Feeding hungry U.S. families in difficult times

As the economy continues to struggle, many American families are being confronted with impossible financial choices that they shouldn’t have to face — like paying the rent to keep a place to live, or purchasing food to eat.

Story and photos by Laura Reinhardt.
Published October 16, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Tough times

Eight-year-old Yalexa Mendez sat on the sidewalk outside the Manhattan Bible Church on a cold Saturday morning, holding a place in line for herself and her mother. When asked what she was here for, Yalexa laughed and said, “For eating.”

For the past few years, a privately-run food bank from Chicago has rolled into the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan with a truckload of food, including canned goods, meats, and vegetables. Their first stop is the Love Kitchen, a soup kitchen and food pantry at the Manhattan Bible Church.

Ironically, there’s a grocery store right across the street — but for those who can’t afford to pay their bills, the thought of shopping there is out of the question.

Yalexa and her mother, Yakira Pascasio, 33, arrived in this country from the Dominican Republic about six months ago and are living with Yakira’s mother, who is elderly and ill.

“My mother is already of age,” Yakira said. “I’d basically do anything for her right now.”

Even if that means standing outside in a line that stretches around the corner just to make sure they have enough to eat.

No-win choices

Yalexa and Yakira wait outside the Manhattan Bible Church.Maria Loranzo, 39, was in that same line, along with her daughter, son, and grandson.

“I don’t have too much food at home,” she said.

Maria works as a home attendant, but she usually only gets called for about 14 to 20 hours of work each week. That’s not enough to support the seven people who live in her one-bedroom apartment. Whenever Maria hears about donations around the area, she makes sure that she’s there.

Maria’s first priority is making sure that the rent is paid so her family always has a place to stay. But on her salary, there’s not much money, if any, left over. She often has impossible choices to make — feed her family or pay the money to get to her job.

This just perpetuates the vicious cycle in which she finds herself trapped. She gets fewer hours at work — yet there’s more money to be spent.

Worrying statistics

Maria Loranzo, 39, also waited in line for food at the Manhattan Bible Church with her 18-month-old grandson, Christian.The 2010 census data on Americans in poverty states that households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children — 20.2 percent compared to 11.7 percent.

Maria’s son, Jefferson, 9, has experienced that insecurity firsthand. He says that being hungry makes his stomach ache.

“It’s real hard for me to see my children go to bed sometimes with hunger,” Maria said. “I’d rather have no food in my body to make sure that my children eat something, than to go to bed with something in my stomach.”

Learn more

Read another story about families struggling with hunger right here in the United States — and what World Vision is doing to help.

Two ways you can help

Please pray for American families who are suffering under the weight of unemployment, homelessness, financial burden, and even hunger in the midst of a slow economy.

Make a one-time gift to help feed hungry U.S. families. Your gift will help provide family food kits, each containing a day’s worth of nutritious meals for a family in need right here in the United States.