Community changes the story for neighbors in need

Community changes the story for neighbors in need

It’s another busy morning at the food bank as deliveries arrive, as volunteers start their shifts, as a line of hungry people forms through the tables of fresh produce we’ve set up in preparation for opening. In the lobby, clients can self-shop among the food set up there and speak with an intake volunteer to make choices for an emergency box of pantry staples as well as hygiene items.

Today a senior who we know has been in the hospital looks frail but glad to see us. A single mom holding one child with two others tugging at her sleeve looks relieved when she sees the amount of food she will receive. A woman in her eighties moves along slowly with her walker and insists her contact with us is part of what keeps her able to live independently and manage bills. An older man who needs to work but hasn’t been able to find a job lets us know how grateful he is we’re here.

These are everyday stories at ShareNet, but we never lose sight of the individual. Every story is a person with their own history, a burden they alone carry, triumphs and defeats particular to them. Everyone who has ever volunteered with us has been able to hear these stories and look into the eyes of those telling them, even those who may have started as skeptics, have come to understand the need is real, often urgent and deep, and often not for any reason other than this is sometimes just the way life goes.

All stories are honored at ShareNet, from the children of families in need at all four Kingston public schools who look forward to receiving our Food2GO program each week of the school year, to seniors on limited incomes struggling to remain independent and pay their bills, and all the lives in between. Who knows what combination of factors make up the need to use a food bank, or who among us will need to use one?

For years after the economic upheaval of 2008, we saw many people who, prior to that time, couldn’t have imagined themselves in the circumstance of needing a food bank. Our service numbers have never declined since then; one year out of the last 11 remained relatively flat, but the other 10 all increased.

As homelessness and affordable housing occupy a bigger share of the public attention, as communities attempt to triage pressing problems, hunger sometimes gets lost, or deprioritized. That’s why SNAP benefits, or food stamps, are so often reduced or under threat. Since there are resources available for food insecurity maybe people believe the issue is covered. Hunger isn’t as obvious as homelessness or traffic; the hidden nature of hunger sometimes works against it.

Over the past 26 years ShareNet has built a foundation of trust and a coalition of support for our neighbors in need. Community support is the most important element in that coalition. With your help we’ve created meaningful programs, which when combined provided over 24,000 individual services in 2018.

We’ve never been content with good enough or business as usual. Most food charities rely on randomly donated goods for a random distribution. We wanted to offer more, and to provide it in a more regular, systematic distribution, and so we purchase over half of what we distribute. This year, through the increased support of local farmers and our own Fresh & Frozen purchasing, we made our most significant inroads ever around client nutrition.

October was the kickoff for Neighbor Aid 2019, the annual fundraiser ongoing through the end of the year which ensures a basic needs safety net for the most vulnerable among us. Together we are a community who doesn’t want to see anyone written off or suffering, least of all children and seniors, who are the majority of those we serve.