“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When was the last time you ate a nourishing meal? No, not a sumptuous feast — simply enough food to enable you to perform adequately at work, or for your child to be able to excel at school.
This morning? This afternoon? Last night? Consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
As defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. In Pennsylvania, approximately 1.6 million people — or one in eight — are food insecure. Right here in Montgomery County, one of the most affluent of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, more than 80,710 individuals are considered food insecure. Of these local residents, 13.2% are children.
Count individuals and staff at multiple DEC facilities among the hard-working volunteers distinguishing themselves regularly in the fight to end hunger in our neighborhoods. Among them are developmentally disabled men and women from DEC’s Norristown Training Center who, under the supervision of facility director Kathleen L. Wagner, serve up healthy doses of compassion and unconditional love at the Interfaith Choice Pantry at Grace Lutheran Church.
Food pantries in Norristown, a city with a large transient population, generally need more volunteers than local soup kitchens because the core group of volunteers is aging. So Wagner and her team of eager volunteers have stepped up to the plate to perform a variety of services: helping to unload foodstuffs off delivery trucks, carefully sorting items that have been donated by concerned residents and businesses, and strategically stocking shelves in accordance with the pantry’s “choice” service that allows its clients to pick their own food items.
“Our volunteers are genuinely serving men, women and children who need a helping hand,” says Wagner. “At the same time, the Interfaith project combines community service with learning valuable job skills that may help our individuals qualify for future employment opportunities. Participants learn to be independent, efficient and to take on responsibilities. The socialization skills that they develop help them to interact with others, to comfortably engage in conversation and to be less self-centered and more other-oriented.”
The staff at the Norristown Training Center — much like those at other DEC facilities — use the Interfaith Choice Pantry and similar community service projects to encourage individuals to focus on what’s truly important in life, rather than material things. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “Live simply so that others may simply live.”