Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Humbled at the LA Regional Food Bank

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.


yutjangsah said...

no child should ever go hungry. at least you're helping even if it's in a small way. ; )

Jenn said...

I know that feeling all too well. I love helping out in shelters especially during this time in the season. Anything i can do to help and give back make all the difference.

Gastronomer said...

The tour really inspired me to dig even deeper for the next bake sale. Be mindful about others' needs, but do not feel bad for what you have. I mean it.

Let's make EMB II bigger and better!

Nicole said...

Thank you so much for posting this Diana. I enjoyed reading it. I am actually in the process of filling up a couple bags of dry/canned goods for our local food bank. Hope to drop it off either tomorrow or Friday. :)

Diana said...

Sook - Yes, and hopefully we'll be able to raise even more at the next EMB! Hope you bake your salty cookies again. :)

Jenn - Agreed. I really need to do more in the community. Makes me want to start volunteering at my church too!

Cathy - Here here! Or is it hear hear? I never really know. :-/

Nicole - You are so welcome! At this time of yea, we all need to be a little more mindful of those who are less fortunate. Happy holidays!

H. C. said...

It sounds like a definite eye-opener experience.

On top of the irony of worrying about eating too much when there are others going without, it's also quite sad that the foods the poor do have access too are usually nutritionally-poor fast and junk foods, contributing to a myriad of obesity-related ails that, of course, they can't afford to treat.

Diana said...

HC - So true. That's why it was encouraging to hear that the food bank is making efforts to have fresh produce and other nutritious items on hand for the people they serve. They even installed refrigerators so they can store meat and other perishable items. Even so, there is still a lot to be done to combat the situation. Fast food/junk food is much more economical than fresh fruit and, say, quinoa.

Ashley said...

The vertical garden is so cool! I've never been to a food bank before that grows some of its food on site. Good to hear that there is a focus on providing fresh produce and nutritious food.