The Face of Hunger May Surprise You

When we hear or read about “the hungry” or “the homeless”, we think of
somebody visibly hungry; or the traditional homeless person, with a grocery
cart with all their worldly goods; or someone (usually a man) huddling in an
entrance way trying to keep out of the rain.

A recent report issued by Second Harvest Food Bank found what we at
Loaves and Fishes have known for some time now – the face of the
hungry and homeless is changing!

It is called the “Silicon Valley Paradox” - that “while Silicon Valley is one of the
richest areas in the world…26.8% of the population – almost 720,000 people
– qualify as food insecure based on risk factors such as missing meals,
relying on food banks or food stamps, borrowing money for food, or neglecting
bills and rent in order to buy groceries. Nearly a quarter are families with
children. They are the non-traditional homeless: people living in their car or a
garage, working people who have to choose between rent and food, people
without access to a kitchen.” Who are these “hidden homeless?” They are
individuals and families with children, seniors on fixed incomes, veterans and
students.

They are people like Martina Rivera, a 52-year-old mental health nurse, whose
troubles began when her entire building was evicted last year. She thought
about moving in with family but worried about the burden. “My brother was
recovering from a stroke, and my mother is old,” she says. “I couldn’t put
more struggle on them. So what I found was my car.”

She told herself it was only temporary. “I work night shifts at a veterans hospital,
so I would go to my mom’s house to shower, and wait until it was time to work. I
waited and waited for the storm to pass.” Eventually, she found a room without
a private bathroom or kitchen. She shopped for food at 99 cent stores, ate
mainly canned food, and cooked in a microwave. It took a toll on her health,
she says.“I was having panic attacks. My body was like the walking dead. But I
thought I need to keep strong. And I never quit my job.”

Rivera says that for many working people, pride and self-esteem are
barriers to admitting need. “People don’t have money to buy food, but
they are shy to ask. But there is no reason to feel ashamed.”

Why is it that with an improving economy and a lowering unemployment
rate, we find ourselves feeding more people than ever have before?
Sadly, income inequality continues to grow, and the working poor simply
cannot earn enough to cover all their costs. It is heartbreaking to hear
our clients talk about the daily difficulty of having to choose between
purchasing food and meeting other basic needs such as rent, electricity,
and medicine. Finding food has become a central worry for most low
wage workers in our community, made worse by the high cost of
housing.

This year, Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen will prepare, serve and
deliver over 500,000 hot nutritious meals to our hungry neighbors. It's a
critical first step - because, in the end, nothing can really start until
hunger is completely stopped.