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Working Family Struggles to Put Food on the Table

Just coming off her night shift at a local gas station, Hannah Williams, 19, and her brother Greg, 18, arrived around 7:45 a.m. to get in line early for the Mobile Pantry distribution at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Donelson. Hannah says her family has been going through a rough patch and they need some help.

“Our mom, she’s a single mom. She works so hard – more than 50 hours a week,” said Hannah. “We work too to help out. Greg works 40-50 hours a week and I usually work up to 60 hours. It’s just not enough.”

Their family of four – including a 15-year-old sister still in high school – moved to Tennessee six years ago to get a fresh start. However even with three adults working full-time jobs, it is still not enough to cover even their basic monthly expenses. 

“It’s easy to find a fast food or gas station jobs but it’s never enough,” said Greg. “To find a good job that actually pays real money to live, it seems impossible.”

Every month they say worry about having enough gas in their car, clothing to wear and food to put on the table. To make matters worse, their mom’s car broke down the week before and now all three were having to figure how they were going to get to work each day with just one car between them.

“It’s always something,” Hannah added. “It’s a daily struggle.”

The Williams family is not alone. A recent USDA study found that nearly one in ten Americans working full-time are food insecure – struggling to put food on the table. Feeding America also reports than more half of families served at its nearly 200 member food banks – including Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee – have at least one family member who is employed.

Back in Donelson, it’s 9:00 a.m. and the Mobile Pantry is preparing to open to clients. Set-up like a farmer’s market, volunteers have organized more than 20,000 pounds of food onto tables – boxes of pasta, canned goods, loaves of bread and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. By noon, close to 250 families will receive one to two weeks of groceries – an entire grocery-cart full.

“Seriously, I can’t tell you the last time we left the store with a whole cart of groceries,” said Hannah, when she learned how much they would be receiving that morning. “Food it just so expensive. We try to save money by buying off-brand or clearance. I really don’t know what to say.”

Hannah and Greg said the Mobile Pantry means their family will not have to worry about grocery expenses for a while which would hopefully allow them to focus their funds in other places like fixing their mom’s car.

Special thanks to Cummins for sponsoring this and other Mobile Pantries. 

Learn more about how you can make an impact in the lives of those facing hunger in our community.

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