Does Your Food Pantry Empower or Oppress?

Ecclesiastes 4:1 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed – and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors – and they have no comforter.

Since I am out of work I figured that I should save the little money that I have left and utilize food pantries. This has been very humbling and yet very enlightening.

I went to one pantry with a friend and at this church they had somebody sit with you while you waited your turn. This person was there to get to know you, hear your story, give you resources and pray with you. This made an uncomfortable situation so much less uncomfortable and it left you feeling like they cared about who you are and not just your need. The food there was balanced so you could make meals and very little of it was expired, but it is only enough for about a week and you can only go once a month.

Another day we went to another church for fresh produce. I received about 5 lbs of cilantro, really rotten broccoli and 5 eggplants. Nobody asked me about myself or if they could pray with me and just wanted to hurry me out of there.

So today I told myself I was going to try one of my local food pantries by myself. I didn’t really want to go so I kept telling myself that these people are here to help others, it brings them purpose and they won’t judge me. After all this was at a local church and these people know God and love others. I also see this as an opportunity to see how others live on a daily basis and what they have to go through.

So when I showed up it was immediately dark and sad, I could feel it in the air. Everyone was roaming the tables with their heads down, not one smile or kind word from anyone. Then I saw a worker who had her head down and she was very focused on wiping a table that looked clean already. I was roaming around for a bit not knowing where to start and had to get her attention to ask what the process was. I was pointed to a hall where another very cold volunteer asked me what my name was. Thing is she wasn’t asking because she wanted to know me but she wants to make sure I am in the system so I don’t come back for another month. She asked if I was on food stamps and I said “No”, I was expecting her to give me information on applying but all she did was hand me a card saying I can’t come back until Nov 12th and then she told me to pick 8 items from the rack behind me. Then she screamed “next”. So I turned to collect my items and moved down the line. Another volunteer said “two” and pushed two bags onto a counter. I just stood there and then she stared at me and I said “are those mine”? In a very nasty tone she said “You do have 2 in your family, don’t you”? I then said “yes”. Thing is that I had 8 boxes and bags in my arms and now I had 2 large bags to grab, so I said “Can I leave this here and grab a cart” to which she replied “no, they aren’t allowed in here”. So I said “Okay, thank you”, she said “Your welcome” but she didn’t even seem to mean it. So I went back and forth outside of that area and put all my stuff on a table so I could get a cart. Then I was able to grab other items and leave.

When I got home I set everything on my table and checked the expiration dates. This is what I was sent home with…

Meal Items
4 frozen chicken fajita meals
2 boxes macaroni – expired
4 cans of chicken
2 packs of Quinoa
1 pack of green beans
1 box of pasta
1 can of spaghetti sauce – expired by 5 months
1 can of soup- expired
Snacks/Desserts
9 ice cream bars
12 packs of mini cinnamon rolls – expired
1 pack fudge bars – expired by 6 months
2 boxes of candy
1 pack of oatmeal cookies – expired by 10 months
1 bag vanilla cupcake goldfish – expired
1 pack sugar cookies – expired
1 pumpkin cookie mix – expired
1 box corn flakes
1 pack of gum – expired
3 pies – expired

So as you can see most of what I received was expired, which would tell me that people in my situation get the bottom of the barrel, the items not good enough for those at stores to consume. I got enough actual meal items to make 2 different dinners that would last 6 nights. I also have candy for dessert. So I get the bottom food supply and I can get fatter. Plus, how I was treated will bring shame upon people when they are already full of shame and make them feel like even more of a burden to society.

I am not being ungrateful by any means, I am just telling it like it is. Food pantries are one of the main avenues in which the Church serves the impoverished. We think it is so easy to utilize a food pantry and government program to have all of the impoverished people’s needs met. But it takes more work to survive than it is to have a full time job and pay for your own stuff. I would have to go to at least 3 more food pantries to hopefully provide dinner for my daughter for the next month. Which means 3 more opportunities to be put further into oppression. I say this because I have heard that most pantries are like the last two that I visited. Where is the love? Where is the empowerment? Where is God?

So my worst experience with visiting these pantries was not all the expired/rotten food it was the lack of God and the presence of the enemy (oppression).

Jesus said “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. John 6: 49-51

So shouldn’t we be viewing food as an opportunity to treat people in a way that will lead them to the living bread, instead of a way to check off our serving box so that we can sleep better at night?

One thought on “Does Your Food Pantry Empower or Oppress?

  1. I agree with you whole heartedly. When you go to food pantries that are run by government you expect expired food and no one to care about you or even pray with you. When you think of going to churches local or not you expect to have a strong feeling of God within the volunteers helping you unfortunately that’s not always true. I feel a lot of parishioners think if they volunteer it will somehow buy them there way into Heaven yet some can be cold and unfriendly. I would expect empathy, prayers, healthy and non expired food because these are people who read the Bible and who love God that fill the church pantry shelves. It just goes to show you just because your going to a church to get food doesn’t always make it better it’s people that truly love God and his children that do no matter where you go.

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