From Food Shelf Client to Committed Volunteer
Christina Bang loves her 8-year-old stepson, Michael, like her own child. There isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for him. So, when she was faced with any empty refrigerator ahead of one of Michael’s weekend visits and had no money for food, she didn’t hesitate to ask for help. She went to her local church and did research online and found the Keystone Community Services food shelf.
“When I first told my mom that I was applying for SNAP [formerly food stamps] she was shocked, but I was going through a rough period, and I reminded her of what she always told me when I was a little girl: we shouldn’t judge people,” she said.
Christina grew up in an upper middle-class household in Stillwater and admits she had preconceptions about people who used food shelves.
“I had my own negative perceptions, but not anymore,” she said. “I think most people who visit a food shelf, like me, are using it because they absolutely have to. I was working two jobs, but I still needed help. It was just where I was at in my life. When I went in, I wasn’t ashamed.”
That was nearly two years ago. Christina has since visited the food shelf from time to time when money is tight, and she needs food for Michael.
“We’re treated really well at the food shelf,” she said. “It’s been a very good experience. We get fruit (Michael’s favorite), bread, cereal and peanut butter. Michael is a fruit fanatic and we like to eat healthy food,” she said. “I’d like to see more healthy, fresh food at the food shelves.”
Christina isn’t alone. Fresh produce, dairy and lean protein are some of the most requested items at food shelves. Second Harvest Heartland and its hunger-relief partners are working to increase the availability of these healthy foods through community partnerships and a new hunger-relief campus with greater cooler capacity in Brooklyn Park.
Giving as much as she can
Now that she has a full-time management position, Christina no longer needs to use the food shelf to feed her family. She and her boyfriend, Anthony, have even started to remodel their home. Although because of their tight budget, they’re doing it at a snail’s pace, which is fine by Christina. She’s just grateful.
On a recent trip to Menard’s to purchase supplies, Christina noticed a sign for Second Harvest Heartland. She recognized the name from a package of food she’d received at the food shelf.
“I knew right away that I wanted to volunteer here [at Second Harvest Heartland],” she said. “I think giving back is so important, so I started volunteering a few times a week. I love it.”
The assembly line volunteer position is a perfect fit for Christina, who loves to talk, and always finds the conversation with fellow volunteers interesting.
“I love talking to people, especially some of the retirees,” she said. “They have great stories.”
Christina’s big-heartedness has rubbed off on her stepson. Michael recently decided to donate the toys he no longer plays with.
“We were cleaning his room and had this pile of toys he didn’t want anymore,” Christina explained. “He said, ‘I bet some other kid would like to play with these toys.’ It was the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.”
When he gets older, Christina plans to take Michael with her to Second Harvest Heartland to volunteer. In the meantime, he finds other ways to give back.
“Our big plan for this weekend, if it doesn’t rain, is to go out and pick up trash near our house,” she said. “It was Michael’s idea.”
The only positive part of hunger is that it's a solvable problem. Start with a few dollars, a few pounds of food or, like Christina, a few hours volunteering. That's all it takes to put your desire to make a difference to work. Learn more about how you can get involved.