A Dream Ended and Hunger Set In
Since she was young, Tamica dreamed of opening her own hair salon. She got a job at 16 and worked hard from then on. Other than having asthma, Tamica was pretty healthy. She worked hard, always moving forward with her ultimate aspiration in mind.
“I’d been doing hair all my life,” Tamica said. Once she hit her 30s, she knew it was time to get licensed, so she enrolled in an intense school program. The goal of opening her own salon was within reach!
But then everything changed. Tamica was practicing coloring someone’s hair, when she suddenly felt her lungs burning and closing. Her asthma flared up so badly, she was transported to the hospital. It turned out that her frightening health experience was from being allergic to chemicals of the hair dye she was using, doing something she loved.
Tamica said her health has never been the same since.
“That chemical really ruined [my lungs]. I’ve been on oxygen ever since,” Tamica said. The steroid she needs for her lungs to work properly, she said, has made her gain a lot of weight. She has had to use a scooter because her lungs make it very difficult to get very far when walking.
After all the work she had put in to owning a salon, Tamica was forced into early retirement. She lost her job because of all the work she had to miss with countless medical appointments and recovery time. “It wasn’t part of my life plans,” Tamica said. “I’ve never NOT worked in my life.”
Tamica was also diagnosed with diabetes, so a healthy diet has never been more crucial. She has a very limited income and health insurance, but her copays for medication are often high. “It is tough to afford produce. I don’t have enough money to get it. As much as I should be eating it, I can’t.”
We first met Tamica at a produce distribution at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in St. Paul. Tamica said she just happened to be crossing the church parking lot one afternoon after picking up a few groceries she could afford with the help of SNAP, when someone from the church waved her over to let her know about the upcoming produce distribution that following Saturday. Since the church was just across the street from her house, Tamica came by to check it out.
The produce distribution, made possible in part by Second Harvest Heartland in partnership with the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, offered many fruits and vegetables. “A healthy diet is important,” Tamica said. “The produce drop helped a lot, so I didn’t have to go buy [the produce.] I’ve been eating it ever since!”
Today, Tamica isn’t eating too many of the shelf-stable food items she bought at the store so can use every bit of the fresh, healthy food she got at the produce distribution, which included cantaloupe, cucumbers, watermelon and potatoes, to name a few.
Although her health is a big obstacle for her, she is not backing down any time soon. “I cannot give up,” Tamica said. “I’ve always been a hardworking person. I’m still trying.”
But in order to keep moving forward, Tamica knows that it’s okay to accept help like this produce distribution. “Everybody needs help at some time. My mother always taught me to never judge a person. YOU know what YOU need. It doesn’t matter what they think. People get down sometimes on their luck. And programs like this really help people,” Tamica said.
September is an important time for filling another table for people like Tamica. Not only is September in the middle of produce harvest season in the Midwest, but it’s also Hunger Action Month! It’s a great time to get involved. Learn more about doubling your impact and going orange the whole month long.