Nichelle had a series of good jobs and a nice car. Then she lost her job during the Great Recession in 2009. While unemployed Nichelle became pregnant and couldn’t afford to stay in her apartment. After the birth of her daughter Lilliana she spent many months living on the couches of friends and family.
In 2013 her father, a retired veteran, was evicted from his home of 30 years. Nichelle and her father agreed to move in to a new place together in Millbrae, to ease the burden of rent. She now rents a room from her father, and shares the room with her 6-year-old daughter.
She enrolled in a federal work study program that allows her to work no more than 20 hours per week, while in school. Nichelle’s part-time job is working at one of Second Harvest’s partner agencies, Sparkpoint at Skyline College. Sparkpoint’s food pantry is entirely stocked with nutritious food provided by Second Harvest Food Bank. Nichelle tells clients she understands how hard it is to swallow their pride and get food assistance, because she has done it herself.
“People are scared to use the pantry. Timid, shy, ashamed. I want to scream it to the world. The pantry is there to be used. I worked in the pantry for a long time before I received food, because of my pride. I thought, all these people need it more than I do. I have this job and most of the clients who get food don’t. It took a lot to accept the help. It’s hard to make that choice. You feel less than… when you can’t take care of your own child. So whoever is helping provide the food to people, know that people are putting their pride aside and they cry tears of joy to be able to feed their children.”
“It’s hard to explain. I was ashamed to tell anyone. I am no longer ashamed, because I don’t know where I’d be without that help.”
Nichelle sees the services she uses as a stepping-stone to success, but the path is difficult for her.
“I sacrifice all my wants and needs. I buy myself nothing. I wear the same clothes and shoes, and I sacrifice everything so that I can provide for my daughter.”
“Financially every month is pretty difficult. I try to space things out. On the 4th of every month I get my food stamps. On the 15th of every month I get my paycheck. By the 15th, my food stamps are gone and I depend on the paycheck to provide food for the rest of the month, along with the rest of my bills, like PG&E. The last week is the hardest.”
“You have to buy things like toilet paper and tooth paste. I shop in the travel section at the store, because it’s cheaper and it’s all I can afford. Because I have the food pantry, I don’t have to choose between PG&E and food.”
“So I go to the food pantry when I need it the most. It’s hard. Without the food I’d probably not be able to survive.”
“For my daughter, it’s important to get the healthier foods, but healthier food is so much more expensive than the less healthy food. So having the healthy food here for free is so helpful and important.”
“My goal in life is to provide my daughter a path to living a life better than the life I’ve had. And for her to be better than I am when she’s an adult. That’s all I’ve ever wanted since she was born. Which is why I go without. It’s why I struggle. It’s why I do what I do. It’s for her. To give her a better life.”
“It’s really hard to put into words what donating to the Food Bank really means. I don’t think people realize how important it is. Food is a necessity. You can’t go without food. To know that your money is going toward something bigger than you, bigger than anyone… that donation isn’t helping just one person. It’s helping so many people.”