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.”

May 4, 2017

Laurie's Story

Laurie and Vince
Laurie and Vince

Fifty-two-year-old Laurie turns to the Salvation Army in New Bedford for spiritual and emotional support, as well as for the healthy food her family needs, but sometimes cannot afford. The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) provides most of the food distributed by the Salvation Army's food pantry and meal program. 

This is Laurie's story.

"I love the people at the Salvation Army. They've been here for me during the hardest times of my life, especially when my beautiful 10-year-old daughter, Page, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Everybody here loved Paige and made her feel loved as her illness progressed. As our medical bills started to pile up, we knew we could always count on the friendly faces and healthy food. When she died last August, I was devastated. I miss waking up every day and caring for her. I miss her so much."

"Now I live in public housing with my fiancee, Vince, and we're both on disability. Even with food stamps, we don't have enough to buy the food we need. I'm also diabetic and have to eat as healthy as possible. I'm trying to follow a better diet so I can get off my expensive medication.

Vince and I are so grateful to the Salvation Army, and we are involved and give back as much as we can. He's a volunteer driver and goes all over picking up and delivering food. I help out in the kitchen preparing and serving our community meals on Sundays and Wednesdays, and I also sing in the choir.

But what I like most is volunteering at the after-school youth program, where I help the kids with their homework and feed them supper. Caring for them makes me feel close to Paige.

We'll be thinking about Paige at the Salvation's holiday community meals this year. She used to love the full plate of food - mashed potatoes, turkey, cranberry suace and corn! Those holiday meals have bcome a tradition for us, and I know I'm wiht family."

The Salvation Army in New Bedford serves 600 people each week. Laurie is like many clients served by our member agencies who have experienced hardships that make it difficult to keep up. Together, we are providing healthy food and safe environments that are making a different in the lives of many.

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