In June, Chester and surrounding counties experienced a line of thunderstorms that produced strong winds, resulting in the disruption of electric service to more than 130,000 people. Some people were without electricity for several days. I know in my community power was not restored for 50 hours and we were not the last ones to have power restored. To save the contents of our refrigerator and freezer, both of which were full of food, my husband bought a generator. We lost very little food. Some of my neighbors, who did not have a generator lost several items in their refrigerator. While buying a generator or replacing food is an expense for which we had not planned, my family and my neighbors were be able to absorb the cost of the new purchase or the replacement milk, eggs, mayonnaise and other lost items.
For my family and my neighbors, this power outage was mostly just a nuisance. For others it was a major setback. While volunteering yesterday, I met a lady who had lost most of the contents of her refrigerator during the storm. This was her first time to the food pantry since the storm, as clients can only come once in a 30 day period, and she was desperate to get some food. My heart went out to her as I counted up the days and realized the storm had happened 3 weeks earlier. She said she cooked up as much of her food as she could, but for how many days had she been scrapping by with almost nothing? We were as generous with her as we could be, giving her a few extra items from our donated food and making sure she got plenty of fresh vegetables.
I had not stopped to consider how potentially devastating a prolonged power outage could be for some folks. How costly it would be to have to replace partially used condiments or precious eggs, milk or meat. Also concerned with the inability of some to replace food items lost in the power outage was 4 year old Dylan. I found out about Dylan from a post on The Chester County Food Bank’s Facebook page. They were giving him a huge shout out of thanks for his effort. He collected 474 pounds of food for the Food Bank after he learned that not everyone could afford to replace all the food they lost during the power outage. I imagine Dylan, like myself, will never just groan at the inconvenience the next time the power goes out. We will be counting the hours and thinking about the folks out there who are hoping the power comes back on before food they can’t replace is lost.
Follow up to a previous post
In an earlier post I wondered if the food pantries would see increased use during the summer, especially among families, because kids who received free or reduced lunch at school, did not have many options to get meals due to a lack of summer feeding programs in our community. Yesterday I got confirmation that the lack of summer feeding programs in our area does take a toll on struggling families. One of our clients said she was having a hard time feeding her kids over the summer. Although she did not ask for help or extra food, we were generous with her as well, focusing on items for the kids like a large jar of peanut butter, donated bread and snack items, and fresh vegetables.
I am always a little conflicted after volunteer days like yesterday. On one hand I feel bouyant because I know I definitely helped people in need. That is a satisfying feeling. On the other hand, I get frustrated and saddened that people, in this country of abundance, have to face these hardships. In the end, I have to remind myself that these are the days that keep me committed and drive me to keep working to find solutions, both large and small.