FAIRFIELD -- A Bay Area food bank volunteer knows what it's like to grow up hungry and her experience is driving her to help others like her.
This holiday season, inflation and the pandemic are impacting the demand on Bay Area food banks, and the person standing next to you in line or passing you in the halls at school or church may very well be hungry.
"We wound up living in a tent at Lake Meade where we relied on the generosity of those around us," said Karen, who volunteers at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and preferred not to use her last name.
Karen lived with a single mom, her brother and their pet dog after her mother fell on hard times. They moved to Las Vegas, where Karen's mother believed she could find work. When she couldn't, often there wasn't enough food to feed her children.
Karen remembers days collecting cans tossed in bushes to get enough money to buy a dollar hamburger, which she would share with her brother while her mother looked on.
"My mom would often say she'd already eaten, she was full, didn't need anything," said Karen. "I still cry for that little girl. I feel sad for her and for her brother and for her mom."
Now that she's grown, Karen has channeled the pain of growing up hungry to helping other kids like she used to be helped. She imagines the bags she fills at the food bank will go to kids in need, like she once was, noting that we all may be living near someone who is hungry but may not admit it.
"You do know people who are hungry," said Karen. "They don't show it outwardly."
for more features.