For some, volunteering your free time instead of working would never even be an idea that crosses your mind if you were struggling to feed yourself or your family. However, Miriam, a regular at the food bank, was more than eager to volunteer at the place that helped her out for so long.
65-year-old Miriam is a familiar face her local food bank where she volunteers several times a month. Instead of trying to help as many people as quickly as she can, she takes her time with each pantry visitor, helping them carefully and with kindness. She has good reason to understand their struggles, because she’s been there herself. Like many other volunteers, Miriam is also a food pantry client.
“I receive my own food help here,” she said in her native Spanish. “I felt a necessity to help. I live close by, so I asked if I could volunteer.” She works part-time at a nearby university, but has no income other than that.
She does receive minimal SNAP (or food stamp) benefits, but those were recently cut from $85 to $16 a month because she is told that she earns too much from her job.
“I didn’t know what I’d do,” Miriam said as she reminiced about her own battle. “There was one day that I had nothing at all to eat. I saw someone pass by with a shopping cart full of bags of food, and they said the name of the food bank, so I looked up the address and walked here."
Miriam's local food bank has been helping people in her area for more than 30 years, and is one of more than 1,000 CFBNJ partner charities.
“De hambre no mi muero,” she said, meaning she refuses to die from hunger. “If I have to choose between food and bills or medicine, food is always my first choice,” she said. “Because if you don’t eat right, you don’t have your health.”
Miriam is hardly alone in making those wrenching decisions. CFBNJ’s most recent Hunger Study shows that 77% of the people they assist have had to choose between paying for utilities and buying food, and 73% have had to choose between medicine and food.
Since she is a volunteer who also understands the hardships others face, Miriam spoke about memory about the pantry that has stuck with her. One woman came in and needed to provide proof of her residence, and all she had were deportation papers. “That really moved me,” she said. “It made me feel terrible for her. We gave her food, but it made me very sad because of her situation, about to be deported with her kids.”
As a client and volunteer of the Community Assistance Pantry, Miriam is able to receive groceries for free at a local food pantry supplied by the Community FoodBank of NJ to help her get by and pay for her other bills.
Because people like Miriam rely so heavily on the donations made to CFBNJ and personally see how much it can help others, it’s for the thousands of other people like her that we are doing this food drive for.
Donating just 1 box of food can help feed an entire family dinner and donating only $1 can help provide between $8-11 worth of food for a family. Help us help others.