Who Would You See in Line at the Local Food Bank? Believe it, or Not, it’s People a lot Like You

montrealsoupkitchen1931With one in seven U.S. families relying on food banks, it’s time to update our notions about who’s getting their meals from charity.

While the local cynic might believe food banks serve layabouts and welfare vampires, it turns out your average food pantry is populated by familiar faces.

Here’s a sample of the folks you might meet:

You’d be surprised how many people would be on their way to work. Or even stopping by as they finish one job and move on to the next. Why would a hard-working person visit a food bank? This may be hard to believe, but even a full-time salary won’t guarantee you can afford food.

For example, when a family in the UK lost their savings in a robbery, only a local food bank could help them put food on the table. A tragedy like this could happen to anyone.

Or consider Robbie Rodriguez, who works two jobs (one of them is full-time) but relies on charity to keep his child fed. It’s a rough life when you have to choose between paying bills and buying food, and that’s a common reality in cities with struggling economies.

You won’t be surprised to see veterans in line. Veterans endure a high unemployment rate, commonly placing returning soldiers into food pantry lines and SNAP programs. And, for reasons unknown, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are more than twice as likely to struggle with food shortages than the national average.

It’s not only retired soldiers who suffer; you may see veterans waiting next to military families. The 2014 Hunger in America Study Today found that a whopping 25% of military families rely on food banks, that’s 620,000 households unable to find food in their pantries, even though one member of the home is employed by the government. (Spouses of military employees often have trouble finding work due to constant relocation.)

Let’s not forget the elderly, who you’ll see shambling through the line with shaking hands. Feeding America has discovered just over half of their elderly clients are recurring visitors who need regular help acquiring food, a grim picture of American retirement.

I could go on and tell you about homeless teenagers, the mentally ill, and the terminally sick, but I’m sure you’re getting the idea.

So, let’s put aside the notion that food bank patrons are lazy ne’er-do-wells avoiding work, or rich scammers who drive away in shiny cars, because the average person waiting in that food line is actually a lot like you.

Want to make a difference? A recurring donation to your local food bank might be the most important contribution you ever make. Find a nearby location and set up your contribution right now. You’ll rest better every night, and someone in your community will find much-needed hope.

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