One of my favorite parts of my job is visiting our partner agencies to meet people who are receiving food. I love to hear and record their stories and, through our monthly newsletter, have the chance to show our supporters and donors where the food goes and who they are truly helping and feeding when they support Feed America First. Often times I’ll set out to visit a partner agency and have no idea what I’m truly in for. My most recent partner agency visit left me with an unexpected envelope whose contents gave me a refreshing look at what Feed America First is all about.
Feed America First focuses on small towns and rural areas, so many of our partner agencies are out in the countryside. Last month I visited Christian Chapel Church in Petersburg, TN, the very small town I grew up in. And by small I mean less than 600 residents estimated by the last census! What also impacted me is that we use the term “neighbors in need” so frequently when talking about people we serve, sometimes so much that the term is diluted and impersonal. Who are these “neighbors in need” we talk about so much? We have 180+ partner agencies across the Middle Tennessee region, so it’s hard to think about the 30,000 families we serve every month as our “neighbors.” But because I grew up in Petersburg, the people here truly in fact used to be my neighbors! And in every town that our 180+ partner agencies are, is in fact a community where the term “neighbor” rings true. One of our values at Feed America First is that “hunger is a local problem, solved by neighbors helping neighbors” and our partner agencies truly embody that value in their towns.
When I arrived at Christian Chapel, I met the pastor and he greeted me with an envelope. He said that inside were thank you letters. I wasn’t expecting them and I wasn’t entirely sure who they were from or to, but I was excited to read them. I tucked them in my notebook for later and went on to meet everyone else who was there to volunteer and the people who were there to pick up food for their families. I had a great time meeting everyone, taking pictures, and listening to stories of their struggles, from car wrecks to medical issues leading them to need the extra help with groceries. I had a great time getting to know everyone and feeling the sense of community, love, and care they had for each other. I finally said my goodbyes and went on my way.
My mom lives close to Petersburg, so I went to visit her since I was in the area. I don’t have a key to her house and unfortunately got there before she was home on her lunch break. I sat in my car waiting, catching up on some texts and e-mails. Then I suddenly remembered the envelope the pastor handed me. I sat in my car going through the letters, which turned out to be letters from people receiving food addressed to Feed America First thanking us for all that we do. I always get a heartfelt ‘thank you’ from the people I meet face-to-face who are picking up food, but it was extra special to have these letters. I was especially excited to take them back to our staff, some of whom don’t always get the chance to make partner agency visits and meet people getting food. We’ll be sharing all these letters in various ways soon, but check out a couple of the letters below. They speak for themselves. This is what it’s all about! These are the people you are truly helping when you support Feed America First!