The holiday season is here! The holidays are servant reminders to me to be grateful, kind and giving. I vividly remember holiday visits to my Grandparents. We’d eat lots of food – especially treats that were usually scarce at home, like veggie trays with fancy dips and homemade pies! You see, for much of my early childhood I grew up in a single-parent household. My mother worked a full-time job to provide for my brother and me. She kept us clean and pressed, taught us right from wrong, made certain we had a home, an education and food. But she struggled, like so many of us have or do. Making ends meet was a sacrifice for us – though I seldom knew that. My mother was a hardworking, humble woman and never shared her troubles, so it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized we lived in poverty. 

I remember during the holiday season a local food pantry brought us a box filled with all the makings of a fine holiday feast – Turkey, potatoes, bread, canned green beans and a gallon of milk! There were even canned yams with marshmallows to go on top! As a completely clueless 4-year-old, when the box arrived, I was so excited! It was just like Christmas morning! I’d dive in to see all the goodies packed inside. I could never understand why my mother cried that day, until I was a young, single mother faced with decisions about which bills get paid or taking the kids to visit their grandparents so they could get a good meal. 

Circumstances shape our lives. No matter our privilege, or the lack of, there are times in all our lives where we face things that strip us of our dignity. A wrong decision, an act of fate, a series of dumb-luck events – whatever takes us there – it is humbling, frightening, exhausting and all one can do is scrape and scrap to try to climb out.  

I am so grateful and humbled to be part of an organization that helps put a little dignity and power back into the hands of women who, like me and my mother years ago, just want to provide for their children. They want to choose the food they put on their tables. They want to feel good that they can have healthy, fresh food. The goal of our food access programs is to ensure everyone can make the choice to eat healthy fresh food.  

Countryside works with WIC and SNAP clients to provide incentive dollars to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables families can buy from farmers’ markets throughout 4 counties. Our food access programs grow every single year. By the end of this year’s third quarter, the number of SNAP transactions increased 53% from the previous year, we redeemed 78% more Produce Perks tokens and redeemed over $12,000 in WIC vouchers. This shows a sobering need and demand.  

In 2020, we are working to grow these programs exponentially to get fresh produce into the communities around us that need it. Everyone should have access to healthy food in their own community.  

Please, help us make this happen! Your charitable gift – can change a life. Donate today by clicking here.

With gratitude and warm wishes for the holidays, 

Tracy Emrick
CEO Countryside