60 Comments

  1. Brooke, this post is unbelievable – on so many levels. I am so sorry to hear not only about about the childhood hunger you guys faced but that poor, poor woman. She lost the battle of humanity & you guys won. I hope everyone who visits this post reads every single word. I am hanging on each one. I would NEVER want to be that horrible woman – nor could I ever bear to leave my children hungry. I made a pledge to SOS the other day & I will be backing up that pledge regularly. No child (or anyone for that matter) should go hungry – ever. XO

  2. Leah
    12/12/2010
    Reply

    Oh my darling, Brooke. The honesty and poetry of your writing is heart-wrenching, like little pins of truth that poke holes in everything we know. Thank you for sharing. Never stop sharing. Writing through that shame means you are full of the love and compassion that you needed, and will help open people’s eyes to all the kids they know and what they might be hiding too. Thank you.

  3. Noelle
    12/12/2010
    Reply

    This is a beautifully written piece. Thank you for sharing.

  4. 12/12/2010
    Reply

    Hi Brooke, I really appreciate your re-telling of this painful tale. Most of my childhood (until I was a teenager) was spent getting food donations and many, many hungry days. If it wasn’t for our church and family members my brothers and I certainly would have come much too close to starving. For me, our poverty and all the consequences of it followed me like a black cloud most of my young life. Now as I am approaching 30 I don’t embrace those days but I no longer feel shame. I am who I am because of all the days of my life and for that I am grateful. I hope your past feels your heart with pride no that you were strong enough to honesty write being a hungry kid.

  5. Thank you so much for your honesty. What an amazing story you have and I’m sure it wasn’t an easy one to tell. I think, in a way, you learned a lesson from her because you are such the complete opposite of Mrs. Drinkwater. Your kindness and humble heart permeate through every pore in your body. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been amazed (almost stunned) at your gift of service and hospitality. Your story a wonderful reminder to take a look around and serve those around me, and also remember that each day there are children who are hungry and it is our duty to take care of them.

  6. 12/12/2010
    Reply

    Brooke – It must have been both liberating and painful to put this out there. Your writing is beautiful and your story is probably familiar to lots of people. It is to me. Thanks so much for sharing this with us all.

  7. 12/12/2010
    Reply

    Brooke, I’m always amazed at your touching, insightful writing. This is an exceptional post and I admire you so much for telling your story. Through your words and actions you are inspiring every day.

  8. Tears are spilling. I’m sorry this is part of your past, but I’m glad you shared it with us. The strength it takes to write publicly about things like this in one’s past is immeasurable. Sending hugs, love and admiration for your honesty.

    And it may be small-minded of me, but I hope Mrs. Drinkwater is cold and lonely right now.

  9. 12/12/2010
    Reply

    brooke, brooke, brooke. the depth of your honesty is awe inspiring. your recollection of that sad day is both poignant and heart felt. that was a big responsibility for an eight year old to handle. thank you so much for sharing your memories with us. it makes me feel all the more grateful for a full pantry, a packed fridge and the ability to eat when ever I want. This makes me want to do more….xx

  10. Im gonna say ANON
    12/12/2010
    Reply

    I think this post was great and powerful but I also think you should have compassion for that woman. nobody knows what was going on with her that day and maybe she misunderstood or just learned her mother had cancer or something. Maybe she was drunk or confused or had dimentia. Is it fair to call her out like that?
    sorry I didnt give my name, but I dont want backlash for saying this. I do support SOS and I do feel sad you had such a rough time and the post was strong and inspiring.

  11. 12/13/2010
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. It moved me to tears. I appreciate your honesty and willing to share in your posts. Hopefully more people will read your post and feel the urge to do something. I Know it has moved me to help out more. Kids shouldn’t have to be without food, especially during the holiday season!

  12. Brooke, It’s obvious it took a lot of digging within to muster the courage to write this post. Trying to remember such a private and difficult time experienced in your childhood, one which I’m sure you’ve worked hard trying to forget. Just know your voice and work are being heard and appreciated. I just hope if there are any Mrs. Drinkwater’s reading your story, they will think twice before judging and welcome that hungry child into their home with open arms and offer them a warm meal.

  13. 12/13/2010
    Reply

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I know what it’s like to blog without opening yourself up to the full emotional honesty potential of your experience, but there’s something about straightforward honesty in blogs that makes a difference…a huge difference. Bringing awareness to the problem of child hunger in America is a worthy, wonderful thing, and I am relieved and glad to see such a post.

    Again, thank you.

    TheCalmCook

  14. 12/13/2010
    Reply

    Wow – wow, wow, wow. This post took a lot of deep courage, Brooke. It honestly made me take a look in the mirror… would I be like your neighbor was or what your dream neighbor was like?
    Thanks for pouring out so much emotion in your posts.

  15. Dear Brooke,

    You are truly a gifted writer and I know writing this story could not have been easy but I hope in doing so some of the pain you’ve held in your heart has been released. You are a strong person Brooke – your experiences as a child could easily have closed your heart forever – but it didn’t and it shows in every piece that you write.
    Sadly, there will always be Mrs. Drinkwater’s in the world – people who will not or can not help those in need. When I hear these stories, I have to remind myself that they are the exception and not the rule!
    You made an excellent point – that it’s not just raising money to feed people that is the problem but also helping those in need to accept it – we are in desperate need of more casseroles on doorsteps I think.
    Thank you for reminding me to keep my eyes and my ears wide open for those opportunities.

  16. 12/13/2010
    Reply

    powerful, raw, courageous, truthful – all words that describe what you have written so beautifully. but these words apply as well: hopeful, empathy, understanding, compassionate, gentle, wise

    you’ve taken your experience and have given it a new power, spun with a positive energy that can change the world, Brooke. i said in my own post that as a single mother of two, we never went hungry because we always had my family to feed us when i couldn’t – i’m forever grateful that my children did not have experience what you did as a child. and i’m proud to be a fellow blogger because this post, is what it’s all about – these kinds of posts can have real impact on our society as a whole; it’s easy to get carried away with the fluffy, happy recipes and we get caught up in our numbers, our photos and the whatnot – but this dear Brooke, is where the real power lives. thank you.

  17. I really appreciate you sharing this Brooke. This will touch so many people and encourage people to act. Thank you. It also reminds me that I need to be as generous as possible as often as I can, especially with my neighbors!

  18. Wow. I don’t know you (yet!) but am so grateful for your honesty and your support of Share our Strength. You are very brave to share this story and I admire you for plowing though the experience and coming out the other end as a better person. Shame on your neighbor. I pray that I never treat people that way…xoxo

  19. 12/13/2010
    Reply

    Brooke, thank you for sharing such a personal story filled with raw emotion. I wish I had more time to chat with you at your writing workshop at the Foodbuzz festival, but I’m glad I can read your blog now.

    SF Readers, you can help donate $2 to the SF Food Bank by showing of your local foodie knowledge on this quiz (money is generously donated for every person who takes the quiz!):

    http://www.sffoodbankquiz.org/

  20. Deborah Reid
    12/13/2010
    Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing that. It was a great honour to read. Beautiful, human, brave…

  21. 12/14/2010
    Reply

    So courageous of you to share such deep and personal pain. As I read your words, I could visualize that 10 thousand pound amber bead that has been sitting so quietly inside for so long, melting away into a tiny grain of sand. Now you can hold it in your finger tips, but don’t throw it away. It’s an important piece of who you are. And I find, while traveling through this journey of life, that those are the most powerful pieces to have.

    • Food Woolf
      12/14/2010
      Reply

      Wendy,
      Wow. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and inspiring comment. Yes. I will keep the grain of sand so that I can remember the grit that brought me to where I am now. I appreciate your words very, very much. thank you!
      Brooke

  22. Thank you for sharing your story. I work with Share Our Strength too, but it’s sometimes hard to remember the reality of hunger for children and how it affects them. Even though it exists all around us. So I’ll say it again. Thank you. Thank you for reminding us that what we do and how we respond to children in need really does matter, and that even just one moment of kindness (or the lack of it) will be remembered for a lifetime.

  23. 12/14/2010
    Reply

    Oh. My. I have a baking blog; a silly little baking blog that wastes lots of food and money on making prissy little baked items. Thank you for reminding me that I need to make more of a difference in the world than I am now. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding us what we already know and don’t take the time to act on. I shared this on my Facebook Page. Beautiful writing.

    • Food Woolf
      12/14/2010
      Reply

      Sweet and Crumbly,
      You know what, it’s perfectly normal to be lost in the momentum of life and forget. Even I forget MYSELF, where I came from, and where I’ve been because of the buzzing of getting there, SEO, and all the silly stuff. Sometimes we just have to be reminded that it’s time to wake up and see what’s really going on out there. Thank you for reading, acting on the impulse to help, and for sharing this post. I really and truly appreciate it. Thank you.

  24. 12/14/2010
    Reply

    Thank you for writing what was surely an emotionally difficult piece — I too wish that day had turned out differently for you. And this is so beautifully written and powerful. So important to remember how lucky we are, and how equally important it is to help others.

  25. I commend you , Brooke, on making yourself so vulnerable by sharing this courageous piece of writing.

  26. Brooke, you are a phenomenal woman. Bless you for enlightening us and also giving us a Take Away list. I love your heart.

  27. I’m stunned with recognition, thankfulness and … admiration that I thought couldn’t rise any higher and yet has now. Your courage and talents abound, you’ve taken a moment of having so little and turned it around and given more than most would even know how to do. I felt your compassion for your neighbor-lady, even in your pain – you thought of hers, too. You couldn’t have told your story except through your “little Brooke’s” eyes – which is what will stir in all of us a desire to donate. I believe I feel a transition here, you are on your way somewhere even bigger than you’ve been and you’re taking us with you, happily!

  28. 12/14/2010
    Reply

    You share with such strength, Brooke. I admire you for letting go so you may tell an important story. Beautiful on many levels, friend.

  29. Tammy
    12/14/2010
    Reply

    My dear Brooke,

    You are an amazing woman. I was uncontrollably crying to the point of almost not being able to read the words you wrote. I was so naive that I had no idea you had to endure living like no child should. When I think of you, I think of an extremely talent girl who always had a smile on her face and could have you laughing in two seconds flat. Your quirky personality was intoxicating and your courage to be your own person made you the bravest person I knew. It breaks my heart to know how you struggled and it makes me sad to not have know then. Thank you for sharing so eloquently your story behind the smile. Love you, T.

  30. 12/14/2010
    Reply

    brooke – you humble me. every time i think i understand what makes you tick, you so overwhelmingly surprise me with your depth, strength, integrity, and beauty. thank you for sharing this part of your life. Love, love, LOVE you!!

  31. Carrie
    12/15/2010
    Reply

    Wow, Brooke, thank you for sharing. Even I need a reminder to withhold judgment now and then.
    I, also, grew up poor. I don’t remember hunger, but I do recall family and friends sharing their commods during particularly tough times. We often had people over for dinner towards the end of the month when funds and pantries ran low. Is it strange to say I feel lucky to have come from an impoverished community? Yes, we struggled, but at least we did so together. Somehow, we all made it through. My friends from those lean times are still my friend today, 20+ years later. I don’t mean to sugar coat it, those were hard, stressful, and even cold times, but they also contain some of my most cherished memories.
    It makes me sad that you had to go through such a rough period alone.
    I admire your courage to speak up about it.
    Carrie

  32. 12/15/2010
    Reply

    Brooke,

    BRAVO! You are an amazing woman with such confidence to come out and publicly tell us your story. I applaud you. If only more of us could be like you, the world would be a little better of a place. I appreciate you for sharing this and for sharing an amazing cause. I hope your post gives everyone a moment to reflect and see show they can help as it has done for me. Thank you.

    Happy Holidays!!

    Denise

  33. 12/15/2010
    Reply

    i had to brace myself before i read your article, because i knew the minute i started reading it, a picture of you will form in my head and never leave me for the rest of my day, if not, for a long time.

    i can’t remember how i found your post, maybe through the array of re-tweets and such. but it doesn’t matter. i finally read it and i must thank and commend you for being so very honest.

    and in return, i will share that i finally am able to work on food security as part of my job, but i wasn’t sure how i would start, even if i understand hunger from experience, you know? so thanks again for your story that is humbling but also very needed to have been told.

    cheers

  34. 12/15/2010
    Reply

    This was a strong, powerful, and touching post. I feel for the child you were. We actually support our local food bank every month of the year, not just in December. Our area has had to deal with three major hurricanes in the last ten years, either supporting our neighbors who were affected by hurricanes or supporting our own community which was hit.

    Please remember, hunger is every day, not just the holiday season. Please do what you can.

    Blessings to all.

  35. Gaby de Cabrera
    12/15/2010
    Reply

    Brooke,
    Awsome writing, very brave and very true, there are thousands of women like your neighbor around the world, I surely don’t want to be one of them, the kind of poverty that these women have is the worst and contaminates the heart. I think everyone has been hungry at some point of their life like you and your bro were in your childhood, however, those moments of hunger are very decisive to be able to construct a life full of blessings and knowledge. I realize now why I thought such good things about your personality when Kokin & I met you a few days before your wedding, you certainly have a very touching heart, a very sensitive soul and a very kind being, I’m very sure that’s what Hans loves so much about you!
    You really touched our hearts too, Brookie! We miss you guys!
    Love , Gaby

  36. 12/15/2010
    Reply

    You are a very courageous woman, Brooke. Thank you for sharing your story…
    It is so important that those of us who can help, do help.
    I can’t imagine turning a hungry child away from my doorstep :(

  37. Luky Luttmann
    12/16/2010
    Reply

    Dear Brooke,
    You are very courageous, sensitive, smart and most importantly a great girl!
    You are a role model for the thousands of hungry kids in the world, the gift of survival and you are an example of it you became a wonderful woman , a survivor and a gentle soul.
    I remember our house in Michigan was always full of our son’s friends, some didn’t have the comfort of a snack after school or a few times breakfast and I always had a place in our table for them, a good friend of them came to knock to our door one cold Winter morning without a jacket or gloves or breakfast! I am so happy to tell you that we provided everything for him, for Christmas him and his mother came to thank us for the help she told me that the first Christmas gift he bought with his money, was for me, it was a lovely spoon rest for my stove. To Give is To Live a Happy Life! My Hansito is a fortunate man and so do we to have you in our lives.

    Con Amor,

    Luky

  38. Luky Luttmann
    12/16/2010
    Reply

    My comment is awaiting moderations? I don’t know

  39. 12/18/2010
    Reply

    I know there are terrible fates for all sorts of people out there, but I think hunger is so demeaning and so common at the same time.
    You are kind to feel sorry for her. I feel mean. She was wrong. I don’t understand that. I understand feeling overwhelmed by the world’s needs, but not by a personal appeal for something that would be so easy to give. I feel shame that our rich society cannot feed every one of our people. And then some.

    So well written. I feel the gulp of shame in my throat.

  40. Brooke: time stopped for a moment, right after I read your story. The was a tornado of emotions and a strong call to action. Hunger does not only happen over the holidays. Hunger is not only about food… it is about love too, and sadly not only did that woman serve you food she did not serve you a needed hug. Thank you for writing this so poignantly, making it real…so many times hunger is depicted as a third world case…which it is not. I will be donating food for the holidays, via the links you provided above. Sending you extra love. and wishing you a Merry Christmas.

    • Food Woolf
      12/21/2010
      Reply

      Amelia,
      Thank you so much for your donation, reading, and thoughtful words. And, even more, thank you for sharing my story with others. I hope more hungry kids are given access to food and support because of thoughtful and generous people like you. Happy Holidays,
      Brooke

  41. renee
    12/21/2010
    Reply

    Hi Brooke. I am an old friend of your husband’s from HS (he and McManus were like big bros to me — I was 2 years behind them). We connected on FB a while back and he shared your website/blog with me. I have really enjoyed reading your work, and the bonus is that I *love* food and love your photography as well. You are so incredibly talented! I just wanted to say, though, that this article made me get up, close my office door, and have a deeply cathartic (and long overdue) cry. Neglect also lived everywhere in my childhood home, and when I read this, I realized that I have always been ashamed of that too. If I needed food, I could find it, but I can promise you that nobody was cooking meals for us, and often times, it was too much work to figure it out so–we went without.

    I felt like the little girl in you — the one standing on your neighbor’s porch — was talking to the little girl in me — the one who was ashamed to have anyone over, to talk about my family, or to even be honest about how bad things really were. The good news is, I have found the equivalent of who you have in Hans — my husband of almost 13 years has loved, honored, supported, and nourished me from the moment we met. He is a constant source of nourishment and love. I have come a long way from being a “hungry kid,” but remember it all too well. I too will be make donations via the links you provided. Happy holidays, and thank you!

    • Food Woolf
      12/21/2010
      Reply

      Renee, Thank you so much for your words. They, too, stopped me cold. I’m so glad those two little girls have each other to talk to–even if it is across time and space. What a beautiful gesture. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I will carry the little girl you were with me. Just so that we’re both not alone. Hugs to you. Happy Holidays.

  42. Brett
    12/23/2010
    Reply

    I’m so impressed by your honesty and bravery (as a child and as an adult). Thank you for sharing your heart.

    p.s. I think it’s fair to call by name the neighbor who shut you out.

  43. 12/25/2010
    Reply

    it is very brave of you to write this. usually all people are not the same.there are some people who can ignore a dying person,so it is not a big thing if they ignored a hungry child.there will come a time that they will have to come to your feet,and when they realize that you treat them well,it will hurt them even more,because they know what they did to you.

  44. T
    12/26/2010
    Reply

    I lost my job over two years ago and there have been many days where I honestly didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. As a blogger and a food geek, hungry and staring at the bottles of exotic balsamics and truffle oils, it provided a swift reminder about the life I once lived. And yet only the day before, I was shoplifting humble cans of tuna fish. Hunger, hidden among us, is very real–even among the foodies.

    • Food Woolf
      12/26/2010
      Reply

      T,
      It’s truer by the day what you say. With so many of us living paycheck to paycheck, we are all one sickness/crisis away from stealing cans of tuna. If you need a place to have a warm meal, you are welcome at my home.
      Brooke

  45. […] My friend Brooke just published a courageous piece, an essay about being a hungry kid, and the shame shame shame that went with it. Read it. We need to make this real if we’re going to feed these more than 17 million kids. […]

  46. […] you would like a heartfelt perspective on the issue, read Brooke’s (from Food Woolf blog) Hungry in America post. She highlights that American childhood hunger is tough because people who are affected […]

  47. Tejas Angel
    1/4/2012
    Reply

    Gotta take exception with this “blaming the victim” reply. Brooke was a C*H*I*L*D, the neighbor was an adult, yes, she may have had a bad day but a child asked for her help. My adopted mother was horrible and mistreated me constantly. To this day each time I see an elderly aunt in my adoptive family she says “OH, do you remember the day that you and Charles were arguing in the car and when you all got out Flo just slapped you across your face so hard you fell to the ground?” Each time I reply, “what did you do?” Her reply is always the same. “Well we thought it might make it worse if we said anything.”

    Really? REALLY? the woman was so abusive she struck me in front of witnesses so you had to have known it was already worse when you all were not around and you did NOTHING? REALLY?

    I was a child and you were the adults. Shame on the adults who do no help children.

    • 1/7/2012
      Reply

      Thank you for your supportive and kind words. Greatly appreciated.

  48. 4/2/2012
    Reply

    Being an only child and not having my parents around often had actually led me to feel the same about my childhood. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. One day, someone else’s child, is going to come to your door feeling the exact same way and you will whole heartedly offer that child a sandwich filled with peanut butter and marshmellow fluff. That day will be the day that child blogs about 20 years from now.

  49. […] different take on what the bill could mean for kids, take a moment to read this moving account by Food Woolf of her memories of having to go hungry as a kid. Reading this piece will surely move you to want […]

  50. […] a missing green tea powder isn’t even on my list. I thought of broken hearts, lost children, hungry families, and homes torn apart by war. And yet, for this woman, the 86’d green tea powder really got her […]

  51. Robbi Actkinson
    10/6/2013
    Reply

    Ok, this broke my heart, a very real crisis here in our own backyard. Do easy to write a check to organization, even one that feeds other countries… But how foes this actually help the neighbors next door that I know have starving kids… ??? How will they get your service?? Too many kids here in my local town hungry for me to feed all of them everyday… Just can’t stand to drive the Volvo with the skies and so much hunger around me…

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