My COVID Chronicles: Food Fear, Fortune, and Paying It Forward

I am a very fortunate woman in that throughout this entire pandemic, I have not gone hungry. But there still has been an underlying fear of going hungry that does not go away and is much more acutely felt by others.

When I knew the shutdown was coming, I did manage to get to the store to stock up. I still did drive-thru on occasion, because that was less scary than actually going into a store. Many times, I drove past the grocery store because there were too many cars in the parking lot. I still remember having a few panic attacks anyway in a couple of stores early on. I was most comfortable at Price Rite toward the end of the day as they were cleaning, or smaller convenience stores like Family Dollar. Fewer than 10 people at a time was more my speed.

At the one job, we started doing drive-thru donations. We would choose a mission partner and determine what they needed. When you dropped off your donation, you also picked up a pre-ordered dinner from a local catering company. Every single time, at least one person would buy me a dinner, so I made sure I always donated something. I also had someone who would drop off a small bag of food for me to eat. And my boss decided that we were going to support my neighborhood bar and grill and order takeout once a week. All of this supplemented my groceries and I was happy to share some extra.

When I got sick, I really panicked. I had not yet made it to the store, so pickings were slim. I started to look online, but it was so much more expensive to grocery shop that way. Still, I would do it if needed.

I did confess on Facebook that I had gotten sick. One friend gave me the link to an online form to fill out for a one-time delivery from a local food pantry. She also cooked up a big box of pasta and meat sauce and dropped it off, along with a bag of groceries she was able to pick up for me from a food cupboard where she volunteered.

Thanksgiving weekend, two friends brought me leftovers, raided their cupboards for extra food, and went shopping for me. The one friend, alone, delivered six paper bags of groceries and household items to my back porch. I cried.

I had other friends place online orders for me, including a Chewy box to keep Fiona, my cat, stocked in food, treats, and litter. Another friend in the neighborhood took a walk by my house and left me chocolate. Yet another friend who now lives out of town made sure she brought me dinner from Chipotle and other needed items when she and her son had to come to town. Families from my jobs got me groceries and takeout and gift cards, especially after I got sick with the clots. I even got donations from friends who live in other states. I could go on and on, but it would take up a whole other page.

I don’t share this to show off. I am still humbled and cannot express enough gratitude for all of the help that I received and continue to receive. I know that I got a lot of extra assistance. My two closest friends have both told me many times that they have never seen someone get as much help as I did. I don’t know why I was so blessed. But I am even more dedicated now to paying it forward.

I was a lucky one, but others have not been so lucky. The hunger crisis all over has dramatically increased. A strong need is particularly near me in my city. I can’t always give food, but there are so many ways to help. You can find a way to make these happen where you live as well. As I keep saying, you never know when you may be in need yourself. I had certainly never anticipated it.

**When you are checking out at the grocery store, go ahead and round up or add on that $1. Locally, that money goes to FoodLink, which benefits the efforts of our food cupboards by connecting people with their neighborhood food cupboard and providing things like produce for free or at a reduced rate.

**Donate to your local food pantry. Keep an eye out for their “Most Needed” lists. If you give money, they can often make purchases at lower prices or get other items not often donated.

**Bring one item a week to your worship service. Many places of worship do regular collections and then drop off a weekly haul to a designated food cupboard, unless they have one of their own. Even one item a week can make a big difference, especially if everyone participates.

**Look for local free food stands. In my city, a local activist organization started setting up free food stands throughout the city. The idea is “Give what you can. Take what you need.” People come and go at all hours to donate or to gather food for their families. No judgment. No questions asked. My friend set one up nearby and regularly stocks it with food donations sent to her via an Amazon wishlist or by grocery shopping with donations. The need around here is so great that she will fill it to overflowing, and in less than two hours, it is empty again. I and others also add things like can openers and then warm winter accessories, such as handmade scarves, hats, etc., over the winter.

**Volunteer. Food cupboards regularly need volunteers, though many are still limited with these opportunities because of the pandemic. But you can volunteer to be a driver for deliveries. You can volunteer to pick up donations. Or you could volunteer to drive someone to get a pickup.

**And finally, share. If your workplace or place of worship is doing a special drive, share it on your Facebook profile and in any groups where it is permissible. Keep your eyes open for other local drives and share the information. Share updates from the local food cupboards. Even if you don’t have the resources or ability to participate right then, a simple sharing of this information may reach someone who can. And that little bit can make such a difference in someone’s life.

Or volunteer to set up a drive at work or in your neighborhood or anywhere else. It doesn’t have to be big and fancy. Every little bit helps. Many people even have parties and ask for donation in lieu of gifts. Be creative.

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