My name is Katherine Beckwith. I’m 56 years old, and a resident of southeast Raleigh.
My neighborhood is called Biltmore Hills, and it is over 50 years old. I first moved here in the second grade, many years ago. At the time, it was a quiet neighborhood; everyone knew each other. As the years went by, the parents passed away and their kids sold the houses. Now it’s not like it used to be. It’s still a good neighborhood, it’s just little different. We have to be more cautious and careful.
I worked at a call center until a few years ago, but I had a number of different health problems that got worse and made it impossible for me to work. I hadn’t had health insurance for a few years, hadn’t seen a doctor, and ended up in the hospital with high blood pressure, diabetes, and breathing issues. I have a difficult time breathing and talking for long stretches of time, which made it impossible for me to work.
I live with my 21 year-old daughter, Jasmine. Right now, she’s the only one of us that is working, and she works part-time in retail. We had a car up until about a year ago, but with me out of work, we couldn’t keep up with the repairs it needed, and so we donated it to Wheels4Hope. Now, we take the bus to get where we need to go.
I like that our neighborhood is close to downtown Raleigh, but there is no grocery store close by and no farmers’ market. The closest grocery store is a few miles away, a Food Lion. There are a couple of fast food restaurants like Burger King there. Because we don’t have transportation, we’re confined to those stores that are closer by. It’s OK, but I sometimes don’t think the food is as fresh as the other stores. We have to get what they have because it’s the closest to us.
The bus stop is about five blocks from our house, so it’s sometimes hard to carry all of our bags from the bus stop to our house, and especially hard for me with my breathing problems. Some- times we catch a cab to get to the grocery store so we can get what we need. It’s about an $8-10 round trip; sometimes we can’t afford that. I’m hoping we can get a car.
I grew up eating the pork, the grease, the fried chicken, everything that was good but not good for us. As I kept eating like this later on, it caused health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. I made a lot of wrong choices with food which led to health problems as I grew up.
I’ve learned a lot in the last year about healthier eating and cooking, but we still have to cook what we can afford. I love to get chicken or fish, but sometimes we go with the hamburger because it’s cheaper. I love salads and vegetables. We try to get some fruit in if we can, but it’s mostly what we can afford.
After I went to the hospital a few years ago, they referred me to a clinic called Alliance Medical Ministry, a few miles from my house. A lot of places won’t see you without health insurance, but Alliance accepted me. I see my doctor regularly, have lab work done there, and get medications I need for diabetes and blood pressure. We’re still trying to figure out my breathing problems.
I wish I had found Alliance years ago because it would have helped me, but better late than never. Alliance has taught me so much about eating healthy. I’ve taken cooking classes and diabetes education classes that have taught me how to make better choices in making meals. In the diabetes education classes, I learned how to take insulin and how to check my blood sugar at home. They’ve given me referrals to a local food pantry, which has special food for diabetics. They gave me vegetables, chicken, a little red meat, and sugar-free cookies.
Since taking the cooking class, I try to do what I can as far as preparing a healthy meal. I learned that you can eat vegetables and they will taste good. Now, I’m not eating as much sugar. I’m trying to do diet drinks or just water. I’m reading the labels, checking sugar and sodium. Alliance has a big community garden at the clinic, and we’re always able to take vegetables home. Now I’ve gotten so that I don’t like the vegetables from the grocery store, because they taste so much better from the garden!
I most recently took a garden education class at Alliance. Through the class, we took soil samples from our yard, learned the science behind growing food, and planned out our own garden. I got out there and I actually did it! It was really exciting for me.
I planted my own garden in our backyard last summer. It felt good to eat my own food that I grew, and it tasted so much better than the grocery store. I grew collards and beets last year, but the squirrels dug up the beets! This summer, I’m going to grow tomatoes and cucumbers.
Learning all of this, I’m able to make better choices and better meals now.
This story is from the sixth issue of Every Day Grace Magazine, coming out in June. The stories in this issue will highlight the economics and politics of food and food insecurity.
Every Day Grace Magazine is published twice a year. If you would like to receive the magazine, please email LeeAnne Thornton at firstname.lastname@example.org.