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“An empty cupboard is scary”

Free Food Market shopper Patti talks about food security, stigma and cooking tips

Patti has been going to the Neighborhood House Free Food Market since her vision declined to the point she couldn’t work, which was about 15 years ago. Her sisters help her shop and bring food home. Everyone in the Market who knows Patti enjoys her quick wit and positive look on life. She shared her story with Neighborhood House to support the 18th Annual SW Hope food and fund drive:

I’ve always had low vision, but then it started to decrease and things became difficult, job-wise and everything else. Losing my vision made it hard to work. Eventually my only source of income was social security and disability and it wasn’t enough. Plus, food is so expensive now.

You don’t go to a pantry if you have any money. You get to the point where you know you have to ask for help. For me, that was about 15 years ago. So I looked up food pantries in my area and found Neighborhood House.

Sometimes I feel embarrassed and I don’t want people who know me to know that I rely on a food pantry. You want to be just a regular member of society and not deal with all that stigma. It’s a shame that there is a stigma, but that’s just part of society.

I never thought I’d be in this position. But if I had to be in this position, the Neighborhood House Free Food Market is a good place to go.

– Patti, free food Market shopper

But going to Neighborhood House was a smooth entry. It’s a good experience. It’s the best pantry in the city, I think. I haven’t been to every one, but it’s the best of the ones I’ve been to. Most importantly, the staff treats people well. They are nice without being condescending – that can drive you crazy. I’m blind and I’m old, so I don’t need that in my life.

Having help with food allows me to have money to spend on other things. And that gives me a sense of security, too. An empty cupboard is scary. Having help with food makes dealing with things in my life easier.

My favorite part about Neighborhood House is the fresh food section, the produce. It’s a big deal. Those are really important. I wasn’t a horrible food snob before, but… kinda. Through the Market I’ve been introduced to a lot of new foods to me like collard greens and canned salmon. Before I would have said ‘yuck – only poor people eat that.’ But that’s not true. I tried them and they’re delicious. I like to make bowls for my dinner. Rice and beans and greens – I just throw it all in. And I don’t feel deprived.

I want to encourage food sources like grocery stores and restaurants to contribute. Same for individuals and faith communities. There’s no reason that people in this country should go hungry – it’s ridiculous. We have a right to food. We have a right to eat.

 I’ve dealt with some obstacles in my life. I’m part of the population considered “educated but poor.”

I have two Master’s degrees and taught college-level classes in behavioral marketing. I’m educated, I’ve been a professional. I never thought I’d be in this position. But if I had to be in this position, the Neighborhood House Free Food Market is a good place to go.

To donate to the SW Hope food and fund drive and support neighbors like Patti, click HERE.

Long-time Market shopper Patti loves filling her cart with green vegetables. Here, she’s assisted by Free Food Market volunteer Caralynn West.