I shared some random thoughts a couple years about a piece of advice my dad gave me that still rings so loudly in my ears years and years later: No knowledge is ever wasted knowledge.
I found this advice particularly applicable recently when I was extended an invitation to be a part of the ambassador program for Harvesters, a massive food bank organization based in Kansas City. I admittedly didn’t know much about what it meant to be food insecure, how food banks work, or really anything about Harvesters in general beyond one phone conversation where I graciously received an overview.
My thoughts were all over the place, and I was initially inclined to pass on the opportunity. This program isn’t applicable to me at all. My readers won’t care about this. There is no way that I’m the right fit for Harvesters. I can’t see how my words will benefit them in any way. I don’t want them to waste their time and efforts on me.
But I’m telling you – I just couldn’t shake this one. I thought about my dad’s advice and how no knowledge (or experience) is ever wasted. We learn and grow from everything we expose ourselves to, even if the benefits may not seem immediate.
So I decided to go for it; I just had a really good feeling about all of this. To kick off being a 2017 ambassador, we were all invited to a two hour summit in Kansas City.
So I showed up and had the very best two hours. I met nine other mega talented, diverse, and kind ambassadors, and we did our best to wrap our brains around as much information about Harvesters as we could.
We toured their outdoor garden, their incredibly massive and impressive warehouse, and bagged dozens of bags of apples to be donated to needy families, all while learning about everything Harvesters does for the region of the country they so generously serve.
What is Harvesters?
In a nutshell, Harvesters falls under Feeding America, which you’ve likely heard of before. In a nutshell, they collect food and send it out across the region to communities who will distribute it. It’s an unbelievably complex organization that provides food to families who so desperately need it.
So there’s two things I want to share with you from my afternoon at Harvesters.
First, one of the hosts gently explained how unless you’ve been food insecure before, you cannot possibly relate to what these people go through. So much truth. Wow.
And then she began to paint the picture of what these people go through, and it was a mic drop moment for me because I could see it. I could really, truly see how this happens. She explained (so much better than I can do, but I’ll try) that this is a cycle that is so hard to break. If you have $3 to buy food for your whole family, you’re going to choose the junky, processed foods from the gas station because $3 goes a lot further there than it does on fruits, vegetables, and proteins. And this happens meal after meal, day after day. You’re working multiple jobs and so are your family members and anyone else that could help you with the children, you don’t have time to grocery shop and prep/cook meals, and this just keeps happening. It becomes the norm because everyone around you is also in deep, deep poverty.
They talked about how food insecurity leads to devastating healthy conditions later in life for people who are then raising children the same way they were raised, all while dealing with diabetes and other diseases, mentally and physically. This can also lead to other troublesome consequences, and man… it all just slapped me across the face for some reason. I’ve volunteered in food pantries and homeless shelters numerous times in my life, but those experiences didn’t hold a candle to what I learned on this day at Harvesters.
I got in the car when it was over, called my brother (who has had a huge heart for those less fortunate for his entire life) and couldn’t stop talking for almost two hours. I had to tell him everything I did and learned, and he was so satisfied to hear all of it. He felt like I got it and understood why he so deeply cares and interacts as closely with those who are food insecure. I cannot even begin to pretend that I understand or relate to food insecurity. I can’t. I am so fortunate.
The other thing I wanted to tell you about is the main thing I wanted to tell you about. 🙂
A hot topic of discussion and angle of learning for me was about what happens when kiddos go hungry in the summertime. During the school year, students often have access to free or reduced breakfast and lunch, but this resource isn’t obviously as readily available during the summer. This often puts a huge strains on families with additional meals that they need to come up with, and often the children just go hungry.
This is where incredible food organizations like Harvesters and those that they work with come into play. They are committed to ending hunger year-round and working diligently during the summer to nourish as many kids and families as they can. This is also unfortunately a time when many do not have food banks on their radar. So many volunteer and donate around the holidays (which is so, so wonderful and so needed), but hunger is a year-round issue, especially in the summer for children.
So how can you help?
For those in close proximity to the Kansas City area:
- You can give of your time and volunteer. You can give financially if you feel led. You can donate food, or you can use your voice and spread the word about this life-changing organization to others who may have big hearts but are just unaware of this need.
- There is also a huge event going on this summer called “Our Community Can“, which is a huge neighborhood canned food drive. If you’re in the Kansas City or Topeka areas, click here to read more about how your neighborhood or organization can participate and help end summer hunger.
- Click here for information about the Youth Hunger Summit, happening in Kansas City July 24th-27th.
- If you shop at Price Chopper, you can help with the No School=No Lunch initiative. Click here for more details or learn how you can help virtually!
- You can even have your birthday party at Harvesters! Click here for more information.
For those reading who are not local to Kansas/Missouri:
You can get in touch with your local food organizations and volunteer your time, donate food, or give financially. There are so many capacities to give back to your community via a food organization. Check out this interactive map that shows a break down of each county in the country and what percentage of food insecurity each is facing. It’s mind-boggling.
What everyone can do:
Approach hunger with your children and have a conversation with a goal of softening their hearts towards those who are less fortunate so that they may also want to serve in whatever capacity their little hands and hearts can. This article does a fantastic job of better explaining how to involve your children with putting an end to food insecurity.
Let’s chat! I’d love your thoughts and experiences as they relate to this post. <3
Thank you Harvesters for sponsoring this post and inviting me to be a part of this fantastic program!