In fact, while the use of food pantries and emergency kitchens has increased during the current recession, poor families generally did not use charity food pantries or soup kitchens. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that only one poor family in five took food from a food pantry even once during all of 2009. Far fewer ate at a food kitchen.
…Is this actually a shock to anyone who’s been around food pantries? There is a sizable group of opportunists who exploit food pantries without being poor; most of the technically poor families I know buy bulk, shop smart and freeze things like crazy. Food pantries are for when you’re really in trouble. (Heck, the long-term poor I know have more scruples than the temporarily-reduced-to-lower-middle-class. Human dignity is an impressive thing.)
One of my “favorite” examples is a family friend who helped at the local food pantry– wonderful woman, but steadfastly believed that if someone went to the food pantry, they really needed the help. Any expensive car was a sign they’d fallen on hard times, so on. All the things that are sometimes true, she was sure were always true.
Well, somebody got sick at a networked food pantry, so this gal drove two hours over to help them out. There are five or six of these pantries that network, and their “open” days are staggered. There, she recognized some people, she was pretty sure. They weren’t any of the folks that would actually talk at you, but she was 90% sure that several were those that came in every week, at her main volunteer place….
Something else came up a few weeks later, and she drove a different direction for an hour or so to help out. This time, she KNEW that she recognized some of the people– same familiar faces from the other place, and they were all getting a week’s plus worth of groceries.
Long story short, there are folks who will spend all week driving around to private food pantries and getting a week’s groceries, all week long… poor volunteer lady is still trying to come up with something to do!
Just as the lady was wrong when she assumed that everyone there really needed help, this shouldn’t be taken as meaning that most of the folks at a food pantry are users, or even that most of the supplies go to line someone’s pockets. Food pantries are important, and the best way to make them better is a more human touch; barring a return to Eden, it’s not going to become totally free of users. Just gotta keep your eyes open for abuse, because there’s always someone who feels entitled to someone else’s stuff.
*update* noticed I dropped a word -.-