Hunger to Hope: Help us feed local families

Codie, Blanca and Eneida
Eneida on the Left, Blanca in the Middle and Codie on the Right all visit a United Way of Tri-County food pantry to receive help with groceries



Codie, Blanca and Eneida have a few things in common: Money is tight, food is expensive and their kids are always hungry.
Our food pantry numbers rose 85.6% over the last year as low-income and even working families like theirs struggled to afford soaring prices at the grocery store. With hunger on the rise and no relief in sight, Codie, Blanca and Eneida, among so many others, rely on our United Way of Tri-County food pantries in Framingham, Marlborough and Clinton for help.
As our lines grow longer and the need reaches critical levels, our "Hunger to Hope” (LINK) spring fundraising campaign is helping families like these who have nowhere else to turn.
Our clients are smiling and grateful to take home free groceries every month, including fresh produce, protein, dairy and kid-favorite staples like cereal, juice boxes and snacks. But demand is so high that our own pantry shelves are emptying, and we need donations to help everyone in need.

Eneida: "I’m all about helping people, but there’s also times when we need the help."

Eneida works for a local Framingham nonprofit, helping keep those who are most vulnerable off the streets. She brings clients to our Pearl Street Cupboard & Café in Framingham for food, but she actually comes here for help too.
"They’re great," Eneida said, as she left the pantry with an overflowing cart of groceries in late April. "They’re amazing. They help so many people out."
Eneida, a single mom, knows it sure isn't easy making ends meet. She qualifies for $100 a month in food stamps (SNAP benefits) but "that's not enough to get me through with a 5-year-old." Eneida, who also has an older son, works full time as a case manager and even has a "side hustle" on Sundays. It's just enough to cover rent on a studio apartment, plus car payments, insurance and daycare, never mind food and other expenses. 
Still, Eneida's is a success story, given that she once lived in a shelter.
"I do supportive housing and homeless prevention—go figure, right?" Eneida said of her job. "I wish I had someone like me helping me when I was in need. I was born from the struggle. I’m all about helping people, but there’s also times when we need the help."
Eneida found herself homeless after moving in with a friend who lived in subsidized housing in Framingham. Management wouldn't allow her to stay. "I went from her house to a shelter," Eneida said, and it took 3 months to get back on her feet.
She now works for the South Middlesex Opportunity Council at one of its affordable housing locations. She's glad to introduce her clients to our resources at the Pearl Street Cupboard & Café, and last month she was in line for herself. 
"Today’s one of those months that I needed it, and as you can see they hooked me up pretty darn good," Eneida said as she loaded groceries into her car. "You will never go hungry as long as there are food pantries around."


Codie: "If I don't have anything in my fridge I can come here and they’ll stock me up."


In Clinton, Codie's family has suffered one setback after another, and they lean on WHEAT, our local food pantry, for help. Life was derailed when 6-year-old Ace was diagnosed as a baby with a devastating medical condition.
Ace had his first of many surgeries for a rare GI disorder at 3 weeks old. Specialists at Boston Children's Hospital said Ace would never be able to eat like a regular kid. To everyone's great surprise, his condition improved and he no longer needs to live off a feeding tube. That's where WHEAT comes in.
"It’s so beautiful when I’m able to share that with my children and give them that nourishment," Codie said. It's not lost on her that Ace couldn't eat before, and that the family couldn’t even afford food without WHEAT. "To know that I’m able to nourish him and give him that, sometimes we take those things for granted."
Codie is happy that Ace is discovering favorites like pizza, chicken nuggets and pudding. He also loves breakfast foods, like pancakes and French toast. He still goes to doctor appointments in Boston three times a week, but he's in kindergarten and "thriving right now," mom says.
But health isn't the family's only problem. Thanks to low income and unfortunate luck, the family often goes through hard times. In February, as things were looking up with Ace, a railroad worker hit a fire hydrant on the tracks behind their Clinton home. Water flooded their basement in the freak accident, destroying everything, including a brand-new fridge. The family didn't have insurance because they can't afford it.
"We literally just bought a new fridge the day before and filled it—but, it’s stuff and my family’s together, and we’re healthy right now," Codie said, looking on the bright side. Ace has an older brother, Aiden. "Every day we are so grateful," she says.
Codie has come to WHEAT for many client services, from emergency assistance and help applying for benefits to getting groceries every month, backpacks and school supplies, holiday presents, winter coats and even dog food.
"They’re so good over here," she said. "If I don't have anything in my fridge I can come here and they’ll stock me up."


Blanca: "This really, really helps us."


Blanca goes to our Marlborough Community Cupboard for food assistance, and her whole family is grateful.
Blanca said her four growing boys have big appetites and go through a lot of food, so getting a cart full of free groceries and boxes of produce each week is a tremendous help. She's proud, though, that her sons also have big hearts: The older ones noticed how the pantry helps their family and they started volunteering here to help others in need.
"We say we live to go and help," Blanca said. "They say that is a way we can give back."
Blanca's husband works painting and constructions jobs but his income is down since the pandemic because there's less work available. The cost of living, however, is up.
"The only one who’s working is my husband," Blanca said when she came in for groceries last month. "This really, really helps us."
She said their oldest son, Jordan, 18, just earned a prestigious scholarship and a "full ride" to Tufts University to study biomedical engineering. "He earned everything, and he has big plans," Blanca said.
Blanca said Jordan is a role model to his younger brothers, ages 16, 13, and 8. "They love to do community service," she said. "Right now my other kids are following him."
Blanca said between the high price for rent, utilities, clothes and shoes for the kids and other expenses, there's not a lot of money left. Being able to come to MCC means "we don’t need to worry too much about food, especially for the kids.” 
To donate to help us turn Hunger to Hope, visit