Facing Hunger in Maryland: Dorothy Wilson
For Dorothy Wilson, fighting hunger is literally in her blood
Born to a malnourished mother, Dorothy Wilson and her twin sister arrived prematurely – weighing only four pounds, and with many health issues.
“Mother only had vegetables to eat, not the proper foods you should when you are pregnant. We were born early and so small, we didn’t have fingernails or toenails,” Dorothy explained.
The rural hospital she was born in lacked proper medical equipment such as an incubator, and Dorothy’s sister did not survive.
These early challenges sparked something in Dorothy, making her keenly aware of how hunger can ravage a family.
Facing Hunger in Her Community
Dorothy recalls one specific incident from her teenage years, when she was volunteering at her church, helping serve dinner to people in need in her community.
“I saw a child at one of the dinners, a girl from a foreign country. And all I could do that day was sit and cry because I knew there was starvation in her country, and she came here for a better life, only to be hungry again. It just stirred me to the core.”
She credits her mother with instilling a sense of responsibility in her. “We didn’t have much growing up, but we always managed to help those that were in need.”
Facing Tough Choices
Dorothy grew up, got married, and had children of her own, but hunger never strayed far from her life.
“I clearly remember some early days. We lived on a farm, and we were hungry. We didn’t have anything in the house. Not even crumbs that would interest a mouse,” she said. “Well, there were nights my children cried themselves to sleep because they were hungry. I cried myself to sleep because they cried themselves to sleep. I was hungry and I had no way of getting them food.”
Thankfully, a nearby hog farmer was willing to help by giving her family some meat from a freezer he was cleaning out.
“I knew the food looked white from freezer burn but I didn’t know how bad it was. We were so hungry. I had to hold my nose while I cooked it and when we ate it – that is how bad it was.”
When she didn’t have the help of kind neighbors, Dorothy worked hard to stretch her meager finances so that her kids would have enough to eat.
“I remember sitting down and trying to figure out how to make $5 last for an entire week. I stopped drinking milk to make sure my children could. I bought dented cans from the discount rack at the store and used them to make soup that would last,” she said.
The skills Dorothy developed facing hunger in her own family are ones that she now puts to use to help others.
Helping Others Facing Hunger
While her children are grown, and Dorothy’s life has changed, her desire to fight hunger is as strong as ever.
Dorothy volunteers/works at Living Waters Food Pantry in Denton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she helps feed anywhere from 75 to well over 250 families in one day.
“People mean well – they set aside money for their house payment, car payment, insurance, utilities, medical, whatever. But somewhere along the line something happens, and they need help,” she explains.
Dorothy often empathizes with clients by sharing her own personal experiences with hunger, but realizes that it’s a complicated issue, with many root causes, like a lack of transportation.
“Things are pretty spread out around here, and it can be hard to get around, especially for the elderly. I wish we had the resources to help with that, but we just don’t,” she said. “All we can do is give them a large box of food, and other essentials – whatever they need, we give it to them if we have it.”
Living Waters is one of the Maryland Food Bank’s 1,150 statewide distribution points, helping to get more than 37 million meals annually into the hands of food-insecure Marylanders.
Get updates on our progress in the fight against hunger
Want to see how your involvement directly impacts the well-being of your neighbors in need? Get the latest news sent to your inbox.