by Mary Castro, Southwest Florida Food Corps (AmeriCorps Team at the Harry Chapin Food Bank)
By the middle of each week, Maria asks herself the same stressful question: how do I feed my children?
Maria and other mothers like her find their answer at mobile pantries where families receive fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and other food that help them get by for a few more days. The mobile pantries are possible because of a multi-year collaborative project between the Naples Children & Education Foundation and the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
“The food is important,” Maria said during a recent mobile pantry at Eden Park Elementary in Immokalee, where almost 500 people, including 260 children were served. “The food my husband buys isn’t enough, and by the middle of the week, we run out.” While her husband works the tomato fields of Immokalee, Maria stays home to care for their four young children: boys Yatziri, 7, and Enrique, 5, and girls Yamiley, 11, and Yaretzy, 1, who tightly held onto a bag of frozen meat the family received at the pantry.
(Yaretzy, age 1, holds a bag of food)
Like Maria and her children, Leyda stood in line for bags of fresh produce, meat and bread. Leyda and her children, Oscar, 2, and Fatima, 4, were also there because her husband does not earn enough money picking tomatoes to get the family through the week. “The best part about this mobile food pantry is that my kids can get food that I can’t usually buy for them,” Leyda said. And sometimes it includes a treat.
“To see them get so emotional and happy about Oscar Mayer hot dogs, that we usually have to say ‘no’ to, because we can’t afford them, is probably one of the best things the food bank has done for us,” Leyda said.
(Fatima, 4, hugs her little brother Oscar 2)
In addition to having sponsors, our mobile food pantries would not be possible without the assistance of volunteers. To learn more about sponsoring a mobile food pantry contact Miriam Pereira, Director of Development (239) 334-7007 ext 127.
A typical pantry needs at least 14 volunteers to be successful. Our pantries take place at a variety of times and places, from Port Charlotte to LaBelle, to Everglades City and everywhere in between! If you would like to donate your time to assist with distributing food to your neighbors in need please contact our volunteer manager Tanya Phillips (239) 334-7007 ext 141.
(Students from Ave Maria University volunteering at a recent mobile food pantry)