“I’m currently raising five children by myself. Four of them are mine, and one is my stepdaughter.

I was married for 13 years. He’s not in our lives anymore. I’m happy about that – he did some bad things and we’re better off without him – but it’s definitely hard to raise and provide for our children alone. I work full time; I always have. It was enough before, but now that we’re unexpectedly on a single income, I can’t always make ends meet. I mean, think about it. I have five kids to feed. The cost of food adds up quickly.

What makes things even more difficult is that my 12-year-old son has severe autism, and my stepdaughter has special needs also. The other children are 10, 11 and six years old, so they need my full attention too.

I get food stamps now, but they aren’t enough to cover us for the month. I’m grateful there are other places I can turn to for help. I go to our local food pantry as often as I can. They are so nice there. We get snacks and meat and veggies to help with the kids’ lunches. In the summer, my kids participate in a backpack program where they can go pick up a bag of food. It’s really helpful, because without free school lunches in the summer, things get pretty tight.

These past months have truly been a challenge. There were days when I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it. But we are making it, and the food pantry is part of the reason why. I appreciate that it enables me to provide for my family with dignity, and that gives me the strength to keep going.

I know we’ll rise above this. I now have the motivation to finish my college degree – I stopped when my son with autism was born. I want to work in medicine. That way, I can help others – and most importantly, my family – live better lives.”