“I didn’t want to look anyone in the eye. You feel like a loser because you can’t provide the most basic of all things for your family: food.” “I walked into Loaves & Fishes with my head hung low, little food at home, two diapers, no money and two weeks until payday. I didn’t want to face another day worried about what to feed my kids.”

Volunteers at Loaves & Fishes often hear these comments as clients gradually feel comfortable enough to share their stories with the compassionate listeners who line the aisles of our market ready to help provide food and more. We have a system to identify first-time clients who might need a little TLC, although many of our volunteers have already interpreted the signs themselves first: the hanging head, the lack of eye contact or the sadness. Our volunteers’ responsiveness, warmth, and humor put them at ease.

One client said, “I felt so heavy the first time I came in. I couldn’t believe this was where I was at in my life.” Volunteer Andrea Mueller has seen many first time clients struggle with their emotions since she began volunteering in 2012. She recalled a client who was embarrassed and felt shame in asking for help. The woman’s tearful reaction to receiving milk and eggs particularly struck Andrea. “I didn’t realize that getting a carton of eggs and a gallon of milk could make such a difference. I see many people react this way. Sometimes I hug them and sometimes I just listen. I am glad I can be a positive note in their day.”

September is Hunger Action Month. It’s an opportunity to pledge not to waste food, to hold a food drive, to talk about hunger within our families, and to think about those in need with compassion.

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