As millions face job loss and food scarcity, one man shares his story of how our partners helped him.
About 2.3 million people in the U.S. today live in a food desert.
Food deserts are where people have limited or nonexistent access to fresh vegetables, fruit and meat. These individuals “live more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Food Empowerment Project found that food deserts are typically created by factors “such as racism, cost of living, people being time poor and cash poor, cultural appropriateness of available foods, the ability of people to grow their owns foods…”
This result in unhealthy eating since people have no nutritious options, and serious health issues become almost inevitable, usually heart disease and diabetes.
Even if people aren’t caught in a food desert, at least 37 million people suffer from food-insecurity where they often run out of food before they’re able to purchase more and have to go hungry. What’s worse is, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting job losses, the number of food-insecure people could easily jump from 37 million to about 54 million in the U.S. alone.
The Fight to Regain Health
World Challenge’s local partners, WeighOut Ministries, work in Colorado Springs to help vulnerable populations, particularly those who have been overlooked by governmental programs. One gentleman shared his experience with us.
Jerry had begun working at age 13, knowing that he would quickly need to support himself. Soon he was juggling five different jobs to keep himself afloat. Needless to say, he didn’t have time to spend shopping or cooking most days. Soon he was diagnosed with diabetes, then an underlying heart condition cropped up. Finally, the twin health issues forced him to quit a couple of his jobs and seek government aid while he tried to fix his health.
Unfortunately, Jerry faced multiple hurtles to finding programs that would help him. “I don’t get treated like a senior or disabled person and don’t qualify for programs I should because of outdated laws that didn’t think to give disabled people the same benefits as a seniors, despite life-long disabled people not having pensions or retirement plans in place…”
He was, however, able to find a doctor who put him on a diet plan that would help him lose weight, reduce the effects of the diabetes and help his heart.
Jerry was thrilled and threw himself wholehearted into this plan, becoming a vegetarian. He discovered new, fresh foods that he enjoyed and became particularly attached to a heart-healthy granola. Food was providing the key to recovering his health, and he was able to start working at least part time as a music instructor.
His challenges weren’t over, though. “With no warning, I was suddenly without food stamps due to getting incorrect information from a DHS [Department of Human Services] call-taker. She told me that I had food stamps and that I should check it again and told me two different amounts which should’ve raised a red flag; but I trusted her, only to find out I needed to re-apply because I never got the recertification form and wasn’t told that it’d be a very hard, long drawn out process.”
All of this happened right as the hardest times our state and country have seen in the last couple decades struck in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finding Care and Hope for the Future
With his heart condition, Jerry was particularly vulnerable to this strain of coronavirus and was strictly instructed to go out at little as possible. He had to give up his job as a music instructor, and his food stamps still hadn’t been re-approved.
Fortunately, he discovered several nonprofits who deliver food while he waited. “[It] was literally a life saver as I had none and was going without eating. This delivery service uses five or so local charities…. While the food was great to have, I mainly got bags of carbs and canned fruit.”
Jerry called and tried to let the delivery service know that he was diabetic and couldn’t eat some items that came in his food bags. “It slowly got better, but one day changed my life when a WeighOut Ministries driver delivered fresh food from my local grocery store!
“It was divine how they knew what brand of bagged granola I used to buy and had all easy-to-eat, healthy, fresh food. This last delivery was like a dream come true…. WeighOut Ministries…has pulled together perfect heart-healthy, vegetarian foods, so I may continue to succeed under my doctor-supervised weight loss program…”
For Jerry and others who fall into the unrecognized gap between seniors and those with disabilities, finding a ministry that cares for them is a godsend. “WeighOut Ministries is a great organization,” he stated. “They are keeping me and many other people of all ages, race, religion, color, or religious beliefs alive with assistance when needed most, saving lives and giving people hope.
“I’ve never come across a more caring charity.”