Written on: July 29, 2014
The following interview is with a recipient of food from Marguerite’s Pantry in East Elmhurst, Queens, NY. Sr. Anne Marie Beirne’s niece, Jackie (JKB), conducted the interview during her project focusing on hunger among children in the United States for a course on advocacy in the health services. Sr. Anne Marie stated, “ Sisters frequently contribute to and ask about the pantry and this is a profile of a typical woman we serve .” Grey Nun Fund for the Poor also helped this family move out of the shelter.
Interviewer JKB: Tell me a little about yourself.
I am from Africa and came to the United States in 2010. That’s when I got pregnant without a job and without speaking English. I went to school to learn English. Back in Africa I went to the university but didn’t finish before I came. I was getting paid 5 dollars an hour working while pregnant. My husband was cleaning and dishwashing for minimum wage. We were subletting a space for $500 a month. All of a sudden I had been evicted. My baby and I waited on the street for my husband to get home from work that night. They gave me an address for a shelter. I was able to take only a few things. The shelter tried to find me another place to stay. We lived in the shelter in Queens for 1 year while I went to school to be a home health aide. My husband found a job for minimum wage and then we were put out of the shelter. Throughout that time, we started going to food pantries to get food and finally got on food stamps. We found an apartment in the Bronx in a five story walk up. I still go to the food pantry in Queens because they cut my food stamps when I started working.
JKB: How did you find out about the WIC Program?
MONIQUE: When I was pregnant I went to the hospital and I saw the social worker there. She asked me if I need WIC and she told me it would help me with food and gave me a letter. So then I went to the program inside the hospital. They approved me and I started getting checks.
JKB: What kinds of things do you receive from the program? How does it help you?
MONIQUE:I can get fresh fruit, vegetables, peas. Once the baby was born I was able to get formula, baby food, and cereal. Up until 6 months I still received checks for myself but after that they cut it off.
They also asked me about breastfeeding and recommended that. The program provided a breast pump and was very encouraging. I was still not working but going to school to learn English so I had to use the pump. WIC taught me how to use everything. My husband would watch the baby so I could go to school. In the summer we get coupons for fresh food from open market. I like that because my baby is better eating fresh food than cans.
JKB: What do you think it would have been like without WIC? How would you have managed?
MONIQUE: It would be very hard because I didn’t have any income after the baby was born so I think it’s very helpful. Without WIC I would be hunting for food in food pantries and soup kitchens. I would have to go to the Church and beg.
JKB: What kind of changes would you want to see to the program?
MONIQUE: If they can put more money on the checks – it’s not enough to feed my child. Now that she’s 3 I’m getting WIC bread, peas, milk, and juice. I have to go to the office every 3 months; every 6 months they check her weight and height. These checks is (sic) only worth 2 weeks of food but is supposed to be one month.
JKB: Do you think it should continue to be funded and why?
MONIQUE: Of course. It has helped so much, otherwise I would be looking for food in pantries and begging because a lot of pantries don’t have formula. I don’t know how I would have fed my baby. Now since we are both working they cut food stamps so I am back getting food from the pantry. It is still very hard.
Thank you for helping us to help others through the Grey Nun Fund for the Poor and Marguerite’s Pantry.