By: Breia Travis, Emma Ford, and Sydney Marantz, Participants, Mitzvah Corps D.C.
Over the course of this week, Mitzvah Corps D.C. has learned about the effects of living under the poverty line. After listening to Ellen Teller, from the Food Research Action Center, speak about how hard it is to eat healthy while depending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) we went to the local grocery store.
At the store, we were given a $4.50 budget per person per day (to mirror what people get on SNAP), based on anyone in the given scenarios. Not only was it difficult to stay within the budget, but it was extremely hard to find healthy options. This experience has opened a new door to something that has never previously crossed our minds.
At the beginning of the week, we volunteered our time at a thrift store located at Martha’s Table. Later in the week we had a chance to work in the kitchen where we prepared food for the early start program and Makenna’s Wagon. We had the chance to work along chefs and other volunteers. Personally, we preferred working in the kitchen due to our new knowledge about how hard it is to maintain a healthy diet while receiving SNAP benefits. During our time in the kitchen, we met two very motivated volunteers: Kayla Pasacrete, a college student, and Jalisa, a mother expecting her fourth child.
Kayla started volunteering in the kitchen in March of 2015. He originally started volunteering for community service hours, but stuck with it due to her interest in food. Kayla’s stand-out moment was when we she was working on Makenna’s Wagon. Makenna’s Wagon is a food truck that provides free food to the homeless 365 days of the year, rain or shine. The truck stops at three different sites an evening, providing meals to over 100 people per site.
On a very cold day, one man experiencing homelessness came up to the truck to get food and offered Kayla his gloves. This left Kayla with a lasting impression because she was there to help him, but all he wanted to do was help her.
Jalisa has been volunteering her time at the kitchen since April of 2015. Her main job in the kitchen is to prepare fruits and vegetables for the daily staff lunch. She also guides other volunteers on how to cut certain vegetables, since she’s a regular. She felt accomplished when the chefs noticed her good work ethic and the amount of time she spent at Martha’s Table. After being offered a chef position, Jalisa decided to go back to culinary school and get her Masters degree and took the chef position.
Jalisa told us that, “Not only have I been through a rough patch, but there’s always someone to help you get through it. As long as you persevere towards your goals and dreams, nothing is going to stop you or get in your way.”
Due to her passion and enthusiasm, her words of wisdom will continue to leave a lasting impression.