Hunger Actions

September was “Hunger Action Month” in Pennsylvania.

It could be said that every day is “Hunger Action Day” at Saint Benedict Education Center.  SBEC staff have in front of them participants who need assistance in dealing with the multifaceted reality of hunger in their lives and that of their children.

Hunger issues can be as stark as not having enough money to pay for the food necessary to feed one’s family.  It can involve learning about a budget to empower one to use well their resources.  It can involve questions about where to shop – and why. 

During the pandemic shut-downs much information was being provided about “food deserts” and “food apartheid.” Food items in small convenience stores found in “food deserts” is more expensive.    Some reports indicate cereal prices were sometimes 25% higher; milk prices 5% more.  (NPR, “Food Insecurity in the U.S. by the Numbers” by Christianna Silva, 9-27-20) These stores generally stock highly processed, packaged, high-fat, high-sugar foods and drinks rather than a variety of healthy, nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.  

SBEC is located within a food desert.  While most of the clients at St. Benedict’s do receive SNAP benefits (food stamps), access to healthier food at lower prices is not readily available to them. This daily reality guides the types of conversations SBEC staff have with their participants.  

Budgeting is a topic considered by all Case Managers.  What is budgeting?  How does one create a helpful budget?  Why is this skill important to learn and use if one is to have sufficient and healthy food in addition to meeting other expenses.

Tanja Goudy talks with her participants about the use of store ads.  She encourages them to look at the weekly ads, which not only has them consider prices but also think in terms of planned shopping at the larger grocery stores.  The result may be less impulse buying at more expensive local convenience stores.

From another Case Manager, Ebony Lindemann: “My discussions regarding food always stem from the place of family management and networking. Many of our participants lack their own transportation to get to the grocery store.  They rely on friends and family to assist with childcare and transportation to purchase food for the month.  Going to an actual grocery store encourages list making and the planning of meals.”

Case Management Specialist Sandy Osmanski shares with her clients how using coupons enables a person to make better choices in their purchasing as well as save money.  In her couponing classes she touches on numerous topics:  the need to be organized; budgeting; the use of coupons, rebates, and rewards; comparing the prices of name brand and store brand items; and watching container sizes and pricing.  Sandy also includes conversation with her participants about menu planning, which enables them to think ahead about meals shaped by food items that are on sale or with which coupons could be used.

Sandy proudly shared an experience of a participant.  The young woman used coupons as she purchased food items with her food stamps.  With this purchase she gained rewards that she then used to purchase other non-food stamp items.  Such a creative thinker and a wise shopper!

Sister Pat Witulski, Community Service Supervisor, engages in conversation with participants in community service about their own meal planning and good uses of leftovers as they prepare meals for others.  One example of this is when Sister Pat offers ideas of how to use leftover chicken. She’s come up with quite a list of possibilities to get her clients started!  See slide.

Pennsylvania designated September as “Hunger Action Month”.  Saint Benedict Education Center knows that every month calls for hunger actions.

What might you learn from a “hunger conversation” with an SBEC staff?  Given your own life situation and habits would any of the following questions be worth considering?
    •How might you describe your own food choices and use?  
    •Do you purchase food locally and in season?  
    •Do you regularly plan and prepare meals or conveniently grab take outs?  
    •Do you need to make more soup to waste less?  
    •Do you dine or graze?  
    •How nutritious are the foods you eat?  
    •How do you consider the cost of a food or drink item in your purchases?

Many of us have the luxury of purchasing what we want, when we want it.  We don’t have to consider all of these questions in order to make our resources last.  We don’t go hungry or face the disapproving looks of others when we pay for our groceries with food stamps.  

And so we are called to consider how hunger impacts others and what we can do to help.  “Hunger Actions” --- A call to us all.  Every day.