Asking for help is never easy.
When businesses started to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Merari was furloughed from her theme park job. Her roommate was also furloughed. They pooled their savings to pay rent and then had to decide between making a car payment or paying the cell phone bill. Then, there was the matter of food.
She saw a Facebook post about a food distribution event and typed, "How do I check the list of locations or food pantries?" The answer was Second Harvest Food Bank's Food Finder tool. Merari was able to easily search an online database of emergency food pantries. The results generated the day of the week, time and location for several near her home in Orlando.
Merari and her roommate were able to visit one of Second Harvest's 500 feeding partners to receive boxes with pantry staples like beans, rice and cereal along with fresh foods like apples, carrots, potatoes, milk and eggs. There were days when the line of cars was long, she recalls. She waited almost two hours for groceries to be placed in the trunk of her car, which speaks to how many people were experiencing the same financial uncertainty.
Since her first visit to a drive-thru food pantry, Merari has been able to access food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. SNAP expands to help fill a need when the economy shrinks. The program allows Merari, and others like her, to shop at the supermarket for groceries while she waits to return to work. Second Harvest’s Benefits Connection team can provide SNAP application assistance.
"When I was working, I had pride in myself," explains Merari. After surviving Hurricane Maria, she fled to the mainland to rebuild her life. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has been a blow to her financially, it has not dampened her spirits.
"I've learned to be humble and ask for help. It's hard to do that, but I'm grateful."
Thanks to you, Merari has access to the food she needs to be healthy and ready to return to work.