Putting food on the table in hard times

On a cold day in February, Sibley Elementary School staff loaded fresh produce, protein and dairy into neighbors’ cars. Among those in line was Emily, a mom to five: a 15-year-old, twin 10-year-olds, and twin 3-year-olds.

Emily smiles for a photo with her daughters Lorena and Lili.

“They eat a lot — especially the older ones!” she said.

Emily doesn’t always need food assistance, but since the beginning of the pandemic, she’s attended Mobile Pantries more regularly.

“Money has been tight. It had always been tight before, and then my husband was laid off for four months,” she said. “We’re just trying to play catch-up from that. This is one way we can save money for other things.”

Over the past few years, a lot has changed for the family financially. Like many parents, Emily quit her job after her youngest twins were born three years ago. This choice saved on daycare costs, but left the family with just one full-time income. On top of that, the family has been paying off medical bills. Mobile Pantries provide a quick way for Emily and her family to access supplemental groceries.

“I know I can always depend on it. I don’t have to worry about not having something. It’s kind of like a sense of security,” she said. “I still have to buy groceries, but this helps.”

Anyone can find themselves in need of food assistance. Emily’s family is not alone. Many more families are facing hunger since the pandemic began, but their neighbors may not notice their need. They like taking walks, going to the park and playing board games, just like any other family with young children.

Lili, 15, likes basketball and music, and wants to be a traveling NICU nurse when she grows up. Lorena, 10, loves researching animals and hopes to work with them one day. She really likes her mom’s Alfredo.

“There’s nothing wrong with accepting help, because someday you might be offering the help,” Emily said. “I’ve been on both sides. There’s been times when I’ve been able to help people in different ways.”

Help families like Emily’s have a “sense of security” when it comes to food.