Melanie and James had been living a modest version of their American dream for more than five years. Both were young, college-educated, and working at jobs they enjoyed. They could afford an apartment in a ‘nice’ part of town. They were able to pay for daycare for their smallest child, and the older daughter was bright, happy, and doing well in school.
When Melanie learned that her company was down-sizing, however, the situation changed rapidly for them. They cut back in all the ways they could think of, and sacrificed many of their ‘comforts.’ She began looking for work immediately, but was not successful. When James learned just one month later that his job, too, was going to disappear, the family faced a true calamity. Taking any odd job he could find, James was still not able to bring home enough to cover rent, food, gasoline, and other expenses. Finally, the couple sold Melanie’s wedding ring to be able to cover the rent.
James remembers that it was a humbling experience to have to ask for help with food, but one that he had no choice except to endure. The couple was able to get through the toughest times by getting help from a nearby Church pantry that distributes food they obtained at Second Harvest Food Bank. They also were sometimes able to get diapers and other items they needed through the program as well.
As Thanksgiving approached, Melanie was determined that her children would experience a real Thanksgiving. After all, they were still together, healthy, and hopeful for the future. They were thankful in spite of the challenges. But this year there would be no turkey, no dressing, no cranberries, no trimmings.
Looking through the bags of food she had received at the pantry, Melanie found the usual staple food items: spaghetti, sauce, beans, rice, some canned fruits and vegetables, a few fresh fruits and vegetables. But on this day, she stopped and stared at what she saw in the bottom of the bag. Four cans of tuna. Not one can or two; someone had wanted them to have a little bit more, she guessed.
Right then, she decided that her family would have a turkey after all….a tuna turkey. On Thanksgiving day, she mixed the tuna together with bread crumbs and other ingredients, and carefully pressed and formed the meat into the shape of a turkey. After giving thanks at the table, James made a great show of cutting the turkey as though it were a real bird. The children watched and giggled.
Both James and Melanie are working again, and back on their feet financially. They made it through their ordeal with the help of a caring community. But no one in their family will ever forget the generosity they received, and certainly never forget the year of the tuna turkey.
Second Harvest distributed nearly 40 million pounds of food this past year with the help of our 500+ feeding partners. We help families like Melanie and James every day.