By Zach Nissen, Food & Nutrition Services Outreach Coordinator
While visiting one of our partner agencies in Orange County, I saw a woman struggling to pack several bags of food into her car. I approached her and asked if I could help. As I lifted heavy bags of food into her vehicle, she told me she was picking up food for herself and six of her neighbors who are unable to drive to the food pantry.
Her bag of food will help feed the four other people in her household including her 74-year-old mother who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The family does receive Food & Nutrition Services benefits, but they don’t last through the month. Her son hunts and fishes to help them supplement their diet. She explained they used to get by okay, but with medical bills piling up they have had to really tighten up. She said she helps others and gives what she can, when she can, but lately it’s been harder.
She told me this holiday they couldn’t afford a Christmas, really. But they were able to manage a Christmas Eve dinner, all made from scratch, she proudly said. At their holiday table she hosted four generations of family. And that, she said, is the most important thing of all.
We both started to cry as she thanked me for talking to her. She assured me that they’d be able to get through this rough patch—as they’ve done before—together as a family.
Every day I see people trying to uphold their dignity as much as possible while they struggle through difficult times, while they struggle to feed their family. Providing for your loved ones, especially during a holiday, is a natural instinct we all feel. And this woman was doing what she had to do to not only care for her own, but for her neighbors as well. When life brings us challenges we know we must pull through to the other side. But we can’t do it alone. We need family, we need community, and we need people with big hearts.