My name is Sharrie Patterson and my family and I have been residents of Durant for about seven years. I have a daughter and son. Living in Durant has certainly had its ups and downs. But this is a great town to have downs in. There are so many wonderful people who are willing to help when times get too rough and hard to bear.
One such group of people is a new organization called The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger. They put you in touch with other organizations that will help with getting food for your family.
Being hungry is something that my family is very familiar with. It does something to a person who is constantly hungry and not able to do anything about it. Going without food, one of the basics of life, leaves a person with a feeling of not being a provider. To not be able to somehow get food for your family leaves you with low self-esteem, a sense of being less than a parent.
And our journey fighting hunger started shortly after I became disabled. At first we were eligible for food stamps. But soon after we were accepted to the program, we came over the income guidelines. I started to receive a HUD grant (United States Housing and Urban Development) and it pushed us out of the bracket limit.
For a while, we received Indian commodities after we lost our food stamps. Then we once again lost those privileges by being over the income guidelines by only about $200. Then we started to fall between the cracks.
We soon became very hungry. With not enough food to satisfy us, we began to go to the food banks in town. There have been times when we would go to bed with our stomachs growling. This is one of the hardest things to do if you are not used to it. First the stomach growls, and eventually, it will stop and then a cold feeling happens in the pit of the stomach. Then you start to burp up stomach acid. So trying to sleep is very hard when all you can think about is where your next meal is coming from. Thankfully the kids would eat twice at school. But on the weekends, it was very difficult to feed everyone. I began to go to the food banks and then a church in town. They were a blessing to us during some of the hardest times we have gone through.
I do not receive child support because the father receives SSI and does not have to pay any child support at all. It really hurts us when we do not get any help from someone who should help, and there is nothing I can do about it.
So I do the best that I can with what I can. There have been too many meals that I do not eat because there is not enough for three people. I just tell the kids that I am not hungry, just so they will eat. I have gotten into the habit of eating plain peanut butter to keep my diabetes sugar level from dropping. It is high in protein and has enough sugar in it to keep my sugar levels up. But it is also high in fat and carbs, so I have put on weight. You would think that a family who has so little to eat would be very thin. But my family seems to shatter that picture. One of my doctors told me that because of our on-again off-again eating habits, our metabolism is always stuck in the starvation mode. We do tend to eat well during the first part of the month, but the last part is when we have the hardest time with fighting hunger.
I have switched to the E-cigarette and have started to use coupons. I have a small stockpile of toiletries, cleaners and some canned items. But fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, and milk are staples that are the hardest to keep all month long.
Our health has been greatly affected by this. I worry a lot about the kids. We make our trip to the food bank on a regular basis now. With no family to turn to, living like this has built a bond between us like no other.
I feel a lot of shame and anger too. There was a time where I was doing an exceptional job at taking care of my little family. But after I became disabled years ago I began to blame myself for living like this. I was attending college and working at one point with big dreams. But is was during my junior year that I was put on disability. To become disabled, to me, was a very hard thing to accept. My income was literally cut into and our lifestyle was compromised.
We lost our car twice since and for a long time we had no phone. We would go without school pictures, cable, new clothes and even haircuts. It is cheaper to buy Spaghetti O’s or bologna for lunch than to have a traditional meal. I’ve been educated as to the importance of a balanced meal. And I am very frustrated when I can’t afford to buy what it takes to meet our daily vitamin quota. So we take vitamins when I can afford them.
All of this matters. Our one basic need is barely being met. I am trying to become more savvy at using coupons in hopes of beating this rut we are stuck in. But at least we have each other to lean on. And for now, that means the world to me.
(This is the fifth in a series of articles by the “Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger” about the extent of hunger in the county, the food sources available and their needs, and how all of us can help those in need. Future installments will feature the other sources and interviews with those who have benefitted from them. For further information, please contact Marion Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 924-7715 or Joe Littlejohn at email@example.com or 925-2845.)