On a particularly sunny afternoon, Heather N. walks into the Urbandale Food Pantry with her son. It’s the beginning of the month and with the holidays right around the corner, she is excited to shop for some items that will fill the table when she hosts Thanksgiving dinner.
“When you come in here the people are so friendly. They don’t treat you like you are less than, they treat you like they’re glad you are here. It takes a lot of courage to ask for help and it takes courage to share your story. It is humbling to say I need your help and I can’t do this without you… but that’s what I’m saying. I couldn’t do it without you.”
She and her husband have five children and seven grandchildren. She is thankful to be able to spend most of her time as a full-time caretaker for her kids and her mother… but the work can be difficult.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, business came to a halt for the handyman business that she and her husband operated. He went to work as a forklift operator and she found her time spread even more thin. After her father’s unexpected passing in a car accident, her mother came to live with them. The Urbandale Food Pantry has been a safe haven for her family in navigating life’s challenges and the dignified experience of shopping for your own food is a small but important victory.
“Even if I could work I just couldn’t do both (take care of family and work). I’m a full-time caregiver for my family. It’s hard with finances and helping with food,” said Heather. “I spend a lot of my day helping other people – which is good but can be tricky in the financial department. We do what we do to help each other. We have five children and seven grandchildren and we don’t want to see any of them go hungry.”
Just last week she took extra food to her daughter from her deep freeze, because they didn’t have any food in the house and she credits the help of the pantry for “allowing us to help each other.” The family spent most of the summer canning and jamming things from their garden. With food from their garden and other community resources, they have made numerous small quantities, 6 gallons of beets, and 3 gallons of salsa. She helped her daughter harvest honey and maple syrup and her husband even makes his own bacon.
“Our family has been coming here for quite a few years but recently we’ve been here more often. We couldn’t make it through the month without this service and we appreciate it so much. Everything has gone up so much. Our property taxes went up $160/month. This extra food makes all the difference for us.”
Having the option to take what you need or want is a big perk for a typical pantry visit. Her husband is very allergic to most laundry soaps so sometimes she won’t take hygiene products and if she brings her granddaughter they will pick out a book at the free library at the pantry.
“One thing I appreciate about this food pantry is that you can pick your own things. They don’t give you a box and go ‘here’s food – eat it or don’t eat it’. I can pick things that my family will use.”