The blog entry below is from Patty, who is helping Connecticut Food Bank with the client survey portion of a national Feeding America study called Hunger in America 2014. The purpose of the study is to help us gain a better understanding about the types of programs, services and resources our programs provide. Patty is overseeing volunteers that are gathering important data on site at some of our member food-assistance programs.
Covenant Soup Kitchen & Pantry – May 28, 2013
It was a long drive to Covenant Soup Kitchen & Pantry on a record breaking 90 degree day. My GPS kept telling me to switch from one highway to another, and finally, turn onto a small street that led into the town of Willimantic. At first, I thought that the church with the crowd of people in the parking lot with shopping bags was the survey location, but I did not spot the bright neon yellow volunteer T-shirts anywhere and I saw the Connecticut Food Bank Mobile Pantry truck parked in the lot when I arrived. I approached a group of people who were chatting near some tables set up close to the truck. They were unaware of the survey, but directed me to the large gray stone church across the street. After trying the bright red front doors of the gray stone church, which didn’t budge, I walked around the back of the building and saw a small sign that signified the food pantry. Inside, Alex was starting to set up the tablets with a volunteer. One of his tablets was not working properly, so I set up both of the ones that I had with me. Immediately, two clients began to take the survey.
Many of the clients that we asked to do the survey that day agreed to do it, and even some who were not picked wanted to take the survey. We had to gently decline their offer and explain that the survey was set up to select a certain client number in order of appearance. The wait for the food was long. Clients sat patiently around the tables that were usually used for meals. Some of the clients were Spanish speaking, and there were a few families and single men. One man who was helping to consolidate the free bakery products put out on the tables told us that this pantry gave out a lot of broccoli, which apparently he was not fond of, so he goes to another pantry for his food. I can’t imagine being a picky eater and being food insecure.
Near the end of the two hours when the pantry was open, a tall, rail-thin figure appeared. The figure wore tight black nylon bicycle pants, slim bicycle shoes, and a matching black zip up nylon jacket. The most fascinating article of clothing, however, was the contoured black and gray bicycle headgear. It sported a double spot light in the front, with a rear-view mirror, and a large continuously flashing red light on the back. The helmet encased the head almost completely, the eyes were hidden behind large dirt stained goggles, and a few strands of stringy pepper and salt hair spilled down almost to the waist. At this point, I wondered whether this was a man or a woman. Once the helmet and the goggles came off, a clean shaven man’s face appeared, weather beaten, darkly tanned, and deeply lined. He was carrying several empty plastic bags and a large backpack. After agreeing to take the survey without hesitation, I led him to a tablet setup. When I told him that it was an anonymous survey, he said, “That’s good. I love when things are anonymous.” I suspect that this man may be a loner, someone who lives on his own and answers to no one. Perhaps he has little or no family. I imagined that he rides his bike all over town and through Connecticut’s back roads and forest paths, free from everyday concerns, at least for a while. After he took the survey, he disappeared in the food pantry area to get his food.
A while later, he emerged from the pantry with several bags stuffed with groceries. I asked him if he was going to be able to carry all of that food on his bicycle and he assured me that he could. This obviously was not the first time that he packed his bicycle with pantry food.
To read more blog entries from Patty, click here.