When you can’t think of what to write

but you have a blog you need to do, and so you procrastinate it for almost two weeks. Really. Honestly. Ask my roommates and they’ll tell you I’ve said pretty much daily for the past two weeks “I’m going to write a blog” and yet here we are, and I’m just now doing it. Just like I’ve said daily since I got here that I was going to make sure all my stuff was organized and put away. It still isn’t, but we’re closer. Which is a big step for me, because I am super bad about ever fully unpacking. The advantage here is I have almost no stuff. Although I’ve acquired more things, mostly Community Food Bank polos and stuff. And these super comfy CFB hoodies that I wear when it gets chilly. Which is totally a thing. So take the humidity out of the air and you realize what the actual temperature feels like, and let me say, 60 with a max of 20% humidity is not so warm guys. Like, not at all.

So, the routine has been pretty established, but over the next couple of weeks is about to go crazy. I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the bike, but it’s still tough. It gets slowly easier, so hopefully as it cools off it gets easier.

Work is pretty awesome. I love working for the Community Food Bank. I’m finding the field of food justice to be fascinating. Food is a basic human right, and yet we (as a nation) act as if those who don’t have the means to procure shelter and food on the money they earn are somehow just not trying hard enough. Every day, regardless of how early I get to CFB, there is a line waiting for the TEFAP program, and every day, unless I leave after our hours in the warehouse are over, it’s still busy downstairs as people come in to get what the USDA and donations have made available to them. The YAVs are considered a partner agency (which are the groups my department works with) so we can shop at agency market. We eat a good deal of food that is what is called “Grocery Rescue”, in other words, things that supermarkets and other stores couldn’t sell, so they donate it. Sometimes you go in and the food is healthy and beautiful and delicious, sometimes it’s slim pickings. This has raised an interesting question for me. At what point do we recognize that we, as a nation, are not doing enough to help support those who have, to use a euphemism, “fallen on hard times”. At what point do we view human worth as more important than the almighty dollar.

Part of the work I’m doing revolves around training volunteers and agencies on civil rights, food safety, and the dignity of clients. They don’t initially seem related, but when you think about it, it boils down to caring for people. One of the ways I have always cared about people is through food. If you know me, I love to cook. I come by it honestly, as my family is a family that cooks together, and laughs over our meals, especially when we’re with our extended family. No matter the circumstances, marriage, birth, death, holidays, and anything in between will find us laughing and talking over a meal. It’s what we do. I’m privileged to have grown up this way. I wrote in a letter to my NAPC family today and explained that food was formative to my experience there. So much of my becoming part of the #humansofnorthave happened over shared meals. Here, our community of YAVs share meals. We plan them together, we eat together (most nights). Some nights it’s quick and we’re all tired and moderately quiet, some nights, it’s loud and raucous and we’re laughing so hard it takes us forever to finish a plate. Our table is a re-purposed communion table from Ghost Ranch. Many people can sit at it. I love the table, it draws that parallel between Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, and our everyday meals. I’m constantly reminded of one of my favorite scriptures, which became a favorite in high school. I don’t have it memorized in English, but because of a version of it we sang in choir, I do have it memorized in Spanish. I’ve looked it up so I can make sure it’s spelled right and what not. You can listen to a recording HERE. I really wish I had the recording from when we sang it in high school, I remember that year in that specific chorus (Belle Chantique) being some kind of magical. The text, I imagine, is a more singable rendering.

 

Mateo 18:19-20 19Además les digo que si dos de ustedes en la tierra se ponen de acuerdo sobre cualquier cosa que pidan, les será concedida por mi Padre que está en el cielo. 20 Porque donde dos o tres se reúnen en mi nombre, allí estoy yo en medio de ellos.

Matthew 18:19-20 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

For me, this text is pretty fantastic, but can also be pretty tricky. Because how many times have I prayed with others for an end to poverty, to violence, to prejudice, racisim, sexism, xenophobia, and so much more. Our cry goes up, “How long?!”. As I’ve been working here, it’s pretty constantly on my mind. But today, in this blog, we’re talking about it in the context of people who need food. People, who often work 40+ hours a week, who can’t afford to feed their families. People for whom that time of a meal is not something they see as stable, a transformative force. I’m not sure how to say it, but there is a problem. I see it, and I see it not just in the systems that cause people to be in this situation, but in the way we view how we help people. Asking for help is hard, I’m sure you all know. In our individualistic society, it can feel akin to admitting that you have failed and can’t do it yourself. We glorify the ability to do it yourself. It has given rise to all kinds of magazines, a channel, pinterest, and so much more. America, the land of the free and home of the diy-ers. Think about it. We glorify it in a hipster-y, “wow, how cool you have an etsy shop?” sort of way. And to some extent, there’s nothing wrong with it. Until we humiliate people for things over which they have no control. And sometimes we humiliate them unknowingly with good intentions to help. It comes in the form of rushing someone along in a food bank line where they don’t get to choose anything themselves. It comes in the form of not offering culturally appropriate food (in other words, something people recognize and can cook). It comes in the form of offering sub-par food. If you wouldn’t eat it, why should someone else be forced to. And that’s just some of it. We act as if this necessity isn’t something we should worry about for other people, as if, by helping someone feed their family, we are being burdened with all that extra. We judge people for their inability to budget, to make ends meet, to not “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. I encourage you, find the local food bank. Reach out, email, find out what you can do to help. And then just take it in. Don’t assume. Because often, we know far less than we think we do.

 

Yesterday, I got to travel with another intern to visit three different branch banks, in Nogales (Arizona side, we’re going to discuss the border and such in a later blog), Amado, and Green Valley. All three pantries operate what we call a “client-choice” model, and all three client-choice models look different, but the idea is the same. Basically, instead of being handed all of the items, they’re given a choice of what they would like. TEFAP (the emergency food assistance program) must be the same for everyone (federal law, more on that another time), but the bonus food that food banks and pantries receive can be selected by the client, based on their needs and preferences. It makes it feel more like shopping in a grocery store. So that’s what I want you to think about, how does food affect your life, how much control do you have over what you eat? How would you feel if you had no choice in what that was, let alone if you were then treated as “less than” in the process? These are the things I’m exploring this year, and some of the things I’m currently addressing. I’m sure I’ll talk more about it as the year goes on, but for now, that’s what I’ve got.

In other news, I’ve almost reached my individual fundraising goal! I’ve raised $2,855 so far, which is quite amazing. Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far, I really do appreciate it, and it means a lot. You’ll be getting more thanks soon, each of you individually, but I wanted to be sure I acknowledged you here, in my blog! I can now really focus in on our house goal of $7500 dollars as a house. If we succeed, we’re going to the Grand Canyon, so there’s definitely motivation! I’ve never been, and I’m pretty sure it’d be an amazing experience. If you have the ability to donate, please click the about page to find more information, or contact me here or on facebook or email to get a link or an address to donate! Anything helps! I also welcome any and all cards, letters, prayers, emails, whatever you want to brighten my day! It may take me a while, but I promise I’ll respond (I’ve got quite the backlog I’m working on, go figure!) For now, I hope you have all registered to vote, have done your absentee ballots, or whatever it is you need to do to participate. Please go vote. It’s so important. I’m about to do my early voting ballot right now (Arizona does mail in, it’s super cool!)

 

I love you all, hope you’ve had a great week and are going to have a good weekend.

Rachel

PS HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY EVELYN MARIS, JEFF MEYERS, and BETH MCKINNON 😀 I haven’t done a blog so no bday shout outs yet, but there’s some 😉

 

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