Access to food is something many of us take for granted daily. The sad reality is that about 40 million people in the United States struggle with poverty-related hunger.
These people often rely on the compassion of others, and when one veteran discovered that hunger was an issue in his community, he got stepped up to help in a big way.
Army veteran Roman Espinoza spent 25 years serving in the military. When he got out, he decided to go back to school, enrolling in Jefferson Community College in Watertown, New York.
In 2017, research for an assignment led him to a surprising discovery: his college had its own food bank.
“I was like ‘wow, I did not know that colleges have food pantries,’” Roman told Good Housekeeping. “I just assumed that if you could afford to go to school, then you could afford to eat.”
Suddenly, this vet thought of whole new way to give back to his country: he put a “Blessing Box” food pantry in his front lawn.
The idea is so simple but can have a real impact for someone in need. It’s a simple box, left open to the public and available 24/7, where people can take whatever they need for free, or stock the box with donations.
It’s similar to the popular concept of Little Free Libraries, except Roman’s box was stocked with cans of food and necessities like soap, toothpaste and bandaids.
The box runs on the goodwill of strangers. “All in all, it’s sustained by the community, and it’s used by the community,” Roman said. “There’s no age limit; there’s no paperwork. We will not take any monetary donations. And next time, when you’re doing a little better, you can come drop some things off in return.”
Soon, Roman saw that the box was fulfilling a need for people. He would go to his lawn to see people had taken the food, and restock it. He says he’s not sure what motivates his users.
“We don’t know who uses it,” he told CNN. “Sometimes people feel like they are embarrassed to use the box in the middle of the day.”
“Nobody should feel embarrassed because we all need a little help,” he told Good Housekeeping, recalling his own experiences not being able to afford three meals a day or Christmas presents as a child. “I know what it’s like to go without a meal.”
Then he started getting requests from others to put up their own blessing boxes, and soon enough the town had three in operation.
Blessing Boxes and other food pantries can be found all over the country. You should consider donating or even starting your own box—it could be the leg-up that somebody needs.
And maybe, once they’re back on their feet, they’ll put some items in the box for somebody else.
“You have to give back to the community and people who supported you,” Roman said.
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