Jan 26, 2018

Erich's Story

Erich & His Family
Erich & His Family

Erich, a retired U.S. Army medic who served in Iraq, works as a physical therapy assistant at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford and is the sole breadwinner for his family of five.

“It’s a lot of mouths to feed,” Erich said.

Recently, The Greater Boston Food Bank partnered with the hospital to launch a free produce Mobile Market. Every month, patients and staff in need receive 25-30 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Mobile Market provides a week’s worth of food for Erich’s family, which includes three teenagers—ages 15, 16 and 18—who are all active in competitive sports.

“The food we get from the veterans hospital Mobile Market goes a long way when you’re feeding five,” he said. “I want my family to eat well, and this enables me to do that.”

Erich, 49, served in a war hospital in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, and has witnessed the struggle some veterans have transitioning back to civilian life.

They're just not used to asking for help,” Erich said. “They are so used to being self-sufficient.”

Many veterans who previously would not have asked for help are frequenting the free produce distribution, according to Erich.

“I tell as many people as I can about the Mobile Market, and they are always amazed at how much food they bring home and the quality of the food,” Erich said. “Veterans didn't ask for anything in return [for serving]. To have a civilian organization reaching out and helping them—it goes so much farther than they could ever imagine.”

Oct 31, 2017

Carla's Story

Carla & Alba
Carla & Alba

Nineteen-year-old Carla balances a full course load at Northern Essex Community College (NECC) and a part-time, on-campus job to support her and her mother, who has stage 4 breast cancer.

Alba, 21, graduated from NECC in May with an associate degree in business and is pursuing her BA at Worcester State University this fall. Both of Alba’s parents work, but they struggle to provide enough for Alba and her three brothers. After they pay the bills, there’s sometimes not enough for the week’s groceries.

The Greater Boston Food Bank launched its newest community college free Mobile Market at NECC in April, which helped both students and their families through the end of the school year.

“I’m the only one who works at home, so the free Mobile Market at my community college helps me have food at home and concentrate better on my studies,” Carla said. “The food I got lasted us several weeks.”

Carla does all the grocery shopping and cooking for her and her mother, Yocasta. The pair receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance, but because Carla works part time, they only receive about $20 a month in benefits.

For Alba, too, the food from the Mobile Market has helped her family stretch its tight food budget.

“We were planning on going grocery shopping the week of the first distribution,” Alba said. “Because we got the food from here, it eliminated a lot of stuff from our list and helped us get other things we needed.”

Both graduates of Lawrence High School, Alba and Carla became friends while working together at the NECC bookstore. Both students testify to the need for a free Mobile Market among NECC students and their families.

“I know a lot of students definitely need it,” Carla said.

“You can’t see who’s struggling just by looking at them,” Alba said. “You don’t know who’s hungry.”

Aug 2, 2017

Heba's Story

The medical costs to save the life of her 4-year-old son, diagnosed with a brain tumor, led Heba’s family to lose their home. When her husband abandoned the family, she became the sole provider for her four children and her two parents.

On the brink of homelessness, Heba began receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits. Two years ago, Heba began working as a paraprofessional at the site of The Greater Boston Food Bank’s School-based Pantry at the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere. Now Heba, 39, can supplement her overstretched SNAP benefits with fresh, healthy food for her family.

This is Heba’s story.

“I had my first daughter, Seba, in 2001, my son, Pheras, in 2004, and twin boys in 2008. When I was pregnant with the twins, Pheras began complaining of headaches and stopped eating because he felt so sick. Doctors said he had a brain tumor and they needed to perform immediate surgery.

After chemotherapy and all the hospital bills, we couldn’t afford our mortgage, and my husband left me. My parents had come to the U.S. [from Egypt] to help with the children. We were evicted from my home in 2013.

We were about to go into a shelter when I found a job and could afford to rent a small apartment. I received SNAP [Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps] and WIC [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children], but a few hundred dollars a month wasn’t enough to feed my family.

It was hard going to the grocery store. I was crying from the pressure and didn’t know what to do.

Two years ago, I began working as a paraprofessional at the Paul Revere Innovation School. The pantry here is so helpful. I look forward to it every month.  I get carrots, onions, milk, celery, pasta, hummus—many different things. When I bring the food home, my kids’ eyes light up as they open the bags.

The pantry helps so that whenever the food stamps run out for that month, I still have food. I’m not just waiting to get the next month’s food stamps. It also helps me save money.

Pheras is no longer taking any medication, although he still goes to the doctor three times a month. His doctor told me Pheras must maintain a wholesome diet, so I get him apples, bread, fish, vegetables and other healthy food from the pantry.

Everyone in my family loves the pantry. I just want to help my kids and keep them healthy.”

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