My stomach is thick with nausea as I drive away from the LA Regional Food Bank. Cathy from Gastronomy Blog, Laurie from G-Ma’s Bakery and I have just presented the bank with the check from the Eat My Blog charity bake sale and taken a tour of the facilities. It was supposed to be a proud moment – an opportunity to see how the money we raised would be used. We would leave feeling good about what we had accomplished – like we had really made a difference.
Instead, I feel ashamed and disgusted with myself.
I glance at the clock in my car – it’s 1:05 pm – lunchtime. But I’m not hungry and can’t comprehend eating anything. I keep thinking about what the Community Relations Manager told us during the tour.
The story wasn’t all ugly, and our gracious tour guide wasn’t trying to paint a sad picture. It was encouraging to see the crates full of fresh produce like butternut squash, as well as the warehouse’s new refrigerators that are storing perishable items. And we were all impressed by the vertical garden – a living wall with strawberries, herbs and lettuce. It was quite clear that the Food Bank, founded in 1973, is making great strides to promote healthy eating, and has made it a priority to ensure they are meeting the nutritional needs of the people they serve.
What is bothering me now, as I drive back to my WeHo oasis, is the final stop of our tour – the room where sack lunches are made for hungry school children across LA county. As Cathy, Laurie and I stared at the rows of canned beans, peanut butter and canned ravioli, our tour guide told us that a couple years ago the teachers at the program’s schools started mentioning that the kids were lethargic on Mondays because they hadn’t eaten much (if anything) over the weekend. In order to combat this problem, the Food Bank began providing some local schools with backpacks full of food for the students to take home with them for the weekend.
The kids are very proud of the backpacks, our tour guide tells us, and feel that this is a way they can provide for their family – like a paycheck.
Her words keep repeating in my head. It shatters me to think about these poor children who have such a great burden of responsibility (quite literally) on their shoulders. And here I am, a food blogger who is so privileged that my biggest problem with regards to food is eating too much of it.
When I finally do eat lunch later in the afternoon, I am conscious of every leaf of lettuce and red pepper that goes into my mouth. I don’t overeat. I don't shovel it in like I'm hibernating for the nonexistant LA winter. And, for once, I don’t take one bite for granted.