How do you nourish yourself with only $2.50? How about on those days when you have even less money to spend?
Worse, you’ve just run out of the medication you depend on daily. With your limited budget, do you choose to refill your prescription even if it means going hungry?
What about if you have kids or are taking care of an elderly parent? How do you ensure they’re well-fed, too?
These are some of the questions that echoed throughout the Feeding Tampa Bay warehouse during our Hunger Dinner. The interactive experience, our first since the start of the pandemic, was designed to engage guests in difficult conversations about what it really means to go hungry. Food should never be an impossible choice, but it is for many of our neighbors.
During the event, guests received pamphlets containing a story about the neighbors we serve. From single mothers working full-time jobs to people recently laid off to immigrants forging new paths in a city wholly foreign to them, every client detailed a struggle to put food on the table. The stories also listed different daily food budgets that guests used to select their dinner items, ranging in price from 10 cents to $2.00 each.
Was it better to select items based on quantity or nutritional value? What could keep a person full for the longest amount of time? What about if someone had a dietary restriction? Did they have enough money in their budget to fully take that restriction into account?
Guests and their Feeding Tampa Bay table hosts pondered these tough questions and the very real circumstances that ignited them.
In an effort to highlight the important discussions that took place during the Hunger Dinner, we’ve included some reflections from our table hosts below.
“Choosing a meal on a limited budget unfortunately has been something I have dealt with as recently as 2017. $50 for a family of 5. Feels defeated, embarrassed, hoping that what you calculated in your budget does not surpass the total after taxes at the register. It taught me how to make a $ out of 50c. At the same time, there is also a feeling of gratitude knowing that $50 is more than $0 and that my family would eat”
“Education, awareness and conversation are integral in our food insecurity work. Hosting the table was a perfect example of people coming from different backgrounds all for the same mission…when reading the stories of our neighbors leaves you pondering and processing, are your efforts enough? Or it leaves you in tears because it reminds you of a time in your own lived experience when you were dealing with hunger.”
— Keba Mayers
“We all have the opportunity to be kind and help those in need…we all have had someone that was there for us in our moment of need and our obligation is to pay it forward when we can. We don’t have to – we get to help others”
— Kathy Whetsell
“I think it's important to continue to educate people that hunger looks a lot of ways…hunger can look like a family that is choosing between paying their electric bill and eating - and it can also look like a person living on the streets in desperate need of a meal…hunger is both of those and many things in between. To invest in this city and this community is to care for your neighbor, your brother, your sister, your fellow human.”
— Jeremy Gloff
“Hunger knows no color, gender, socio-economic condition, creed, etc.”
— Antoine Everett
“We had a discussion about how generations (with different experiences) need to learn about serving others in different ways - for e.g. guests shared that they grew up in more difficult financial circumstances than their children, so they have a harder time conveying the importance of acknowledging their privilege and serving others.”
“I hope our guests overcome initial biases about hunger and food insecurity to seek the most good for everyone who needs food support.”
— Lemuel Scott
“Several at our table had diagnoses that were best controlled by diet…We also had those at the table who did not have a healthy relationship with food and had spent years tracking calories and points…They really struggled to meet their dietary needs while still getting enough food to feel full. One person at the table didn't have a whole lot available but did have some leftover money they used to buy cookies so everyone could have a little bit more. It reminded me of how important community is and being able to lean in together.”
— Clarissa Rain
In addition to the conversations shared at each table. CEO Thomas Mantz and Vice Chairman of the Board, Kareem Spratling, spoke to the crowd as a whole. Throughout their speeches, they repeated one crucial mantra:
“There’s no them. Just us.”
As a close-knit community dedicated to creating a hunger-free Tampa Bay, we have an obligation to help others. And it’s through awareness and education that our hands can begin to reach out to those around us.
To learn more about our vision for a hunger-free Tampa Bay, check out https://hungerfree2025.com/!