Hunger is here, right where we live. It affects every single neighborhood in our region. It impacts people of every age, race, religion, and ethnicity. And it hurts. Hunger robs children of a chance to learn, undermines health, and makes getting and holding good jobs hard.
The CAFB is helping nearly half a million people each year get access to good, healthy food. That’s 10% of our region’s mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, and grandparents. We’ve spoken to some of these people about their experiences. Here’s what they had to say.
Amen is a young girl who attends an after-school program that partners with the CAFB to provide free, healthy meals and snacks to its children.
“I’m in second grade! We’re learning about a lot of exciting stuff in school. In my science class, we learn about tsunamis, volcanoes and earthquakes, and different rocks. After school, I come to my after-school program (A Capital Area Food Bank partner) and do homework and play. We get lots of good snacks here, and dinner. I love to cook though. I even took a cooking class at the Capital Area Food Bank once! So when I’m home, I love to cook with my mom. I love my mom. She gives the best hugs!”
Kevin is a teenager who attends one of the CAFB’s Family Markets, which are monthly food distributions located in public/charter schools.
“I’m in my last year of middle school, and right now I’m focusing on academics and getting into a good high school for next year. Applications are due soon, so I’ve been readying my list of top schools and preparing my applications. My mom knows how important this time is for me, so she’s been packing me nutritious snacks to have throughout the school day. My favorite, though, is when we can sit down as a family for dinner and enjoy a meal using traditional Hispanic-heritage dishes. My favorite? Simple: rice and beans!
With the food we get at the at the Family Market, my mom is able to prepare meals for me and my three siblings to help us in school and for my dad to help him during his long days of construction work. I love the food we get here. And I love that it helps my family and other families at this school when there might not always be food in the house.”
Akiema is the mother of two kids who participate in the CAFB’s After School Meals program, which provides free, healthy meals and snacks to children and teens.
“I used to worry about where my kids’ meals would come from after school. I work in the evenings at a local coffee shop, and while I make money there and have a consistent schedule, I don’t have much wiggle room when paying bills, buying groceries, and running my household. My worry mounted, but one day I found out about the food bank’s After School Meals program. I enrolled my kids, Justin and Alaiyah, right away. Now, while I work, they get to shoot hoops on the basketball court, draw, read, play, and get meals and snacks that fuel them. When I think about the program, I think that a heavy weight has been lifted. It’s a lifesaver. I know that while I’m at work, they are still learning and getting their meals, and having fun.”
Wanda is retired and attends her local church’s food pantry, which partners with the CAFB to provide healthy food to people in need in the area.
“I worked for the D.C. school system, teaching children with special needs, and in my free time I loved to volunteer with my local church and homeless shelters. I’ve even organized several food drives. But a few years ago, I began suffering from a degenerative disease that cause me to go blind in one eye. I also sometimes struggle to see out of my other eye, especially in low-light or extremely-bright-light conditions. This diagnosis changed everything. I could no longer teach and drive into the city every day. So I was forced to retire. Soon after that, I was also forced to choose between paying bills and buying groceries. I was worried, but my years of charity work taught me to look to the community for help. I found a local church that operated a food pantry.
The moment I walked into the pantry, I knew I made the right decision. Pastor David was right there to greet me with a smile. His wife, Sandra, was there too, making sure every attendee was checked in and ready to take home groceries. A helpful volunteer offered to guide me through the pantry. I was surprised to see just how much food this place had, and how much of a variety there was! There was fresh produce, loaves of bread, shelves of non-perishables like pastas, beans, and juice; there were even sections for meat and dairy items—everything I need to cook healthy meals! What a blessing! I burst into tears that first day. I’ve spent my life trying to help people in need, so I just feel so fortunate that my own community was there for me in my own time of need. It felt like divine intervention.
I walked out of the pantry that day with a bag full of groceries, and now I come back week after week. I no longer have to worry as much about whether I will have enough food to eat each week. I feel so full of energy now, and now I even cook more! I absolute love cooking, especially for my daughter and grandkids.”
Justin is a father of three children who attend one of our Family Markets, which provide food and nutrition education at dozens of schools in the region.
“I came to this country nine years ago from Ghana. While growing up in Ghana and through emigrating, I learned the value of hard work. I was able to get a job at a restaurant in northeast D.C. and support myself and soon, a growing family! I now have three kids who are all in elementary school. When my oldest started here, she told me about the Family Market program. I was so excited. I thought, wait, I can go once a month and fill a giant bag full of fruits, vegetables, and other good food? So I’ve been coming here ever since. I love the seasonal foods, like these baby sweet potatoes! And I love that this market helps me provide for my family.”
Arisai is the mother of Kenny, a child in our After School Meals program, which works with partner organizations like public recreation centers and residential community centers to provide food to kids after school.
“I work nights at a local restaurant, prepping food for the following day. This means that I have to put my son Kenny to bed and then head to work. After I get off, it’s usually about 10:00 in the morning and Kenny is at school for a few more hours. This is when I’m able to get a few hours of sleep, but then I’m back up running errands while Kenny is in the After School program. It makes me so happy to know that he gets healthy snacks while he’s there. Bananas, yogurt, grapes. Kenny loves grapes. ‘They have juice inside!’ he always says. Kenny also gets dinner at the program before I pick him up. I love that. It’s a huge relief, since money is tight in our house despite my job. I can just focus on spending time with Kenny for a couple hours before he goes to sleep and I head back out to work.”