. All of these can be helpful but these facilities rely on you and me for donations of food, money and time to be able to provide that help. Within Nelson we have a few places to go when you find yourself struggling to make ends meet.
Here’s the scoop folks: these services are driven by donations, and largely staffed by volunteers, so without your help there are people that will go hungry in our city. Some of these people are children and seniors, maybe a neighbour or someone that you know.
If you want to make a difference and change that face of poverty, then please remember to pick up a few extra items when you’re grocery shopping and drop them off at a food bank, or make a donation, because the food bank staff have resources that make your dollar go so much farther. And if you’ve got some extra time, or would like to help, give one of these agencies a call and give a little of your time to help your neighbour.