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.”