Food banks fill a real need

Published 8:08 pm Friday, November 12, 2010

I got my start in professional journalism earlier than some of my peers. During my senior year in high school I joined a mentorship program in which students spent a half-day, every day in a professional workplace for a semester in exchange for class credit.

I chose a stint at my local newspaper for my mentorship. I figured I would shadow a few reporters and rewrite press releases as briefs. It turns out the editor there was more interested in seeing me write actual articles covering whatever news needed to be covered. It was this editor’s willingness to put me out there in a real reporter’s gig that had me hooked on journalism forever.

Of the many articles I published in the few months I was there, a couple of the stories have stayed with me. And every year around this time, I remember one article in particular.

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In November of 2003, my editor at my mentorship newspaper sent me to our local food bank.

Until that moment I barely knew of the existence of food banks, let alone the multitude of people who depend on these places to survive. I was lucky as a child to never have to worry about being hungry. While we were not rich by any means, my family had no money woes that I knew of.

What I did know of food banks was that I had been part of classes every year that held drives starting in November with the purpose of bringing Thanksgiving to the “less fortunate.” I always made sure my mom provided me with canned sweet potatoes and canned cranberry sauce to donate, since these were my favorite Thanksgiving foods.

In the course of interviewing individuals for the article assigned to me the November I worked for the paper, my eyes were opened to how so many Americans are forced to live.

Besides interviewing the person who ran that particular food bank, I interviewed those who used it as well. These people included an elderly grandmother on a strict income who couldn’t always afford groceries and a single mother of three who worked two jobs and yet still needed the food bank’s help to feed her children.

What struck me about these individuals was that both volunteered their free time with the food bank. They were proud people, and I mean that word in the sense that they didn’t take handouts. While they couldn’t give money back to the food bank, they gave their time as payment.

This week, a representative of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia visited the Suffolk News-Herald. She, too, used the word “proud” to describe the growing number of people who relied on the organization to survive the hard times affecting most Americans.

While some of have came out of the recent economic crisis unscathed, many of our neighbors, coworkers and people we see every day in Suffolk have not been so lucky.

So this time of year, and really all year long, I think we should all be thankful for our good fortune and pitch in a little. Grab a few extra cans during your next trip to the grocery store and take them to your area food bank. You never know whom you might save by spending a few extra dollars.

Contact the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia at 757-627-6599 or visit