Karl Vanderkuip doesn’t enjoy going hungry. But as a member of the board of St. Catharines and Thorold Community Care, Karl agreed to participate in their Six People Hungry Campaign during National Hunger Awareness Week (May 7-11)
Karl Vanderkuip doesn’t enjoy going hungry. But as a member of the board of St. Catharines and Thorold Community Care, Karl agreed to participate in their Six People Hungry Campaign during National Hunger Awareness Week (May 7-11). Heading into the campaign, the 31-year-old married father of two young children and member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario, received an anonymous profile of one of Community Care’s clients and was expected to survive on a food bank diet similar to theirs.
“The profile was of an actual client and his family, his wife and a two and four year old,” explains Karl. “His wife was the homemaker and he was unemployed. Their financial status was grim. Once you factor in the expenses of rent, utilities, vehicle (to look for a job), insurance, food and other necessities, there just isn’t enough money at the end of each month to buy much food. That’s where Community Care comes in and tries to give him and his family a hand up. Three to five days’ worth of food for two months isn’t a lot. But it’s vital to many.”
When Karl was first asked to participate in the campaign, he hesitated because of his busy schedule at home and as a real estate broker. But he soon realized that he couldn’t ignore the opportunity.
“I knew I needed to help raise awareness of the effect of a hungry belly, but I also needed to better understand for myself what a father of two children would have to go through while supporting his family,” Karl says. “As the campaign approached, I felt like I was only getting busier. So, when the date arrived to be a client, I was intimidated by the challenge. And it was really tough! More mentally than anything. I was given 20 points, which is the equivalent of about three to five days of food for a single client. As clients are only allowed to visit the food bank once every two months because demand is so high, I quickly realized that I had to ration my food selection. Quantity over quality was the first decision I had to make.”
Hungry and grumpy
Karl soon felt the physical and emotional impact of a food bank diet. He explains, “It didn’t take very long to realize how grumpy I became once I was hungry and needed to ration the non-perishable foods I had selected. There aren’t a lot of healthy alternatives at the food bank and my temperament was starting to affect me. At work and at home. I was also introducing filler type foods that provided little to no health benefits to my kids and this quickly became an issue at home. There was nothing more depressing in my five short days of being hungry than looking into my fridge and realizing I wasn’t looking forward to eating anything in there.”
Karl’s involvement on Community Care’s board and in the campaign has been a humbling experience for him. “It makes me realize how blessed and fortunate we are to have a community around us that looks out and cares for one another,” Karl reflects. “Many people have no one. This has helped me put perspective into my prayers, and to hug my wife and kids a little bit longer.”
What kind of community?
Karl doesn’t plan to repeat his experience, but he’ll not soon forget what he learned. He hopes his experience and that of the other five participants will help people think about what kind of community they want to become and to live in. Do we want to live in a community in which people care for and look after each other? he wonders. Or will we choose to live in a society in which the rich live behind their gates, and desperate people make desperate choices?
One need not wonder what type of community Karl envisions and is working to create.