It was an ordinary Monday beautiful fall evening. About 5:05
p.m. families starting trickling into the Memphis Civic Center – single dads
with their kids, moms with babies in strollers, grandparents and grandkids. Sometimes
the line extended out the door but, by 6:15 p.m., about 32 families, representing
182 adults and children had entered the first Food4Families event. After
checking in with Edna, High Plains Food Bank staff member at the registration
table, they received a bag of helpful health resource materials from AmeriGroup,
Real Solutions in Healthcare who had
graciously sponsored this first event. Then they approached the beautifully
arranged buffet table created by Molly, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Service staff member, where everyone was invited to build their own pasta salad
from a selection of colorful and delicious smelling foods: veggie pasta, tasty ground beef, chopped
tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, cheese and salad toppers. Dessert was
luscious ripe watermelon. Eager young 4H
helpers served the guests and tidied up the tables.
After eating, everyone watched a demonstration by Angela, AgriLife
staff member as she cut up a bell pepper and explained the difference
between a female and male pepper. She got all of our attention with this new
information that the female variety with 4 lobes is the sweeter variety and
most appropriate for eating raw while the variety with 3 lobes is best cooked. She
also sliced and diced tomatoes using techniques that had been employed when
this food was prepared for the buffet.
Justin, the Director of Nutrition from the Food Bank was up
next as he explained the nutritional value of these same two foods. His
popularity grew when he interjected that a drawing would take place for a
basket of fresh produce from the Food Bank Garden.
The evening ended with participants completing surveys about
their eating habits and health conditions that may be related to food choices
and lifestyle such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. And two lucky families got to bring home the
prizes from the Food Bank Garden.
This was anything but an ordinary Monday evening. Before
they left, families received a large green Cinderella pumpkin, the centerpiece
on their table; two bags spilling over with salad packages; a large bag of
peppers; an avocado and salad toppings; bread and rolls. Once outside, they
received a box of shelf stable foods that will hopefully, make their food
budget stretch a little further.
This Food4Families event is one of four planned this year in
Memphis, Texas, within Hall County that has the dubious distinction of having
the highest food insecurity rate in the
Texas Panhandle and an extremely high morbidity rate from heart disease. With months of planning behind them, staff
from the High Plains Food Bank and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
rolled up their sleeves to improve the nutrition of these families – not just
with the food they ate that night – but also, with the new information they
received and the healthy recipes they will hopefully try at home. They
expressed gratitude both verbally and on their evaluations and, the tired staff
members left that building knowing that they had shared knowledge as well as
food with those who are struggling to provide for themselves and their
families. And they are not alone in their struggle.