#ThankYouPatrons

About a month ago, I launched a Patreon campaign. Launch was both enlightening and moving. Asking for help is hard. And sometimes when it comes, it’ll come from people you don’t expect, which will be inexplicably emotional and meaningful, though you’ll be hard-pressed to name the meaning.

Today, Patreon asked all its creators to participate in the #ThankYouPatrons campaign. To thank mine, I stocked the LFP Pilot with fixings for Thanksgiving sides, including recipes.

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I spelled one patron’s name wrong and left another off entirely. (Thank you, too, Susan Hartman.) But these folks didn’t help me because I don’t need help. They helped because I do. #ThankYouPatrons


For a printable shopping list and recipes, click here.
To become a Patron, click here.

Coming Together through Good

A few days ago, a man named Eric emailed me about a just-launched mini pantry, “Community Pantry,” in Concord, NC. He attached a copy of the Concord newspaper presser, titled “Diverse Groups Come Together for Good.” The first paragraph reads as follows:

At a time when intense tribalism grips our country, two diverse Concord groups have found a way to come together for good.  Pastor Nathan King, representing Trinity United Church of Christ, and J. Rodger Clark, Director of Planned Giving - The Humanist Foundation representing North State Humanists, have joined forces to create, dedicate and support a “Community Pantry”. 

In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown defines the term “Common Enemy Intimacy.” “Common Enemy Intimacy is counterfeit connection and the opposite of true belonging. If the bond we share with others is simply that we hate the same people, the intimacy we experience is often intense, immediately gratifying, and an easy way to discharge outrage and pain. It is not, however, fuel for real connection.”

We may bond over the “bad,” but these bonds aren’t lasting; we will retreat to our tribes. We come together through good. In Concord, NC, “Community Pantry” is one such conduit.



Grace After Meals

We end this meal with grace.

For the joy and nourishment of food,

The slowed time away from the world

To come into presence with each other

And sense the subtle lives behind our faces,

The different colors of our voices,

The edges of hungers we keep private,

The circle of love that unites us.

We pray the wise spirit who keeps us

To change the structures that make others hunger

And that after such grace we might now go forth

And impart dignity wherever we partake.


Find “Grace After Meals” in John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. If, like me, you are moved by his writing, you might enjoy listening to Krista Tippett interview him for her podcast, On Being. Listen here!

Grace Before Meals

As we begin this meal with grace,

Let us become aware of the memory

Carried inside the food before us:

The quiver of the seed

Awakening in the earth,

Unfolding in a trust of roots

And slender stems of growth,

On its voyage toward harvest,

The kiss of rain and surge of sun;

The innocence of animal soul

That never spoke a word,

Nourished by the earth

To become today our food;

The work of all the strangers

Whose hands prepared it,

The privilege of wealth and health

That enables us to feast and celebrate.

 

From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us

How You Can Help Hungry Veterans

Last week, I received an email that read, “Is there any food pantry helping soldiers and veterans in Houston, TX?”

Logistically, mini pantries can't really support specific people; anyone might come along and take what's inside.

If you are moved to learn more/do something about veterans experiencing hunger and/or homelessness, here are a few resources. If you know of resources not included, please leave a comment!



A Veteran's Tale

Shelley Roundtree served in Afghanistan, leaving the U.S. Army in 2013.

Because of IT problems subsequent to implementation of the Forever GI Bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017, for months hundreds of thousands of veterans have not received GI Bill benefits.

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Roundtree must now choose between public transportation to class and food. Often, he goes to bed hungry. Says Roundtree, “I’m about to lose everything that I own and become homeless. I don’t want to be that veteran on the street begging for change because I haven’t received what I was promised.”


Someone…fix this.

Click through here for Phil McCausland’s story.

Summer Temperatures and Mini Pantries

The following blog is part internet "facts" and part Jessica McClard's loose brain associations. She is NOT a scientist. Please take what she says with a grain of salt and certainly not as anything remotely resembling evidence-based practice. 

 

“I worked in a grocery store while in college, and we routinely had non-refrigerated trucks parked for hours in the 100+ heat awaiting our unloading them.” - busboy789


You don’t have to look hard online to find anecdotes like this one. But Heloise says to keep all canned foods should be kept at 70°F or below...

This time of year, most folks with questions about stewarding a Little Free Pantry have one in common: What do we do when temperatures heat up?

LFP turned two in May...two Arkansas Summers. Turnover remains brisk. Just yesterday, I stopped by to put a few things inside, and a carload of grown men pulled in behind me and took most everything. Less than a minute.

When I polled the LFP Stewards Group, asking, “Which of these describes your approach or experience stocking projects in Summer temps?”

  1. “Items do not stay long enough to become unsafe,” or...
  2. “We ask folks to keep cans back until temperatures moderate," 

30 stewards indicated the former. One controls for temperatures. To do that, stewards must either collect and distribute all donations, or post some kind of notice at the site. Maybe share something like this:

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Even then, without eyes on the box 24/7, someone could go right ahead with that can of green beans (likely gone before you'd ever know it). In other words control is near impossible. But that doesn’t mean we should just...

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According to the USDA, it's best to store food at temperatures below 85 °F. Many of us won’t see 85° consistently until October. High temperatures (over 100 °F) are actually harmful to canned goods. The longer items are exposed, the more harm done. “Harm” ranges from nutrient loss and a change in appearance for food in glass containers to bacterial growth.

Different bacteria grow at temperatures from 32°F to 158°F, with bacteria causing foodborne illness growing best at body temperature. Whether that means temperatures around 98.6°F are most problematic, I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. Nor do I know the calculus for temperature change over time at a certain heat. (I do know my enchilada casserole heats through in 30 minutes at 350° and a pork loin takes longer.)

On this topic generally, Google wasn’t particularly helpful. (Its first two hits were from bloggers, “beprepared” and “survivalmom.”) But what does seem certain is cans and glass containers are most susceptible to spoilage from exposure to oxygen, not heat. Extreme temperatures cause container expansion and contraction, compromising seals. 

Maybe the best notice to post at our projects is notice about discarding items that are deeply dented, bulging, leaking, or heavily rusted.

 

Maybe I should Ask Heloise.

Better yet...a food safety scientist/expert! Do you know someone who can answer these inelegantly posed questions? Email me! I'd love to feature a follow-up guest post from someone who'd never consider using an Elsa graphic. 

jessica@littlefreepantry.org

The Longest Night

Yesterday, I was more Facebook vulnerable than is usual for me. I shared, “I don’t love Christmastime.” (I’ll get to the rest of the post in a minute.) Admitting this feels vulnerable because Christmastime is lights, parties, gifts. It is joy, goodwill, peace. What’s not to love? And lots of people do love it...look forward to it all year even. I felt like Debbie Downer.

Except 71 people engaged with the post, some of them admitting their own, as my mom called it, “Grinchiness.”

For many people Christmastime triggers a bout of the blues if not depression. In one study 45% of North Americans surveyed “dreaded the festive season.” Suicides and attempted and suicides are higher at Christmas.

I won’t parse what generally gives, though I expect it has to do with reminiscence. For me, Christmas has been difficult since the death of my husband’s father, Jim. Then, family alcoholism/recovery from alcoholism. Google “alcoholism and “Christmas” sometime.

In part two of the Facebook post, I shared what I’d just found while on a moody walk in Gulley Park with my dog. (I probably shouldn’t listen to Sufjan Stevens on a cold, drizzly, Sunday afternoon at Christmastime.) As Baron and I walked past a big rock at the top of the hill looking down on the pavilion, from where Summer concerts still echo warmth and ease, I noticed a small, ice cube-looking object sitting in a puddle on the top of the rock. I almost walked by it. But I didn’t. And here’s what I found.

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I wept. And while there are lots of ways to read, “Look within. You are the world,” in that moment the world wept with me, and I wasn’t alone.


I am so grateful to those who recognize the importance of small acts of kindness, who offer a hand from out of and through the longest night. What you do matters. It is my warmest Christmas wish that some would see LFP that way, too.


 

Crime to Be Broke in America

On December 15, 1791, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, later known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified. During 150th anniversary commemorations in 1941, Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing FDR, “to issue a proclamation designating December 15, 1941, as Bill of Rights Day." Today is that day. I wouldn't have known except I had cause to Google "Bill of Rights" earlier this week after reading a particular Facebook thread. How's that for timing? Here's the story. 


My daughter, Grier, has a friend who graduated from high school last year. Right before he moved into the dorm, he told her he hoped he didn't get a weird roommate. She said, "You are the weird roommate."

I've mentioned my BFF, Autumn, before. She was my weird roommate. I rolled 7s with that crap shoot because she's not only my kind of weird; she's also brilliant and passionate and caring. For years she was a public defender. Now, she is an attorney in private practice with her own Arkansas Times byline and the most awesome little girls ever. (I'm definitely biased when it comes to Autumn, but this is an objective truth.) Autumn has a platform, and people listen to her because, like I said, she's brilliant and passionate and caring.

This week she started a Facebook discussion about court fines and payment plans. Here are some takeaways.

  • Arkansas law (and presumably other state law) allows for installment fees ($10/mo/court in addition to fine/s), so people who cannot pay up front pay more for the same infraction.

  • People cannot be jailed for attempting to pay or if they are too poor to pay. The $10 fee accrues regardless.

  • In states across America, people who can't pay their court fines and fees can have their drivers' licenses suspended.

  • Some cannot afford things like a safe home/auto and health insurance because of large monthly payments toward a ballooning balance.

  • Costs, fines, and fees often fund our court system.

The 8th Amendment seems to apply: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;" however, the Supreme "Court has elected to deal with the issue of fines levied upon indigents, resulting in imprisonment upon inability to pay, in terms of the equal protection clause, thus obviating any necessity to develop the meaning of 'excessive fines' in relation to ability to pay." 14th Amendment due process and equal protection promises make debtor's prisons unlawful, but are poor people really getting equal protection? If poor people end up paying more for the same charge, is that not excessive? Because millions of American adults and children struggle with debt stemming from economic sanctions issued by the criminal and juvenile courts, some are calling for a revival of the excessive fines clause. Read more here.


On this Bill of Rights Day, see if you can pass a Bill of Rights quiz. Read the Bill of Rights. Spend more time with Amendments 4-8, which address the rights of the accused. Really dig in and read Peter Edelman's Not A Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America