Hunger Stories: Irene


Irene understands overcoming adversity through strength of character and determined resolve. Not long ago, her brother, who owned the property where she lived, died in a fire, and she was forced to find other living arrangements. Irene currently lives in subsidized senior housing and counts her blessings for the supportive community where she lives, and the donated food she receives from the Food Bank twice a month. She is particularly “proud” of the cabbage, carrots, and potatoes that frequently arrive at her community from the Food Bank.

Irene was in a car wreck the day before Thanksgiving in 2014. Someone ran a stop sign and plowed into her. It took almost a year to get the insurance settlement from the accident, and nearly as long for her injuries to heal.

Irene’s early personal experience with food insecurity enables her to appreciate the generosity of the community which currently envelops her. She raised two daughters, mostly on her own. When the girls were young teenagers, Irene’s husband was killed in a car accident. The three of them were left to fend for themselves, at a time in which they were denied a government commodities allocation, even though her husband had served in the military. As a result, her oldest daughter and their dog were frequently able to work as a team to catch rabbits on their property. Irene would often catch fish enabling them to eat nutritious food.

As she raised her girls, Irene worked for a church school program in which she was the cook for about 100 children a day. In addition to cooking for the children, she would also prepare fresh donuts that school volunteers would sell around town in order to pay their teacher’s salaries. She worked as a hospital lab technician for ten years and also cleaned houses to provide for her family. In her later years she provided care for her brother’s cancer stricken wife.

For Irene, receiving Senior Servings food from the Food Bank brings a sense of security and relief. In addition to the produce, Irene mentioned that she favors the “shelf milk” and canned chicken she frequently gets. One of her favorite recipes calls for her to heat the milk, canned chicken, and cream of mushroom soup. She then pours that over egg noodles for a hot, dreamy and hearty dish. Another helpful shelf stable food item she receives is peanut butter. She likes to put that between two pancakes.