How two single-income households juggle expenses

April stands with her three children in front of the school

The line outside Hamilton Middle School on a sunny spring day wasn’t only full of parents picking kids up from after-school sports. Mixed in were neighbors waiting in line to receive groceries from Hamilton’s monthly Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Pantry.

One of these parents was April, mom to a middle schooler and two elementary-age children. April’s days are filled with tasks any stay-at-home parent with three kids would recognize — driving to school and sports practices, cooking meals and doing all the little things that ensure her whole family has what they need to thrive.

April stands with her three children in front of the school

Living in a one-income household (her husband is a mechanic), April is skilled at making the most of what her family has and finding additional ways to make ends meet. She shops at discount stores, raises chickens for eggs and takes her family on fishing trips. When her family needs the extra help, she also visits a local food pantry and attends Mobile Food Pantries held at the middle school.

At Mobile Pantries, she receives plenty of fresh produce, dairy and other food, such as pop tarts — her kids’ favorite.

“The kids get excited,” April said. “I’m thankful for anything we can get. You always have some nice stuff.”

April's son carries his sister

Like April, Courtney attends Mobile Pantries to fill gaps in her grocery list and ensure her 4-year-old daughter has all she needs to thrive.

“Her dad doesn’t pay child support, so I take all the help I can get,” Courtney said. “Luckily I have a good job. I’m a medical assistant. It pays the bills, but doesn’t leave much else.”

She explained the main reason she attends Mobile Pantries is because of the high cost of daycare. Since she isn’t eligible for SNAP, charitable food assistance is her best option.

To anyone in a similar situation, she said, “Take any help you can get. Don’t be embarrassed. Everybody needs help at some point.”

Jenna helps load a neighbor's car

Jenna, a community school coordinator who helps at the Mobile Pantries, said many of the people they see come through the line are parents to young children, like April and Courtney.

Many people in the community react with surprise when they learn how many families attend the food distributions. But they also ask how they can help.

“The biggest thing I noticed is how willing and quick staff and community members are to support. It’s been nice to have that strong community here,” Jenna said.

Hamilton Schools volunteer team poses with a truck

Hamilton is right on the edge of Allegan and Ottawa Counties, but it’s in the Ottawa Area ISD, which hosts Mobile Pantries at various schools. Feeding America West Michigan has been able to bring Mobile Pantries to Hamilton since September of last year thanks in part to support from the Feeding America National Organization and Kraft Heinz.

Nourished communities are strong communities, and the food bank is honored to work alongside so many great partners, supporters and volunteers as we bring needed food to families in Hamilton.

Story written by Communication Specialist Juliana Ludema

Photos taken by David Chandler