Danielle Minson — How You Help
How You Help: “Being Hungry is the Worst Feeling”: Family of 6 Helped by Heldman Family Food Pantry
“Being hungry is the worst feeling!” says 12-year old Nathan. With a worn-looking blue down coat still on, he’s sitting with his mother and three siblings in a meeting room at Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center in Clifton. “I would be hungry sometimes at school, too.” Now Nathan’s family has help. Inside the Vital Support Center is the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry, which offers free food, including kosher items, to those in need. (Names and details have been changed to protect privacy.)
Nathan’s mom, Marci, lost her job as a bookkeeper in August, and they had been living off her husband Ben’s minimum-wage job. It wasn’t enough. “A friend told me about the food pantry here two months ago,” said Marci. “I am so grateful that we now have this help and my family will make it through Hanukkah and until I can find work again.”
“Some of our clients have tears in their eyes when they see that they will be able to feed their families this holiday season,” said Sandee Golden, Food Pantry and Volunteer Manager at Jewish Family Service.
According to the Freestore Foodbank, over 80,000 local children under 18 are food insecure. Nearly 40 percent of Cincinnati residents reported at least occasional difficulties obtaining food, according to the Cincinnati Health Department. The nonprofit Green Umbrella says that 16 percent of Cincinnati households are food insecure.
“They are always so grateful. They just prove that the best part of my job is helping people,” said Lainey Dugan, the family’s case manager at the Vital Support Center.” Lainey’s job in part is to help the family problem-solve around financial issues, such as where they can cut expenses in a spending plan. She helped Marci apply for unemployment and also referred her to JVS Career Services to find a new position.
“Losing a job can be devastating, especially with four kids. It was really difficult to sort out everything. Worrying about enough food is heartbreaking. This circle of support,” said Marci, looking around the meeting room and inclining her head toward Lainey, “knowing that this community and JFS [Jewish Family Service] was able to support and walk with us, helped us feel hopeful.”
But for their youngest, Gabriel, coming here is definitely about the food. Though he was too shy to talk, it is clear that 4-year-old Gabriel feels at home at the Vital Support Center, and pulls his mom’s hand towards his favorite foods as they go—four kids, one mom, and one cart—up and down the food pantry aisles.
“We try to protect the kids from grownup troubles, but they know. Gabriel, was especially worried, but now he sleeps well,” said Marci. “We are on the way to recovery.”
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