Robin Champion says she pays more than half of her Social Security income for rent, which she says leaves very little money for food.
WASHINGTON — Robin Champion walked into the Giant on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest, DC on Wednesday, where WUSA9 was hosting a food drive alongside Bread for the City with the original intention of just buying groceries. Champion is a senior DC resident who suffers from food insecurity and was using a gift card someone gave her to buy groceries, but found that the donated food could eventually be delivered to her home because that she was a recipient of Bread for the City.
Bread for the City is a DC-based organization that provides food, healthcare, legal and supplemental resources to residents. Champion expressed gratitude and praise for the program; however, she also said that the food she sometimes received was “not enough”.
“I totally, totally understand the scarcity and that you give me what you can, but it’s not enough,” Champion said.
Each week, Bread for the City serves approximately 5,000 to 6,000 households per week for food services, according to Ashley Domm, director of development for Bread for the City. The organization has also seen an increase in the number of people needing its services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Capital Area Food Bank’s Hunger Report 2022, approximately 36% of DC residents have experienced some form of food insecurity.
Champion said she was fired from her job in 2017 and was a beneficiary of Bread for the city. She now receives her Social Security benefits but continues to spend money throughout the month on food and shelter. Champion says she pays more than half of her Social Security income for rent, which she says leaves very little money for food.
“I count on the generosity of charities and people. There’s shame in that, in being hungry,” Champion said.
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In addition to being a Bread for the City recipient, Champion is part of other city food aid programs, such as Produce Plus. Additionally, Champion said she attends her local senior center which offers free lunch every day. Sometimes, because staff know she is food insecure, Champion said they would give her extra food or gift cards to buy extra food for herself.
Sometimes Champion has to “go without” all food at times when she doesn’t have enough money to pay her bills and feed herself. She claims she has reduced her meat consumption and is buying more beans and rice because prices have risen due to inflation.
“And that’s okay, I don’t really have a problem with that.” I can be a vegetarian. I know a lot of people can’t afford meat today. It’s like I said, I’m thankful for what I have. I am lucky to have a place to live. I’m not on the street. I have good medical care, guys [Bread for the City] make a wonderful program. I have good neighbors [and] I’m just grateful,” Champion said.
Due to her situation, she often has her food delivered by Bread for the City. The organization offers food delivery as an option for its beneficiaries. Domm said about 80% of the food that is donated is delivered, according to Domm. Bread for the City delivers groceries to recipients to “have access to fresh produce [and] healthy groceries [and] where they can cook whatever kind of food they want,” Domm said.
Champion said she gets around the city mostly by subway because she has to use a cane and sometimes has to take two buses to get groceries.
“That’s life,” she said.
Champion went on to say that she feels older people like her are neglected when living in Ward 3 because it is known to be a more affluent area of the city, however, she said people Low-income seniors, especially those with disabilities, may feel disrespected and struggle to access necessities. Champion said she would like to see more resources given regardless of someone’s zip code or neighborhood.
Many were eager to donate to help alleviate food insecurity in their community during the food drive. Gloria, a retired teacher who taught for 40 years in the district and whose family instilled the value of service and giving, donated a shopping cart full of groceries.
“It’s not a question of quantity, it’s a question of need. The need is great,” Gloria said.
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