The Cow
By Dick Duerksen

“Wow. I can take any four of these?”

Her name is Brooke and she’s shopping at The Cow in the parking lot at Hood View Church. Every Wednesday afternoon four church women gather in the fellowship room to register prospective shoppers. In the three-hour shopping time more than 70 people will have selected enough food to cover meals for 3-5 days.

The Cow is a long white fifth-wheel trailer operated by PACS. Each morning volunteers stock The Cow’s shelves with food collected from locals stores, bakeries, and farms. About 3pm The Cow shows up at its assigned location, packed with goodies for the waiting shoppers.

Each shopper is paired with a shopping assistant. Brook’s assistant is 10-year-old Oliver, whose Grandpa drives The Cow on its delivery travels.

Here’s a copy of the shopping list they’re working on together:

Since Brooke lives alone, she is shopping only shopping for herself. She and Oliver look through the “Blue” items and Brooke chooses a pound of rice and a bag of oat cereal. In the dairy area she chooses two Key Lime yoghurts, and adds a bag of pistachio nuts and a can of refried beans from the “White” shelves.

There are two “Free” shelves beside the beans and she selects a hand of bananas and a couple small avocadoes from the boxes.

Ton the “Orange” and “Green” shelves Oliver finds her two cans of fruit cocktail, three ripe pears, and three cans of vegetables.

By now Brook’s eyes are glowing. She will eat well this week!

“Look what I found,” Oliver calls, “Your favorite Oreo cookies!”

Brooke and Oliver laugh together, as they have several Wednesday afternoons when Brooke comes shopping. The Oreos are added to Brooke’s cart, along with a loaf of bread, and she’s ready for check-out.

It’s one thing to be given a box of food someone else has chosen for you,” Brook tells Oliver, “but it’s a lot more fun to come shopping with you!”