I am hungry.
Not in a figurative sense. Not hungry for a new pair of shoes or hungry to achieve a new milestone in my career.
I am literally hungry. My stomach feels empty more than it feels full these days and my fridge and pantry are so bare it seems that they are taunting me each time I open them to inspect their contents. I save all non-meal food items for my kids because even though I am nursing a baby and need the nutrients, I can’t stand to hear the tiny voices of my children every time they go to the cupboard only to discover there’s nothing there to eat.
I hope that they don’t remember this. I pray that, instead, they remember the laughter we have shared as I try to distract them from their desire for food. I hope that they forget the tears that fill my eyes at the thought of their tummies growling, but remember the smile on my face as we have dance parties in the living room to Taylor Swift.
I don’t even know how we got here. It all happened so fast, when just months ago the thought of going without food seemed like something that could never happen to me. We work hard, we love Jesus and we serve Him to the best of our abilities. It’s crazy how one decision made even with the best of intentions can alter the course of your life in ways you never imagined. It’s eye-opening the compassion you can express for others when you are walking through a situation you could’ve never thought you’d find yourself in.
Lately, when we do get to buy groceries, it’s only the bare necessities. I hate that I fuss at the kids the minute they run to the pantry or to the fridge for a snack because they want to sample all the food they haven’t seen in days, but I know the sooner they eat it, the sooner it’s gone. And when it’s gone, I have to hear them cry about their hunger, and it kills me.
How do you explain rations to small children? How do you tell them “If you eat this now, you will be hungry later?” How do you live with yourself as a mother when you’re digging sugar soaked fruit out of a donated can from the food pantry to feed it to your children for lunch and they beg for more but it’s all you have?
I try to thank the Lord for His provision. I try to smile while I shop at the store while I furiously calculate every penny we are spending and simultaneously determine if we will be able to keep our water running once I buy these items. I try not to cry when a friend orders us a pizza for dinner because she knows otherwise we would not have anything to eat.
I try not to hate politicians who say that people like me should be drug tested when we are already living in overwhelming grief and humiliation. I try not to be offended by fellow church members and Christians who want to withhold government programs that we need just to survive. I try not to resent my husband- who works tirelessly and without complaint, often three jobs at once- for us being in this position.
I try to understand what it’s like for other moms who never get a reprieve from this reality. I try to imagine what it’s like for families who don’t have electricity or comfortable beds or adequate shelter. I try not to get angry at those who have excessive amounts of money but want to hold on to it for dear life, because they somehow deserve it more than I do. More than my kids do.
I try to keep it together and to put on a happy face for those around me, but most of all for my kids. The hunger pangs screaming from within my hollow stomach burn so strong that they turn me into a person I don’t like, a mother I don’t recognize. I try so hard to be what they need me to be, but…
I am hungry.
The above is written anonymously by a fellow Baton Rouge mom, a mom living in our community, this mom could be anyone’s neighbor. Hunger is everywhere: It’s in every community, it can also be invisible. Some 47 million Americans live in poverty. All told, 17.5 million households and 16 million children—one out of every five—struggle with hunger. Visit the Baton Rouge Food Bank to learn how you can help those hungry in our community.