Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Here in Santa Fe we recently had an unexpected weather event.  It snowed pretty hard.  There was ice and wind and cold.  And when I woke up yesterday morning, it seemed even colder.   But early in the morning I bundled up in as many layers as I could put on, jumped in the car, picked up Cailin, and headed to the food pantry.

Now usually we don't do food pantries at Thanksgiving.  We have family who sends a check so we can buy a traditional Thanksgiving meal, but that check was apparently waylaid in the Buffalo snow storm... or lost in the mail... or some other such thing... meaning that we needed to take pretty drastic (for us) action.

We arrived at the pantry at about 8:45... an hour and a quarter before they typically open, and stood in line.  The line surprised us at first, because it was so short (only about 30 people)... until we found out it was the line to get a number, and the rest of the line was in other areas of the church.  After waiting in the cold for a short while (about 15 or 20 minutes) we were given our number ... 176.   I was a little dismayed, because usually if you get over 40 at this particular pantry, you're not going to get any food.  However, I was encouraged to see that they'd divided the distribution into a early morning and late morning distribution, with a total of 400 turkeys and hams combined.  Which meant, to my mind, if every family in front of me got a turkey, I'd still get one of the 200 turkeys.

Bag in Hand handled the holiday rush pretty well.  Parking was a nightmare, but I was able to move my car off the street and into the parking lot after the first hundred or so families had moved picked up their food and headed out.

Their original plan was to put the line, once they had been issued numbers, into the church's "gathering room", where there was a band set up to play.  I was a little saddened that the band never played, and instead we watched them mill around a bit, then pick up their instruments and leave.  I'm not sure what happened, whether members didn't show in the bad weather... whether there was an equipment failure... or what... but at that point, I was just terribly glad to be sitting someplace warm instead of standing out in the cold.

Giving out numbers in the line outside and having someone outside watching the line was a good idea, because cutting in line is a major problem at Bag in Hand... something I hadn't experienced at The Storehouse in Albuqueruqe or other pantries I'd been to.  This worked well, people were treated fairly, and it was peaceful, smooth, and surprisingly fast to get through the line.

Unlike other days at this particular pantry, there weren't so many choices in the food, and all the food was fresh (no expired, day olds, or damaged products).  The choices were turkey or ham and apple or pumpkin pie.  Other than that, it was canned yams and green beans, dinner rolls (the kind you bake, my favorite!) onions, carrots and potatoes.  Everything you need for a traditional holiday meal for the family.

I think what surprised me most was the fact that they had FOUR HUNDRED turkeys and hams.  That meant they expected to provide for FOUR HUNDRED families.  And they are, by no means, the only pantry in the city.  Considering the small size of Santa Fe compared to other US cities, what does that say about poverty in this nation?