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Caleb receives food from Midwest Food Bank

This story is written by Danielle Witzig, a Nutrition and Dietetics student intern volunteering at MFB.

Caleb Sawe is currently studying at Illinois State University and receives from an MFB Bloomington-Normal agency, School Street Food Pantry. Caleb is from Nigeria in West Africa and shared his experience of coming to America for a college education. He arrived with $900 and quickly realized with rent, groceries, school, and other expenses, his money wasn't going to last. The money was almost gone within the first couple of months. Caleb looked for resources to help him with his financial situation.

He soon heard about School Street Food Pantry from friends from Nigeria staying in Normal. Since August 2021, he has been volunteering and receiving food from the pantry. He has also recently become a board member and discusses food expansion, needed items, funding, and how to reach more individuals.

Caleb has three other roommates who also attend the School Street Student Food Pantry. He says when one of his roommates can't get to the pantry, he picks up things that his other roommates would like. His roommates and Caleb explain how receiving the food items from the pantry is one less worry on their expenses, and it's helpful to have other roommates share the things they received. He said they never have to buy toiletries, cheese, canned vegetables and meats, fresh and frozen meats, and produce. The pantry has helped them immensely with their food expenses.

While volunteering at the food pantry, he experienced how amazing the volunteers are and the people who run it. They are passionate about helping the local students in Bloomington-Normal. The staff and volunteers are concerned about how and what food students receive. They do an excellent job finding resources and tracking what individuals are coming so they can serve as many people as possible. Caleb is very grateful to have people that are compassionate and invested in what they do at the pantry.

Caleb finds many items he looks for when he attends the food pantry. He usually picks up produce, yogurt, canned food, meat, bread, bananas, pasta, and spices. His favorites are yogurt, ham, okra, eggplant, and sausages. Caleb doesn't often cook, so it is convenient to have items like canned meats and vegetables that are easy to make with his busy schedule. When volunteering, the popular things he has seen people take are eggs, milk, pizza, chicken, bread, and snacks. Caleb doesn't have resources like food pantries back home and is grateful to have plenty of options to receive food in Bloomington-Normal. It is much easier getting to the pantry since he doesn't have a car accessible to drive to the store. He touched on how he feels very included when he goes to the pantry.

Caleb says many items are unusual to him, such as edible cookie dough and premade cookies to put in the oven. They do not have this back home and were able to try it for the first time since receiving it from the pantry. Also, he stated the ham and sausage were hard for him to get used to since it was so salty. Also, back home, his family didn't eat pork because they didn't enjoy it, but now, he eats it nearly every week. Lastly, tortillas were an item he tried from the pantry, and adds sausage he gets to make a burrito.

There is a diversity of students at the School Street Food pantry. Luckily, a student can receive many diverse food items upon coming to the pantry. Caleb mentioned fufu flour, halal meat, and gluten-free and vegetarian options. This is important for an international student coming to an American food pantry. He was able to get pots and cutting boards from the food pantry. There was also a $5 coupon that he received from the pantry to use at a local church sale to get a plate rack.

Caleb is very thankful for the food he received from the pantry. He hasn't had a problem with food insecurity since coming to the United States with limited money. This is why Midwest Food Bank supports many agencies to get the food they need to help our community. Donating and becoming a volunteer is one of many ways to help our community and those impacted. 

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Tuesday, 29 November 2022
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