Decades Later, Hunger Pangs Remembered

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“I grew up in an environment where we didn’t have a lot of opportunities. I know what it’s like to go to bed hungry,” remembers Paula Porter, 61.

Ms. Porter was the eldest of eight children in a single-parent home. “My mother did a good job and she really did the best she could. But we needed help. Back then, we didn’t have food stamps. I remember calling it ‘commodities’: we would go down to the municipal building and pick up canned beef and ‘government cheese’. It wasn’t healthy, but we were hungry.”

After more than four decades as a Human Resources Specialist, working at Bank of America for 26 years and then Amtrak for 16 years, Ms. Porter retired in November of 2011. She had been volunteering with a hospice care organization, but when she saw a news report on children in the DC area suffering from hunger, her childhood memories came back, and she knew she wanted to help.

She is one of many skilled volunteers at the Capital Area Food Bank, and her 15 hours/week are spent recruiting other volunteers. She sees the possibilities in having people such as university students and retired members play a role in feeding the hungry.

“I see through the food bank that people are getting help. The food bank provides nutritional information, and assists people in gaining access to healthy food. That is very important to me,” she says.

Not only does Ms. Porter enjoy the feeling of giving back to the community, but she says her mother, 80, enjoys hearing her talk about volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank.

“She gets a reward out of seeing me give back! We reminisce about those days and we look at how far we’ve come. It humbles us. We figure if we can overcome poverty, then others will, too.”

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