The Importance of Food: A Message from Executive Director, Malea Guiriba
Like most folks, when I used to think about food, I thought about chocolate cake, fried shrimp, french fries and ice cream — foods I love to eat and can eat anytime I want. But after two and a half years of running a food pantry and giving away more than one million pounds of food to hungry people, I now think about food in a whole new way.
I can remember the exact moment things changed for me. There was a woman named Jean, she was in her sixties, just a little bitty slip of girl with a lovely, lilting Scottish accent. I saw her standing in the food line several weeks in a row and one day I asked her if she would like to volunteer. Jean’s demeanor changed from arms folded across her chest and an uncomfortable look on her face, to smiles and laughter and compassion.
Jean lives in food desert in Flagler Estates, a sprawling 10,000 acre tract of land on the outskirts of Hastings. One day we were talking and Jean opened up about how she came to be in the food line.
Moving from up north with her husband, they settled on an acre of land. Both were retired from their professions, having worked hard and saved their nest egg to come and enjoy the warm winters of sunny Florida. Then Jean got sick. Medicare paid some of the bills, but before long their nest egg was gone and so was the retirement they had worked their whole lives to save.
Sitting in a rocking chair in the Pie Shop with tears in her eyes Jean said, “you work your whole life for something, you do all the right things and then the next thing you know, you’re standing in a line for food.”
She was shocked, genuinely stunned to be where she was, and I was shocked, too. Jean and her husband could have been my parents. They could have been anyone’s parents.
That was the day I changed the way I thought about food.