It’s hard enough to put food on the table and make ends meet. Individuals, families, and seniors who are currently on Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) have received a decrease in their food budgets by $11 – $36, according to the budget plan that affected more than half a million struggling Coloradans on November 1, 2013.
When I joined the Food Assistance Navigator team, I had the privilege to shadow my colleagues as they go to their sites and passionately assist many who have different struggles and circumstances but they all share the same stories… Hunger. In my own experiences I’ve encountered several individuals who face hunger from afar and it doesn’t seem so real but to actually be face to face with many on a daily basis and meet each person with a name and a story to tell it soon became a reality to me. Empathy comes to mind and it makes me feel the importance of what I do as a member of Food Assistance Navigator team.
With $4.50 a day how can a person feel satisfied or provide adequate nutrition to their diet? Of course they can’t. So with future cuts in mind the dilemma of hunger will only grow. We as a team are more determined to reach our goal each day in seeking those who need our assistance in finding food resources, signing them up for SNAP and to educate our community to the needs of the hungry.
Norma Bogel, Food Assistance Navigator For Hunger Free Colorado.
Each day I get up knowing that I will help people get access to resources for one of the many needs in their lives. But just knowledge is not enough because our clients are in need of more than just food. They are in need of kindness, genuine compassion that enables to move on from where they are at the moment. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them and help put the pieces together so that they can get the help they need. It is these qualities that have furthered the resources that come with the nutritional program.
One of the greatest things that I see in my job is how a community is knit together. I often work with the homeless population and I am allowed a glimpse into their lives. When I work with one of them they often say that they will tell others, and the next time I’m in that area I meet the people who have heard of Hunger Free Colorado through word of mouth. Some of these people are homeless, some are refugees, others are immigrants, and many of them are the people we see every day on the street without once considering their struggles. A community is built by many diverse people who come together by helping each other through their troubles. Many times the people I work with tell me about how they heard of Hunger Free Colorado, and I am shocked to hear that 90% of them have heard through word of mouth. This does surprise me at times but I learn that this is often the way that this type of information is carried because many of my clients do not have access to the everyday media outlets that most of us are so accustomed to. What amazes me most though isn’t how they get the information but why the information is spread. It is spread because of our reputation. We have the reputation of being kind, generous, patient, and compassionate. I have clients who travel from places outside of Denver and Aurora to come see me because they have heard of how our offices work. We don’t treat cases, we treat people and that is so important. Sometimes the hardest part of my job comes when I have to tell people that they do not qualify for some of the nutritional programs. But this time is when I am most surprised as well. When I have to give them the bad news and explain the circumstances many people do not react with anger or frustration. Instead they give me thanks for taking the time to go through the process with them and answering all their questions. I’ve learned through this job that sometimes all someone needs is some kindness and patience.
At the end of each day this is what I have learned: beyond the knowledge of laws, regulations, and resources what my clients will remember is the approach with which I handled their situations. I’ve learned that kindness can take the form of a smile, a gesture, a word, or even a look. Perhaps I cannot solve all their problems and I can’t answer all of their questions, but I can provide them with one of the most fundamental needs we have as humans, and that is hope.
Lucy Zeledon, Food Assistance Navigator for Hunger Free Colorado.