People are already waiting at the Thomas Campbell apartments in Washington when the Food Helpers truck pulls up. They’ve qualified for a state program to receive a Senior Box.
Susan steps right up, not only to get her box, but to help others get theirs. “This helps a heck of a lot of people. That’s all I’m gonna say. Quite a few need it. I try to make sure people get enough to eat.”
The box of non-perishables weighs twenty-seven pounds. Today it is supplemented by fresh salad mixes, cheese and cans of beets. That’s a lot to handle for a person using a walker.
Bobby brings a grocery cart and takes up two boxes at a time. “Residents can’t make it down here, so I help,” he says proudly.
The same comments come up again and again in this tight-knit community. “Food is expensive on a fixed income.” “Nothing goes to waste; we share.” “We’re a family and look out for each other.”
“I depend on it,” Carol says, “The prices are so high! I’m very thankful for everything.”
Jasman Fleegal, a staff member at the complex, is on the phone, reminding people to come down.
“It’s very important to these residents on limited incomes,” she tells us. “This is the only program that comes here with food.”
Jasman, whose college degree is in social work, admits “This is my life’s passion!”
Dean Lacey, the Food Helpers driver, tells Jasman she checked off twenty-one people, but he only unloaded twenty boxes. Paperwork is important, because a mistake would mean someone didn’t get their box. Neither of them would let that happen.
They discover the discrepancy and Dean unloads that 21st box. Jasman knows the woman who should receive it is at a doctor’s appointment. She will deliver it personally.
Next stop: Bellemead, where fewer people have signed up, but the enthusiasm is high from Marie. “Great produce! I’m a veggie person. I love beets! I’ll have a nice salad for lunch.”
After a stop at Century Plaza where Dean unloads seven boxes, it’s on to Heritage House of Houston.
Theresa is excited about the extras. “I didn’t know we’d get so much fresh stuff! Praise God, this will really help.”
“This is food for my family and grandchildren- it helps out,” says Sandra with a grateful smile.
Her favorite? “I like beets! They’re good for you. I’ll eat the whole can! Warm them up with butter or eat them cold.”
Offering nutritious, healthy food is only viable if people can get to it. So Food Helpers instituted Truck to Trunk to bring food boxes to underserved areas of Washington County.
Fredericktown is one of twelve new public distribution sites. In three hours, Food Helpers gives out 25 Senior boxes as well as 100 Community Outreach boxes (available to anyone) that include non-perishables, and on this day, fresh salad mixings, carrots, peppers, bananas, coconut water and baked goods.
Local residents are thrilled with the proximity.
“This is so much easier,” JoAnn admits. “Before the pandemic we’d stand for hours waiting in line. Everyone is losing their jobs. It’s terrible- so many people in need. “
A surprising number of boxes went to people who never received food assistance before. Their reasons are all too common.
Helen says, “It’s finances - food is expensive. I told everybody to come! You always know someone who needs it.”
Cheryl’s injury brought her here. “I hurt my back, can’t walk. Sometimes I run out of food at the end of the month.”
Megan is picking up for her housebound grandma. “She is excited about it - she wants her cheese!”
Eighty-year-old Donald is here for the first time. “It’s a great thing. I can’t move too good.”
Some of the stories are touching.
“You don’t know how grateful I am!” Hazel discloses. “My boyfriend is paralyzed from brain surgery. The box feeds both of us. You don’t know what it means.”
John’s girlfriend had a double lung transplant. “This food will do her some good.”
Cathy starts telling her story, “It helps a lot financially…” and then the real story comes out. “It’s rough… especially since my husband died.” She tears up. It’s hard for her to remember this food is for her and will not feed both of them.
For Donald, the day was perfect: “Today’s my lucky day. I got a senior box AND a regular box!”
For information on distribution locations, go to foodhelpers.org or call 724 632-2190.