Mom's emergency granola bar is there when you need it — no matter who you are

Every parent knows those moments — the ones when you stuff a snack into your bag, knowing you'll need it later.

I don't evaluate whether someone is 'worthy' of a snack. I respond to the hunger I see

I'd give a granola bar to a hungry kid at the park. Why not a hungry man on the street? (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Every parent knows those moments — the ones when you stuff a snack into your bag, knowing you'll need it later.

Maybe you're stuck in a traffic jam or someone's blood sugar drops after swimming lessons and you suddenly have a child who is losing it in the back seat, in desperate need of food. 

Or, if you're like me, you've carefully packed two gorgeous lunches for your kids and yet, when you're rushing them to that midday medical appointment, you realize all you have for yourself is that lone leftover snack.

If you don't rotate that stash frequently, you can end up with some gross results.

We have, like many Winnipeggers in older homes, a vestibule between the front door and the main hall, good for putting away coats. That old-fashioned mud room is not exactly airtight.

I still have very bad memories of putting on a lightweight coat one spring that I had last worn at the end of October. Yup, that stray candy left in the jacket I wore on Halloween had been eaten by a mouse … along with the pocket itself. Yuck. 

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You cannot save that "non-perishable" snack in your bag forever, and when someone needs it, that's a good enough time to eat it.

One hot day, stopped at a light on the way to St. Boniface Hospital, I saw a man, clearly down on his luck, asking for change or help at the intersection. I had one kid in the back of the car and not a lot of time.

Before I could think about it, I reached into the mom bag. I opened my window and gave the guy a granola bar.

It wasn't change, which some people say can just be used for drugs. (Perhaps it's used for a meal, or rent, for that matter … but never mind.) It wasn't even enough to fill anybody up.

But the look on the guy's face as he clutched the food? 

It was clear to me that the emergency mom snack went to the right person.

We've never had anyone turn down the food we offer. Instead, I've heard more than one surprised gasp or thank you

My kid saw it happen, too, as he ate his lunch in the back seat. He recognized right away what I'd given away. He asked if I would be hungry.

It was easy to explain that I might be hungry now, but I knew I'd have enough at my next snack or meal. What's more, I could skip eating sometimes, too. I needed fewer granola bars, not more.

Over the next few months, I didn't always have something in my bag. The traffic lights weren't always timed perfectly for me to give a snack when I saw a person in need.

Then, we were driving off an overpass when I saw a well-dressed senior citizen by the side of the highway. He had a metal shopping basket with him. It looked like it was all of his belongings. 

It was a hard place to stop or pull over. We parked some distance away, I unseatbelted the kid with me and we walked back to him.

I gave him what I had — another granola bar.

On the walk back to the car, we talked about the situation. We agreed that if we were hungry, it would be so hard to stand outside on the street, asking for food. It was probably awful — embarrassing and upsetting. 

Some people harden their hearts, saying that those begging are just looking to sponge off others.

We've never had anyone turn down the food we offer. Instead, I've heard more than one surprised gasp or thank you.

I don't lower my car window if I feel unsafe or if the person looks scary. It's always in a moment when I have that extra snack nearby. It's the same food I wouldn't hesitate to hand to another mom or kid who needed it at the playground.

Someone is hungry

I don't evaluate whether someone is "worthy" of the snack. In my gut reaction, I think instead from that parental feeling, the one where you grab the food because you know someone is hungry right now.

Our impromptu granola bar gratitude project reminds me to be thankful on a daily basis for what we do have. Nobody's starving on those car rides, or suffering in any kind of long-lasting way. We all have so much. It's well worth skipping a snack or stocking the mom bag again for that next trip.

We live in a wealthy country. Overall, we may be well off, but there are people out there who are hungry every day.

I can't feed them all. However, I can donate to the food bank when I grocery shop or give away a granola bar.

By modelling this for my children, I remind them to think of those in need. I hope, with these actions, I'm working to make people who will be compassionate in the future.

I hope we can work to create a more equitable society, one that works harder to eradicate this kind of poverty.

I can't change the world … but I'm a mom. I've had practice at this: I can hand out one snack at a time.

After all, every person out there was someone's child once. 

What snacks did you bring to share? 

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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Joanne Seiff is the author of several books, including Knit Green, about textile sustainability. She works in Winnipeg as a freelance writer.


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