“Hey mom, ok if I grab a snack from the fridge? I’m hungry.” “Sure honey, no problem, but make it small we’re eating dinner in about an hour and I don’t want you to fill up. Tonight we’re having meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn and your father’s stopping to get something for dessert.”
It’s a daily exchange between parent and child in small towns and urban cities in homes across America. Unless, that is, you happen to be among the working poor. Those conversations sound much different. “Hey mom, is it ok if I grab something to eat from the fridge? They had mystery meat again at school today and I just couldn’t stomach it. I’m really hungry.” “Honey, no. I’m going to ask you to grab a tall glass of water to fill your belly until dinner. I don’t get paid again until Friday, and we really need to save what little food there is for dinner this week.”
For those of us who are parents, the concept of having to tell our children they can’t eat when they are hungry, is heart wrenching. Yet, employed parents with young children are now the fastest-growing group at emergency food pantries. Millions of working families exist on low-wage jobs which do not pay enough to meet their rent and medical bills. The choice to heat or eat is an all too-common dilemma for thousands of families right here in Western Massachusetts.
Thankfully, there’s NBA. No, not the National Basketball Association, but rather Not Bread Alone, one of more than 70 programs offered through CHD (Center for Human Development) working tirelessly to feed and nurture those in our community who struggle with hunger. Not Bread Alone serves free lunch at noon on Saturdays and Sundays, and on Wednesday a 4:00 p.m. meal is warm and waiting to welcome those in need. Groceries are distributed every Saturday at 12:45 p.m. and counselors, as well as other caring staff are always on hand to assist guests with resolving whatever issues they may be facing. Unstable housing, a delay in receiving word of their application for food stamps, a letter of reference for a new job, accessing health insurance, or just a familiar and friendly face to share their frustration with what we always hope is a temporary setback.
According to Robert Stover, Program Supervisor at Not Bread Alone, “We welcome everyone and anyone so there is always a diverse crowd. The fact that we serve ‘family style’ rather than cafeteria-style is a distinctive feature of our program and one which sets us apart. We do this intentionally and that is to promote, at every table, a sense of community. We are happiest when we look out into the dining room and witness the many conversations happening among our guests. There is a buzz of activity at each table. Eating together is an important social function. Without Not Bread Alone many would be eating in situations or locations that are anything but welcoming or pleasant. Most, but not all of our guests, are homeless or low income. A number come from nearby subsidized housing. Some are in their twenties, others in their seventies. On Sundays and Wednesdays, there might be one to five children. On Saturdays, there are many more. Yet, despite their many differences, our guests do have one thing in common and that is their interest in wanting to contribute themselves. That might mean taking out the trash, picking up and folding chairs, wiping down tables, sweeping, mopping. They appreciate the vital service we are providing and want to give not simply take.”
Located in the First Congregational Church of Amherst, NBA is a small program with a mighty following of volunteers and dedicated sponsors, but there is always room for more. Your volunteer time and talents are welcome and critically needed by all who are served. Come and chop, dice, stir or serve. NBA would look forward to hosting you, as well as all those who visit Not Bread Alone. For you see, no matter what is being served, a compassionate ear, a caring embrace and a genuine concern are always on the menu. That’s what makes CHD and Not Bread Along, positively life changing!
To volunteer, to make a donation or to adopt a week of groceries for families and individuals in need, please contact Kimberley Lee at CHD by calling 439-2252.
NBA Mission Statement: Not Bread Alone welcomes everyone to help prepare and enjoy fresh, nutritious and family-style meals using local ingredients whenever possible. Our free meals program fosters a caring environment that relies on strong volunteer and community involvement. All who come are welcomed, accepted and appreciated for who they are and what they offer.
Your contribution can help a hungry family in need.