Working to make ends meet is a struggle for so many Rhode Island families due to a combination of low wages, especially for unskilled laborers, and the high cost of rent, utilities, and healthcare. As a result, many workers rely on food pantries for supplemental support.
With a toddler in the family, the challenges increase, as there are constant needs and expenses. Take Georgino, who is just 15 months old, and lives with his mother, Pamela, and grand¬mother, Salsia.
Pamela, 23, works two food manufacturing jobs to support her family. Salsia is only employed part-time, also in food manufacturing, since she is needed to take care of the baby. At 44 years old, Salsia did not expect to be the full-time care taker for her grand-son, but with Pamela so frequently working, there is little choice.
The family receives a small amount of assistance through SNAP benefits—about $175 per month—but most of the responsibility for rent and other expenses falls squarely on Pamela and Salsia.
Recently, Salsia came to the PICA Olneyville Food Center for assistance. The pantry, run by Lorraine Burns, has been a blessing to Salsia and her family.
At the pantry, they are able to receive “a little bit of everything for the baby,” said Salsia. Only on her second visit, she has benefited from fresh vegetables, bread, and pastry as well as formula. The pantry is even able to provide diapers when they have them in stock.
“This family needs so much help,” said Lorraine. “When you have a baby, you need everything: clothes, a crib, a car seat, shoes. And they grow out of everything so quickly. Our staff do what they can to find these items for them or connect them with other resources in the community.”
Now that Salsia knows about the PICA Food Pantry, she plans to return as often as she’s allowed, twice per month. She brings Georgino with her, since she has no other option even though she knows there is always a wait since the pantry is so busy. He patiently sits in his grandmother’s lap in the lob¬by watching other clients come and go. They were fortunate to have a neighbor drive them to the pantry and back home with all of their supplies.
“I am so happy that they are here to help me,” said Salsia. “Before I came here, I didn’t know what to do, but now we have food, we have diapers. We have these things for the baby.”
Although her family will face more challenges on their journey, they know that there is a place where they can go for support and assistance during these difficult times.