I Went to the Food Bank For the First Time

Anthony Flores, a 52-year-old poet, is one of many Americans to seek assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic

Today, our Wake-Up Call newsletter (subscribe here!) is sharing the story of Anthony Flores, a poet based in San Antonio. He opened up about falling on hard times due to the economic impact of the coronavirus and visiting a local food bank for the first time.

As a freelance poet, Anthony Flores considers the month of April — also known as National Poetry month — his “bread and butter” when it comes to making ends meet. Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Flores had at least 40 shows lined up all across San Antonio, including everything from poetry slams to workshops and school shows. But as the coronavirus continued to take hold of the U.S., he started noticing a troubling trend — food insecurity. He even reached out to the local San Antonio Food Bank to see if he could help as a volunteer before later realizing that he would soon be the one needing help.

“I saw each one of those getting marked off my calendar. I began to understand that I would probably be not only a volunteer at the food bank, but I’d probably be going for the first time,” Flores said.

San Antonio is home to a vibrant community of artists and musicians, who often support themselves by going from gig-to-gig. But, as a tourist-driven economy, San Antonio has been hit particularly hard by the economic impact of the coronavirus. According to the San Antonio Business Journal, the travel and tourism industry is a major driver in the state’s economy — and much of that can be attributed to San Antonio, which generated more than $15 billion in 2017 alone.

Like many of those in the creative community, Flores was initially reluctant to seek food assistance. “It’s a chosen life, but that’s the thing… A lot of these creative spirits are renegades — when you tell them like, ‘Hey, there’s free food over there or go apply for food stamps or something, it’s really not their thing,’” he said.

Flores credits his decision to ultimately visit the San Antonio Food Bank to his daughter, who just recently returned from New York City and was struggling as well. Luckily, they found the experience to be largely a positive one. The lines to get food were long but they moved relatively fast due, to the requirement to pre-register online.

Though these forms can vary, the San Antonio Food Bank asks for basic information like your first and last time as well as your street address, zip code and phone number.

After noticing that some of his fellow artists were struggling as well, Flores decided to share his own experience on Facebook. This included posting logistical information, such as when and where the food bank would be delivering food throughout the city. Flores recalled getting a thank you from a follower who was on dialysis and was able to use the information to know when to take time off work to get food.

Flores emphasized that food assistance is available to anyone and everyone who needs it: “The positive message that the food bank is doing should be disseminated as far as possible and to as many people as possible.” He noted that not everyone, particularly poorer Americans and the elderly, has access to a computer to seek out assistance — and outreach to these communities is crucial.

As far as looking ahead, Flores is trying to stay optimistic. In addition to keeping the food bank on his regular schedule, he has also applied to some grants and also has a few checks coming in but, like many Americans, he added that he’s still “worried about where things are coming.” Despite these financial uncertainties, he maintained that he’s hopeful that the situation will get better by the summertime.

“I think most people are looking forward to the great summer of hope. I think that’s what I’m calling it in a poem — ‘My summer of hope,’” Flores said.

This originally appeared on Medium.com