A Roof Over Her Child’s Head or Dinner? Single Mom No Longer Needs to Choose


October 3, 2019 By: Tina Mortimer Category: Hunger Stories

Tameka has been through a lot of ups and downs in her 42 years—battling bouts of depression while trying to be a good mom to her four children wasn’t always easy. But as a single-parent, Tameka had no choice but to push through and work hard (sometimes two jobs at a time) to care for her kids. Yet no matter how hard she worked, there never seemed to be enough money. In part, this was because of the nature of her job. For years, Tameka was a home health aide for hospice patients—a position inherently filled with uncertainty and instability.

“I cared for patients for a long time,” she said. “Some would live three days, some three months, some three years. It wasn’t an easy job. It was complicated and it was unpredictable.”

Although Tameka said she has no regrets—she has four beautiful children ranging in age from 14 to 25 years old—she does wish she’d asked for help sooner.

Feeling Like Less of a Parent

“It makes you feel like less of a parent when you can’t provide for your child,” she admitted. “It affects your self-esteem. I work my heart out, and it all goes to rent and bills. And when the money is gone, it’s gone. But I would rather have somewhere for my kid to sleep than have food in the fridge.”

Tameka was born and raised in Minneapolis and other than the few years she spent in Faribault—she moved back because she missed her family—she has always called the Twin Cities home. Tameka has a more reliable job now, working for Valvoline, where she is a certified technician and enjoys steady hours.

All but one of her children are grown and living outside of her home—her oldest is in college in Arizona—but she still needs help from time to time to feed herself and her youngest, which is why she visited her local church recently.

“My cousin told me that a church in my neighborhood was giving out free food, so I went,” she said. “I must have looked like I didn’t know what I was doing because this woman came up to me right away and offered to help.”

Finding Help and Hope

The woman who approached Tameka that day at the food distribution was a Second Harvest Heartland SNAP Outreach Specialist. (SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.)

“I felt at ease right away,” Tameka said. “As soon as I walked into the distribution, I felt welcomed. The SNAP specialist was very concerned and helpful. She helped me figure out everything—paperwork, transportation and other resources like MNSure.”

The volunteers at the distribution even helped Tameka figure out what to make for dinner using the food she’d take home that day. The cooking demonstration was especially appreciated by Tameka’s 14-year-old son, who wants to be a chef when he grows up.

“You better believe that me and my 14-year-old went home and made that same recipe with the food we got,” she said. “He loves to cook with veggies. He introduced me to vegetarian meals. All my life I believed you needed to have meat with dinner, but he showed me that doesn’t always have to be the case.” 

Tameka entered the church not knowing what to expect. She left with a smile on her face and hope in her heart. 

“The day I went to the church distribution, I had nothing,” she admitted. “I wasn’t sure if my son and I would eat dinner that night.”

The SNAP outreach specialist followed up with Tameka soon after the food distribution and again a few weeks later.

“It really means a lot that they checked in with me,” she said. I haven’t had many bad days since I met her [the SNAP outreach worker],” Tameka said.

Get Help; Give Help

Second Harvest Heartland SNAP outreach workers work with organizations in the community to raise awareness about the availability of SNAP benefits, including providing information for distribution to clients, and assisting with SNAP screening and SNAP applications. If you or someone you know needs food assistance, we can help you locate immediate food services in your community.  

If you have enough food and want to give to your neighbors in need, consider donating today. Every little bit helps!




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