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Hunger is not a game

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 11:01 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 11:03 a.m. CDT

Objectivity is the name of the game in my profession and yet, every now and then you can’t help but get emotionally connected to something you are writing about.

My most recent incident took place as I wrote a story that ran last Friday about the local Salvation Army’s food pantry struggling to keep up with the demand from people in the community.

Seeing those empty shelves at the pantry took me to an all too familiar place.

It hit home for me on two accounts. First, it means that we have far too many people in our community struggling to make ends meet. Secondly, when I was growing up, my mom and I were in that same predicament on more than one occasion.

A few of my friends have been by my place and couldn’t help but notice the plentiful amount of canned and dry goods I keep in stock. One cabinet has a variety of beans and another has various types of pasta, pasta sauce, oatmeal and dry mixes, and on top of the cabinets there’s a Costco-sized bag of organic brown rice.

They kept judging me about what they felt was me having an abundance of food before I finally got frustrated to the point that I had to ask them the questions, “have you ever gone to bed hungry?” And “have you ever went to bed after eating peanut butter on crackers or hot dogs for dinner?”

Neither of them couldn’t say that they had, while the answer for me is an overwhelming “Yes.”

I know I joke about how poor I am now, however, growing up my mom and I really ran into some tough times. My mom was too proud of a woman to apply for any type of government assistance, so there were times where we had to make do with whatever we had in the cabinets, which is how you wind up with peanut butter crackers for dinner.

The funny thing about growing up in semi-poverty is that you don’t realize that you’re poor. You think that ramen noodles, canned ravioli and bologna sandwiches are the norm and delectable cuisine.

So with meal plans like that, my mom got proactive. No matter what we already had in stock, when she had extra money she would buy more of it. And she’d buy things like what I keep in stock — canned goods, pasta and sauce, dry foods — things that she knew would keep. She did this because we never knew when we were going to run into the next tough stretch.

Food wasn’t always a top priority when you have a $200-monthly gas bill in the winter or have to pay the car note on the bucket you use to go back and forth to the job that you hate to make sure that you and your son have an income.

Being a picky-eater growing up didn’t really make the food situation any easier for us, since I had to have a special lunch going to school. It wasn’t until my middle school and high school years that she applied for the free and reduced lunch program. By then, I was at an age where I had more options in the lunch line to satisfy my persnickety palate.

Food wasn’t the only issue we had. I could tell you stories of having to walk to use the payphone two miles away from our duplex, grabbing multiple Sunday papers out of the box just to have extra coupons to clip or keeping the bath tub filled with water. We filled it up so that we would have it to function with before the utilities company would cut us off when the bill was behind.

I’ll save those stories for another day and keep the focus on food for now.

So to my friends, YES, I keep extra food in my house. My mom taught me to prepare myself for all situations and most of the time it’s in regard to myself. In this case, I’m sure the Salvation Army can make better use of some of my extra food than me saving myself a trip to the grocery store.

Contact Senior Staff Writer Ty Rushing at (641) 792-3121 Ext. 6532 or trushing@newtondailynews.com

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