Sometimes true

Monica hesitated on a food insecurity question in the form following her son’s kindergarten screening.  

Within the past twelve months, the food you bought just didn’t last and you didn’t have money to get more.

      • Often True
      • Sometimes True
      • Never True

This question wasn’t new to her. With two children in 3rd and 1st grade, a 5-year-old son who would soon start kindergarten, and a 6-month old baby, she had seen this food insecurity question plenty of times before. And her answer was always “Never True.” It wasn’t completely accurate in previous times, but they always managed to get through. Her mother-in-law would help pitch in sometimes. And she had learned how to make her money stretch at the grocery store. She knew the food she got wasn’t the healthiest, but it allowed her to give her children something to eat.

But this time, she hesitated to select the same answer. This time, the money pressures felt more intense. Her husband had fortunately kept his job through all the uncertainties of the pandemic. But things still felt very uncertain for their family. They’d go through constant waves of worry that he’d be laid off. It was the addition of their baby that really dipped the scale. Having enough money to pay for food was becoming very real… and undeniable. 

      • Sometimes True

That answer choice was more accurate if she was honest with herself. 

She finished the form and handed it back. As the worker in the early learning center of a St. Paul suburb reviewed her answers, Monica played with her son, who was excited about visiting a school building for the first time. In the back of her mind, she wondered what the worker would think and say about her “Sometimes True” answer. She’d probably refer her to a food shelf. Or maybe recommend she sign up for SNAP.  She had heard of those options before but didn’t know how any of it worked and felt very nervous about going through the process. And how would she find the time to figure it out in her already busy schedule?

The help she got was unexpected. The early learning center worker stepped out of the room for a bit and came back with two bags full of food. These were Every Meal bags containing non-perishable food that included fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and entrees. Each bag had enough food to provide about four meals for her family. The immediacy of this resource was a huge relief. And she was thrilled to find out that her son would have these meal bags available every week when he started kindergarten in the fall.

She didn’t know who was more excited from this visit, her or her son.