When you open your eyes … (Originally published March 17, 2017)

I started this project to find out how to better serve people who are food insecure. I’m beginning to feel I may have bitten off more than I can chew. (haha)

When I was 8 or 9, my parents purchased a house. My father spent that summer working diligently on getting that house ready for winter, but he was unable to insulate anything other than the attic.  This was a big old Queen Anne Victorian, and it had huge picture windows in two of the front rooms, and lots of windows all around.  Lovely in the summer when you could open them all and get a good cross breeze.  That same breeze came through the uninsulated walls and the air pockets on the sides of those single-pane windows, and the oil bill was astronomical.  Dad installed a gas heater in one room, punched a thimble into the chimney, and my parents shut down most of the house that year.

We four children slept on a fold out couch in the room with the gas heater.  Mom and Dad had the bedroom right behind that couch. Dad’s office was just off that room and was pretty cozy because the chimney was in part of that room, and the kitchen was off that room as well as the stairway to the upstairs bathroom (he hadn’t finished the downstairs bathroom yet)

All other doorways and archways were covered with blankets. We were NOT to go into the proper living room (all our clothes were stored there so we didn’t have to go up to our frozen bedrooms) and we were not to touch the thermostat.

The house had an old wood-fired stove in the kitchen, and Dad took that outside that summer. In the late winter, he tapped the maple trees in the yard and we made maple syrup.  I don’t remember exactly if that was the year we had pancakes and oatmeal for pretty much every meal during the winter, but I’m fairly certain it’s close. It was a rough year.  We had an aunt who was a very generous soul, and she got together with his other sisters and made sure we had Christmas presents.  There were warm clothes, and boots, and a few toys. I don’t know if my parents remember that year.

When I was 31, I was a single mother of 1 child who was 5. I was receiving TAFDC benefits, as well as WIC and SNAP. My Dad (divorced from my mom and his second wife) helped me to get an apartment with him, he worked for the landlord so we ended up in this crappy little 3rd-floor attic apartment with a bathroom stuffed into a closet, and roaches everywhere.  We walked to the soup kitchen a few nights a week, and we visited the food bank as often as we were allowed. We scraped by until I finally landed a job, and then got a better job that didn’t involve the ability to make change and smile.

Both these times of my life, I thought we were food insecure.

In doing some research, I have discovered what the World Bank considers extreme poverty.  If you are living on $1.25 US dollars a day, you are in extreme poverty.  If you are living on $2 US Dollars a day, you are in moderate poverty.

Another way to talk about food insecurity is to look at the average caloric intake, and if you are living on less than 2,200 calories a day (NOT BY YOUR CHOICE) then you are probably food insecure. Even when I was in college and eating mac and cheese 6 nights out of 7, I have never been food insecure.