Today I put in 5 hours of community service at the monthly FCNMHP food bank. Mostly it was a good time, but interesting to the point that I think some of it at least is worth noting.

First of all what it is: FCNMHP generously works hard to secure dog and cat food donations and once a month they open up shop and give away a month’s supply of it to those in need. The number of pounds each person gets is dependent upon the number of pets they own, with no more than 5 cats and 4 dogs allowed to be signed up per person. Now this right here may prompt one to ask, “Who has 9 or more pets when they can’t even afford to feed them?!” Unfortunately the answer seems to be everyone. On the one hand, it’s great that our animals have these homes and that the owners care about them enough to do what they must to keep them fed. On the other hand one wonders, are they provided with veterinary care, if they have to obtain free food ? The owners must provide proof of spay or neuter in order to sign up their pet for this benefit. The clinic run by the same group does offer low cost and even free sometimes spay and neuter programs, low cost vaccines and low cost veterinary care; of course this is very basic care  – those utilizing this service typically cannot help their pet if they get hurt or sick unfortunately.

In order to qualify, owners must provide proof of income or lack thereof as well as proof that they receive some sort of government stipend such as welfare or food stamps. This in and of itself makes this program a wonderful thing. Those who are disabled or unemployed can still feed their pets.

Of course many of the people coming to claim their monthly allotment of pet food were wearing designer clothes, glasses, etc . It was a bit off-putting to give out hundreds of pounds of food to people wearing more than I make in 6 months. There will always be those of course… 

There were a lot of people who legitimately needed the food and who were truly grateful for the handout. They made it worthwhile for sure. What I don’t understand is: many of them had to add one or even two pets to their account. If they are already on this program, thus already have animals they cannot afford to feed, how/why did they get more?! 

I spent the last 3 years spending over $500/month just on Dallas’ food and supplies that I got AT COST, FROM MY JOB – this does not count all the other things I bought at Pet Smart, WalMart,, or our multiple-times-per-week-runs to Publix for her fancy Prepared Foods. I would certainly NOT take in any other animal while I was struggling to care for the one I already had, nor will I take on anyone else now that she’s gone as it will take me years to recover from her expenses. 

I sat next to the application line today. At least one applicant (who was approved) made more money than I do annually. Still I wouldn’t have pets if I had to sign up for monthly hand outs in order to feed them. Of course every situation is different and everyone has different priorities. I’m not judging, I was just surprised by some of what I saw today.

Note to self:

I would totally volunteer for this food bank again, however I would be better prepared with a hat and a cooler full of cold drinks, and maybe a snack or some cliff bars. I was told breakfast would be provided. To be fair , donuts were. It’s just -for me anyway- not sensible to eat something so gross and heavy prior to or during a 5 hour work out! (We gave a way over 20,000 pounds of food today and sorted several times as much for future dates.) I was told cold water would be provided so I skipped bringing a cooler, figuring I’d drink water. It wasn’t. Piss warm/ boiling in the sun bottles of water were provided- no thanks! I was told we’d be in a garage and was prepared for heat. However I spent 5 hours IN THE SUN. If you’ve ever seen me, you know this is catastrophic. I’m still recovering from the sun. On the plus side, my hair got a free bleach job!

My arthritis held up fine, my muscles aren’t sore, so I must be in better shape than I thought. The sun was my big downfall. Probably the lack of food/water for 5 hours also did not help. I would do it again, just be better prepared. Lesson learned. Interesting/rewarding experience gained.