According to statistics, around 40 million people in America struggle with poverty-related hunger. Despite this unfortunate reality, access to food is something that most of us tend to take for granted.
Individuals who are in this situation have no choice but to rely on the compassion of others. And when this army veteran learned about the issue of hunger in his community, he decided to set up his own food pantry to do what he can to help his neighbors in need.
This compassionate army veteran’s name is Roman Espinoza. He spent 25 years serving in the military and when it was over, he decided to invest in his knowledge by enrolling at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, New York.
Going back to school taught him a lot of things, but one particular research for an assignment in 2017 led him to a discovery that would spark his desire to help his community.
That year, he learned that his college had its own food pantry.
“I was like ‘wow, I did not know that colleges have food pantries. I just assumed that if you could afford to go to school, then you could afford to eat,” Roman told Good Housekeeping.
That revelation gave him an idea about how he could give more to the community – by putting up a “food pantry” in his front lawn to be filled with food and other necessities that anyone in need could get supplies from.
This concept might seem so simplistic, but it could have a real impact to those who are lacking. The humble box is left open to the public 24/7, and people can take whatever they need from it free of charge. They could also do the opposite by stocking it up with donations if they are in a better position.
Not long after, Roman’s box was filled with food and different necessities such as soap, toothpaste, and band aids. It is kept alive by goodwill of strangers.
“All in all, it’s sustained by the community, and it’s used by the community. There’s no age limit; there’s no paperwork. We will not take any monetary donations. And next time, when you’re doing a little better, you can come drop some things off in return,” Roman said.
Soon, he found that the box was really helping the people in his community. Whenever he would go to his lawn, he would either find that people had taken something from the box or have restocked it with more supplies.
“We don’t know who uses it,” Roman told CNN. “Sometimes people feel like they are embarrassed to use the box in the middle of the day.”
“Nobody should feel embarrassed because we all need a little help,” he added.
Roman was no stranger to poverty, as he too had his own experiences of not being able to afford three meals a day or Christmas presents as a child.
Soon after, he started receiving requests from others who wanted to put up their own food pantry and now, there are three in operation in their town alone!
“You have to give back to the community and people who supported you,” Roman said.
Roman recognized a need in his community and decided to act on it. Instead of being a mere spectator, the army veteran became proactive in tackling the issues in his town. What an inspiring act!
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