James* arrives twenty to thirty minutes after the pantry opens. His timing is intentional. He knows arriving early means he’ll have first pick of what’s on the shelves, but this isn’t a place he wants to be. He’s still struggling with his decision to seek help.
When he takes his seat to wait for his turn, he’s one of three people still waiting for assistance. By now, most of the clients scheduled for this particular pantry shift have selected their groceries and have left. James sits, arms folded across his chest, trying not to make eye contact with anyone until the pantry volunteer calls him up to shop for himself.
After a few moments he begins to relax. The volunteer helping him has commented on the soccer emblem on his shirt, and they’ve struck up a casual conversation about the team’s season.
James shares that he’s working full time and taking a few college courses. He rents a room in a large house nearby that also houses a handful of other people his age. “Most months I’m good.” James says to the volunteer, referring to his ability to purchase food from a local grocery store. “This month is different.”
Low wages coupled with the cost of living and the purchase of this semester’s textbooks have stretched his budget to the max. It’s still a week until pay day, and his cupboards are empty.
“If this is what I have to do today to be in a better situation tomorrow, then it’s what I have to do.” James discontentedly states. “And I’m determined to improve my situation.
James leaves the pantry, three bags of groceries in hand, feeling a sense of relief. Asking for help wasn’t easy, but he knows that it’s because of KLF that he can focus on work and his studies this week rather than wondering where he will get his next meal.
*Name changed for anonymity