Finally our names are called, one by one, and we get our bags. I peer into mine. “Ice cream, no way!” I never dreamed they’d give us dessert.
When we unpack back at home, I see that’s mostly what they give us. There’s cake and bags full of Christmas cookies. I open it and pop one red-and-green sprinkled cookie in my mouth. “Kinda stale,” I say, “but better than nothing.”
There are chicken poppers, catfish sticks and cans upon cans. At the bottom of all of our bags are onions and potatoes. “Not bad,” I remark as we fold our bags up and close the cabinets. Sadly, this is the most food I’ve had on hand since my grocery shopping spree when I first moved to Seattle, more than two months ago.
For dinner that night I eat a can of tomato soup, which is full of strange lumps. I get a stomachache and a horrible case of diarrhea the next day.
The Food Bank becomes a weekly routine. The food usually doesn’t quite last a week, so by the time we go in, we’re hungry. We eat catfish sticks for two weeks and Josh makes homemade french fries and fried onions to go along. I miss vegetables and fruit. I miss real food. I’m fucking tired of those stale Christmas cookies. I’m the only one who even eats them.
The worst thing we ever get is trail mix from the USDA. It looks like a bagful of smushed purple turd. Josh reads the ingredients and the first one is some sort of glucose that sounds like it was enhanced by mad scientists with nuclear waste. Josh and I sit there, daring each other to try it. He goes first and then I put a little in my mouth and swallow. Back to catfish sticks it is.
Even that becomes a struggle though. Do I eat catfish sticks now because I’m hungry, or do I wait because I already had some semi-substantial canned kidney beans today? There are always the cookies when all else fails.
This is an excerpt from something I wrote about just barely scraping by after moving out out to Seattle when I was 21. This is about the first trip my roommates and I took to the Food Bank. This was in January, after we had all lost our seasonal Christmas employment, as well as our heat in the house. There were a few other people living in the house who didn’t make it into this particular snippet.
I never thought of that – many of our food banks don’t have enough refrigeration available for perishables, but it would be nice if farmers donated fresh produce every week on a designated day. I bet it would be gone in no time!
I always feel guilty when I purchase food specifically for food banks. I mean, how often do I eat tuna casserole?
Hey Li – I think nowadays a lot of farms do donate to food banks (which is awesome). The food bank experience described above was from 2003 so it was awhile ago. These days I hear a lot about exactly what you just suggested, and I think it hugely ups the amount of produce available, which is so great.
Peggy – don’t feel guilty! At least it’s something. As long as it hasn’t actually gone bad or rotten (like that tomato soup), it’ll help someone. Catfish sticks and stale Christmas cookies were better than nothing. Also, I didn’t put this in there but my roommate who had a car always wanted to go on Wednesdays, which was the day they got USDA food donations which maybe wasn’t really the best day to go. Tuna casserole would’ve been great.
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