Now My Family is Rising Above
LaTonya is a single mother of three children, eight-year-old Makayla, seven-year-old Makenzie, and three-year-old Israel. While LaTonya attends pharmacy technician training, Makayla and Makenzie attend an after-school program where they learn new languages and receive nutritious meals from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
“Some of their favorites would be the apples, the carrots, and the juice,” she explains. “It’s always healthy, down to the juice. I even checked the box! They don’t have any high fructose corn syrup.”
With bellies full of nutritious food, Makenzie and Makayla can focus on what’s important – learning new languages, like Mandarin. “Sometimes they speak in Mandarin and I don’t know what they’re saying,” LaTonya says, laughing.
But, life hasn’t always been this pleasant for LaTonya and her family. The children’s father passed away, leaving LaTonya to support her young family alone. “There have been times when I did not have money and we were hungry,” she said.
One of those difficult times was just a few years ago when LaTonya was struggling to find work, “I became unemployed and I needed help to supplement my income,” she explained. “I got temporary jobs that would last a week or so. Then, if I had a bill I would pay it,” she said. LaTonya was trying her hardest to keep her family afloat. But, sometimes she fell short.
“The food they got in after-care would be their dinner. That’s not something I’m really happy about because no one wants to not be able to provide for their kids,” LaTonya said. “There’s been times when I’ve been hungry and given my kids food and then I went to bed hungry.”
The family started visiting Food Bank produce distributions to help keep fresh food and vegetables on the table. “We eat a lot of leafy green vegetables,” she said, “a lot of whole foods. Sometimes it can be expensive to eat healthy.”
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank operates produce distributions, also called mobile pantries, with more than 140 partners. At produce distribution, a truck full of nutritious food is brought to a central location where clients can pick up food, much like they would from a pantry. Every third Thursday of the month, clients are welcomed into the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s facility for a produce distribution. Every month, hundreds of families are served thousands of pounds of fresh produce and other nutritious foods like milk and bread.
Now, LaTonya has gained employment, is continuing her education, and things are more secure. Makayla and Makenzie are growing up big and strong, with gratitude for their mother, “When I grow up, I want to be a mom just like my mom. She’s the best mommy in the world!” says Makenzie.
While the family might not need the support of the Food Bank anymore, LaTonya is still extremely grateful for the kindness and sustenance her family received in their time of need. “You want to be able to make dinner for your family. When you go home and you make a dinner, you want to be able to say ‘I made this and I put my heart in it,’ and when you’re not able to do that, it hurts,” she says.
Truly, thank you for supporting the Food Bank and families like LaTonya’s. As she puts it, “Safety nets are there for people. When you’re down, you get help. And now my family’s rising above.”