Why Food Insecurity?

I know what it means to be food-insecure (a phrase that means not having a reliable source of food). As a child in a single-parent household, I remember my mom going without so that her children could eat. I remember knowing that I should ask before grabbing a snack, because certain items were meant for certain meals and eating them would mean our family going without until payday (and maybe longer).

Two of my favorite photos from the first Snack Paks 4 Kids corn distribution event.

Two of my favorite photos from the first Snack Paks 4 Kids corn distribution event.

I know that my family and many others wouldn’t have survived without organizations like my church, which had a food pantry, or the Amarillo College Food Pantry, the High Plains Food Bank, Snack Pak 4 Kids, and a handful of others. We also depended on government-funded initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women, Infants, and Children and the National School Lunch Program.

But I also know that for every person who each of these organizations and programs helped, there are still many more who are trying to survive in food-insecure homes.

I’m a senior journalism student at Texas Tech University. This spring, I get to choose one topic to focus on for the entire semester. I’ve chosen food insecurity.

I want to look into the reasons why more than 12 percent of American families still suffer from food insecurity. I want to look at the ways communities are tackling the problem and find out how, as a country, we’ve managed to bring the average down from close to 15 percent, but there are still pockets where it’s more than 20 percent and why, according to the most recent data available, it’s almost 50 percent among college students. I want to find and share the stories of the people who are helping, the people who are surviving and the obstacles we still face as a country.

I’ll share stories, reports, data and other things I find on this page. One of the first I’ve come across is an op-ed from a university president in California. It has lots of good information about the situation among his state’s college students.

At the end of the semester, I hope to also publish the work I’ve completed about our local issues. Here’s hoping my work will make a difference, too.

My first newsroom was on HBO. Now I have two.

And just like that, I missed a day of NaBloPoMo. Oops.

I did attempt to write last night, but was exhausted and fell asleep in the middle of it, after a busier Sunday than I’ve had in a while.

It started with Bailie and Vanessa, two fellow journalists, at the Umbarger German Sausage Festival. Bailie said she was covering it for the paper, and we decided to tag along.

Vanessa, Bailie and I, waiting for our delicious plate of German food.

Vanessa, Bailie and I, waiting for our delicious plate of German food.

After that, I hung out with Vanessa and her classmates as they spent the afternoon working on a commercial, a project for their advertising class.

Skittles and dress up - what more do you need?

Skittles and dress up – what more do you need?

I was home by seven and then started on homework for my journalism classes. Later, I watched the season three premiere of The Newsroom, a show about journalists.

Notice a theme yet? Journalism and journalists everywhere. It began about two and a half years ago.

The months preceding my return to school must seem odd to anyone looking in from the outside. I had a job with a great company, a great salary, great hours and great benefits. Best of all, it was a job where I was helping people. I loved the job, I loved the work and I was good at it, good enough that I was training to become a team leader, which would mean traveling to other states for a good chunk of my time. It was perfect.

I was miserable.

I was miserable because even though I had somehow gotten lucky enough to fall into this wonderful job, something wasn’t right. Everyone kept telling me how great the job was, congratulating me on my accomplishments, telling me how great of a fit it was. But inside my own head, I knew something didn’t quite line up.

I didn’t want to give up something that seemed so perfect, but I began to dread work. At the same time, I was scared that I’d never find something that good again. I told myself I’d adapt, and learn to love it again. Besides, it was too hard to decide on something new and different. I wasn’t even sure I wanted something different.

So I stayed. I stayed and dealt with the anxiety and irritation and stress of knowing I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and not knowing how to fix it. All of it only served to send me into the familiar spiral of what seemed like never-ending depression.

I continued like this until early July 2012 when I stumbled upon this:

I was intrigued. Partly because when I think Jeff Daniels, I think Dumb & Dumber (my sister and I can quote it back and forth). So I found the first episode on HBO GO and watched it, followed quickly by the second and third. An idea started to build in me. I wanted to do THAT.

I knew that the show was at the very least, a romanticized version of journalism. This was the pretty version of news, the sexy version. I also knew that I didn’t want to be on TV. But watching the actors respond to a breaking news situation and being the ones to inform the rest of the world – I wanted to experience that. I’ve loved reading and learning for as long as I can remember and I’ve been writing stories, my own and others, at least as far back as elementary school. Why not do it for a reason that matters?

After a heart-to-heart with Brandon, I decided to quit my job and return to school to major in journalism. Within a matter of days, I was enrolled in my first semester of classes and by the next semester, I was part of a newsroom – the Ranger newsroom. By the end of that semester, I had an intern position waiting for me at the Globe-News. I’ve been in a newsroom almost every day since then.

I don’t guess I’ll ever know if something else would have acted as the catalyst, had I not stumbled upon The Newsroom. But within the first hour of my first class, Intro to Mass Comm (with the amazing Jill Gibson), I was almost able to feel the click as all the parts finally came together.

This is Jill, with Quintin. She is awesome.

This is Jill, with Quintin. She is awesome. Also, they float in space. (How is this the only photo I have of Jill?!)

A life in journalism is what I was supposed to have, and is the only type I can see myself having from now on.  I love everything about it, from public relations and design to social media and yes, even broadcast and radio.

Even on the hard days, when it seems like everyone has gone crazy, there’s not enough reporters to cover everything, I have a video to create, a photo gallery to finish, a source on the phone, a desk covered with empty Monsters, but lacking evidence of food, and other outlets reporting tweets, scanner traffic and rumors as fact so it looks like we’re oblivious when we’re really working on ACTUAL confirmation, I love it.

I’ve been in news for almost two years and every day is its own adventure. I’ve gotten to meet all kinds of people, from my friends and instructors at Amarillo College, to visiting celebrities and leaders, to the awesome cadets in the Palo Duro High School JROTC program. I’ve covered air shows, chili cook offs, lectures, board meetings, history festivals and haunted houses. I’ve covered happiness and sadness, life and death, anger and love.

Journalism is my life. Journalism gave me my life. Journalism, as crazy and corny as it sounds, saved my life.

As long as I’m writing and creating, and sharing that with the rest of the world, it’ll be enough.

 

Bonus from yesterday – Vanessa and her Skittles concussion:

These ARE the good old days

Earlier today, I spent about an hour on the phone talking to one of my best friends, Perla. She moved to Austin at the end of the summer to start at the University of Texas. Even though we text each other about once a week, I always forget how good it is to have a real conversation. I miss her terribly, along with all of the other people I had become accustomed to seeing every day for the past two years.

Perla and I, stopping for a mirror photo in Germany. (Also included: Jessica, the photogenic photobomber)

Perla and I, stopping for a mirror photo in Germany. (Also included: Jessica, the photogenic photobomber)

A few weeks before spring commencement, Perla, I and the rest of The Ranger gang were furiously working on the last edition of the paper, final projects and tests, and getting ready for graduation. It had finally hit me that most of us would soon be walking the stage, but while I was staying another year at Amarillo College to finish two certificates, the majority of my friends would be leaving. Sadness set in and I frantically began attempting to make the most of the little bit of stressful time we had left as a group.

These are the people who accepted me when I returned to school, even though I was older, even though I knew nothing about journalism and even though I’m one of the most socially awkward dorks in Amarillo. What was I going to do without them?

Vanessa, me, Bailie, Robert and Perla, posing in San Antonio on our last trip together.

Vanessa, me, Bailie, Robert and Perla, posing in San Antonio on our last trip together.

Sometime during those final weeks, one of us came across this story. The author and her friends were just like us – a group of misfits, somehow fitting together in the puzzle that is a newsroom. The story reminded me of Andy in The Office, when he says, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”

Reading the story gave us the chance to realize these WERE our good old days, in those last moments before parts of our group splintered across the state. But it did a couple of other things, too, at least for me.

It made me stop and realize that I couldn’t do what I usually do once a friend moves: lose contact. I’ve done it too many times in the past, too many times to count, and I don’t want it to happen again. I don’t want to remember the good old days while wondering, “What ever happened to them?”

It also made me realize that I need to stop more often and just appreciate the people around me and the time they spend with me – friends that are still here, as well as family that I don’t see nearly often enough.

Then, about a week ago, I ran across this comment on reddit:

It sums up perfectly what I feel every now and then, in the newsroom, with my family, or sitting at home with Brandon. Every once in a while, everything just clicks into place, the edges line up perfectly and there’s a moment of pure happiness.

Just like Checkpoint-Charlie, they’re one of my favorite things about life.

Just like this moment. Oh, Perez, what are we going to do next semester when you're gone, too?

Oh, Perez, what are we going to do next semester when you’re gone, too?