Me and several others then serve the residents at 8 a.m. for about 30 minutes. When it's slow or there aren't many residents, that's a good thing. That means those people have hopefully found a job or a home. But when it's packed and busy, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart even more when I see kids in line for breakfast. They don't have a choice in being there.
This Sunday I found myself at the homeless shelter making scrambled eggs. I wanted to post about the food aspect of this volunteer work. In the past two years, I've only helped assist with scrambled eggs, pancakes and two types of bacon. Although, I will admit, I have never offered to make the bacon.
One thing that bothers me is that the food we serve isn't all that healthy. Sure, everyone loves pancakes, eggs, and of course bacon, but is that the best way we can be treating these homeless people in a shelter? The fact that they will undoubtedly have health problems later on, not from one meal like this, but from many, almost seems unintentionally cruel. And then of course we put out the butter and fake maple syrup. There is a bowl of fresh apples that goes out with the breakfast, but it really can't counteract the unhealthy breakfast being consumed.
Part of the reason low-income, poor, and even homeless individuals have disproportionately more health problems than other demographics is because sugar-laden, highly processed foods are so cheap. It's unfortunate that our society gives so many subsidies to the sugar and corn industries to make producing this junk food cheaper than ever.
It drives me nuts how almost everything we eat nowadays has sugar in it. It takes me longer to go grocery shopping because I read the labels on most everything I buy and put back the foods that have sneaked in mass amounts of sugar. What's worse, is that sugar filled foods are cheaper than foods that don't have sugar. One prime example is peanut butter, an item my husband and I consume quite often. Peanut butter made simply from peanuts and salt is actually MORE expensive than the peanut butter with hydrogenated sugar, high fructose syrup, and other ingredients I can't pronounce.
So, when someone on a very tight budget has to chose their foods and options are limited, of course they are going to chose whatever is cheapest and it will most likely be filled with sugars and artificial ingredients. Many people don't even know to read the labels on food products and have no clue how much sugar, artificial ingredients, and fats are in the products.
I don't want to criticize the people who donate and buy the ingredients so that the volunteers like me are able to make the breakfasts at the homeless shelter, but I do wish there was more awareness about how unhealthy the food is that we are serving. And perhaps one day, when enough strong-willed, determined consumers stand up to the giant food companies, slowly more and more sugars, fats, and artificial ingredients will be eliminated from the labels and healthy foods will be cheaper than junk food.