“Watch your fingers!”
Jennifer repositions her seven-year-old daughter’s hand on the knife. Sophia is cutting strawberries. She is small for her age and a chair is pulled up backwards to the counter for her to stand on. Jennifer pulls Sophia’s hair back from her face and fastens it in a ponytail as she works. Her brother, Greg, is doing homework in the living room.
“The strawberries are from the pantry,” explains Jennifer. “But the yogurt is from the store.”
“We mix and match everything. The kids eat breakfast and lunch at school. What I can buy at the grocery store, I buy. But I really don’t make enough to get all the food we need, so we go once a month to the pantry. There we can get staples: pasta, peanut butter, canned soup. This time though– strawberries! Sophia’s favorite!”
Ever since a layoff three years ago, Jennifer has been working through a staffing agency. Sometimes the work is good and steady, but sometimes not. Because of the fluctuation in wages, she has not always been able to consistently receive SNAP benefits. Currently working as a receptionist at a larger local firm, she is hopeful that this assignment will turn into full time employment.
“The key thing to being a mom is being flexible; the kids, their needs, their interests—they change every day. But in order to be present and flexible for your kids, you have to have something solid underneath you. That’s why these years of ups and downs work-wise have been so hard.” Jennifer scoops up the sliced strawberries and puts them on top of Sophia’s yogurt. “That is why the pantry helps—it shores up the missing leg on the chair I am standing on.”
Second Harvest’s large network of partner pantries, summer meal sites, backpack programs and more work hard year round to help shore up the foundations on which moms like Jennifer are building their families.
In unpredictable times and in an unpredictable economy, mothers like Jennifer have plenty to guess about. Whether or not they will have food on their tables for their children should never be left to guess work.
This summer, when school lets out, Sophia and Greg will go to a summer camp where Second Harvest Food Bank meals will be served. “It will be another place our family’s food comes from, another part of the mix and match,” says Jennifer. “But knowing that another meal is there, like clockwork, is one less thing to worry about.”
(The names in this story have been changed on request of the family)
You can help support mothers and families like Jennifer’s by supporting our Summer Match Campaign, where your gift will do double the good thanks to a generous match. Learn more here.