Gloria Richardson smiles warmly as she explains the circumstances that forced her to ask the Food Bank for help. Richardson, a North Park resident for over 40 years, is a senior citizen and lives on Social Security. She recalls raising two children as a single mother while working 12 hour shifts as a nursing assistant. “I was making good money then,” she explains. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be standing in a food line. Never in my wildest dreams.”
Last year Richardson found that her Social Security income was not enough to cover her bills. “I was finding that with prices going up, I didn’t have any money left for food,” she said. “I had maybe ten dollars for the whole month after rent, utilities and medication.” While Richardson asked her children for help in emergencies she did not want to take food from her grandchildren’s mouths. “They’re just making ends meet … and like everybody else they’re living paycheck to paycheck with children.”
So she scraped by on a meager diet of “canned vegetables and spaghetti with butter.” But her daily portions grew smaller and smaller and her food supply was not stretching the entire month so she decided to take drastic action—at the beginning of every month Richardson marked two “No Eat Days” on her calendar.
As she leafs through the calendar’s pages that document her recent struggle with hunger, Richardson’s cheerful expression is betrayed by a momentary flash of pain in her eyes. She points to the calendar’s sprawling grid of days bearing two large red circles with the words “No Eat.” “These are days where I wouldn’t eat at all,” she said. “I would drink a lot of water and try to keep my mind on other things, other than the fact that I was hungry. I figured that if I could fast for one or two days then I would have food for the rest of the month.”
Richardson followed this regime for several months and lost over thirty pounds but became worried about the health effects of continued weight loss. “After this,” she said, “I decided that I couldn’t lose any more weight and it was time to go to the Food Bank.” It was a hard decision for Richardson. “I have a lot of pride,” she says. “But I thought, you know what, it’s time to swallow my pride and go stand in a food line. You gotta do what you gotta do… After I went to the Food Bank things changed.”
Richardson enrolled in the Food Bank’s program for senior citizens and receives food at distributions in North Park. Every month Richardson receives a range of food items including canned meats, cheese, cereal, juice and canned soup as well as fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and bread.
Richardson is relieved that her “No Eat Days” are behind her.“I don’t have to worry about food now or go hungry thanks to the Food Bank,” she said with moist eyes. “The distributions help tremendously. I am just so thankful to the donors who make these programs possible.”