My dad was a bricklayer, and mom worked front desk jobs. She came home every night to make us dinner and there was always food. I had never been poor or gone without until I found myself in need, in my late 20's. It opened my eyes to a lot; particularly to something I had never seen.
When my husband Dave returned to school to get his Ph.D. in Physics, back in Arizona, we had three boys. After we had our third child, we were needing more funds. We had food stamps, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), program benefits, and medical assistance due to our low income. Those were a big help, and when we ran out of them, my husband's parents helped us on a regular basis.
There was not extra money. My husband was an underpaid graduate assistant, who also worked part time jobs during his full time studies. I stayed home, raising the boys; if I'd taken a job, the child care coverage would have cost most of what I'd earned.
We were living in a trailer park, close to the Vista Del Camino Park. The kids loved to go down and see the ducks and the geese and play on the playground. Across the water, there was a little building called the Vista Del Camino Food Bank. Since we frequented the park regularly, we couldn't help but notice the sign on the outside of the building: "food.”
I never really thought much of it until suddenly things changed; a $10 raise in hubby's income reduced the amount of food stamps we were qualified for, and as a result, food stamps were not enough, so I went across the river with the kids one day to see what they had. They gave me a box of food; Hot dogs, sugar, canned goods – just all kinds of stuff. They didn’t ask why, or need qualification, they just offered it to us.
It made such an impression on me. I cried all the way home. It was free and it was for us.
My husband and I both worked really hard to get to how we are now, financially secure. But for those few years, if we hadn’t had the food stamps, family help, and the food pantry, I don’t know what would have happened. We would have been very hungry. I can’t even imagine that. Blood sugar has been one of my adult issues for years now; it increases my view on how important eating balanced meals are.
Our children are grown now, and Dave is serving as the department head of Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science at Missouri State. When we moved to Springfield, I didn’t know many people, but I knew I wanted to give back and be involved in helping people. As a result, I always made friends were via helping others. This came from taking action in the system like I was helped in, so many years ago.
That’s how I found Ozarks Food Harvest. I just went online, and thought it looked pretty awesome, and it truly is! This is going to be my sixth year volunteering. Making sure that people have enough to eat is something I have a passion for – and Ozarks Food Harvest is the strongest force that I know of out here. The outreach is to all ages, and helping 28 counties is exceptional. I really feel at home.
Would you like to help? Learn more at ozarksfoodharvest.org.
Lou Ann has volunteered with Ozarks Food Harvest for more than four years, donating 280 hours of her time. She also coordinates the monthly Campbell UMC Faith for Life volunteer group, which has donated 368 hours over the past two years. The only food bank in southwest Missouri, Ozarks Food Harvest provides food to more than 200 hunger-relief organizations across 28 Ozarks counties. It serves more than 260,000 individuals and distributes more than 14 million meals, annually. Ozarks Food Harvest believes that together, we can Transform Hunger into Hope.