She had seen the name Food Bank of South Jersey before – in Puerto Rico, having survived Hurricane Maria’s devastation to her island home. The Food Bank of South Jersey, in collaboration with BMC Communications and members of the community, loaded up three tractor trailers with 22,000 pounds of food and supplies to help those in Puerto Rico, like Isabel and her family, who were affected by Hurricane Maria in the weeks and months following the Category 5 hurricane’s September 2017 devastation.
Now, Isabel was seeking the Food Bank of South Jersey on her own.
The day was Turkey Drop, the Food Bank of South Jersey’s annual turkey and Thanksgiving fixings donation day typically held on a given Saturday in November. Isabel, now a resident of Camden, where she lives with her two young daughters and her ill father, saw promotion of Turkey Drop on social media and on signage throughout the region, and hoped it would be the answer to some of her most immediate and troubling problems.
Isabel was desperate. She needed food – her family was facing two weeks with virtually nothing to eat. Her work hours had been cut, reducing her paycheck. She did not have enough money to pay her rent, buy food for her family and purchase desperately needed medication for her 82-year-old father. She was in a terrible predicament. Carrying the responsibility of her family on her shoulders, she entered the parking lot of the Food Bank of South Jersey – and asked for help.
“Her daughters were very young, ages 6 and 8, and her oldest told her that Turkey Drop was just about donating turkeys and food supplies to families in need – not a place to pick up food,” shares Carmen Perez of the Food Bank of South Jersey. Carmen was one of the first people to speak with – and help – Isabel when she arrived. Isabel spoke no English, but through her daughters, was able to communicate with Food Bank team members participating in the collection activities of Turkey Drop. Isabel also spoke in detail, with Spanish speaking Food Bank team members, like Carmen.
While Turkey Drop is a donation day at the Food Bank of South Jersey – every day at the Food Bank is a day to feed someone. With the help of Carmen and several Food Bank team members, Isabel was given an emergency supply of nutritious food items so that she could sufficiently feed her family for two weeks. She was also given the vital information that she was eligible for a variety of food resources – resources Isabel was not aware were available to her. Food Pantries. Hope Mobiles. Programs for her two daughters to receive food assistance. Also, the knowledge that her elderly father was also entitled to receive food support. Armed with enough food to feed her family for two weeks, and the information to supplement her family with available Food Bank of South Jersey hunger relief programs and services, Isabel cried.
With one decision – to drive to the Food Bank of South Jersey, to follow the signs for Turkey Drop – she was able to feed her family, learn of programs and services to continue to provide her household with sufficient, nutritious meals and also, with the worry of groceries purchases off her mind temporarily, proceed in paying for her father’s medication. As it has helped Isabel and her family and neighbors in Puerto Rico following the deadly Hurricane Maria, had once again provided her with relief, support and care in a time of emergency. “We were happy to be able to help her,” shares Carmen. “That is why we are here – we are here to feed people, and help them live better.”