Like many in the border town of Laredo, Texas, Elena De Luna and her family are struggling.
“A lot of people in the community lost their jobs and are facing similar challenges. We need help, especially for our children,” she said. “The most important thing is that we continue to keep ourselves healthy and keep going.”
Because of the pandemic, De Luna’s husband got laid off from his job in the mining industry, while she could no longer work as a home health nurse. For now, her husband’s taking odd jobs as he can find them, and she’s earning some income by watching her neighbor’s two kids, in addition to caring for her own two.
“Not being able to keep up with the bills is very stressful and frightening at the same time,” she shared. “We’re afraid we could lose our home, but we have to be grateful that we are getting by little by little.”
The news of school closures brought a wave of stress for De Luna, her 10-year-old girl, Julien, and newly 4-year-old boy, René Javier. They had depended on free school meals before the crisis, and now without their jobs, how would they feed their kids?
“My children and I were taken by surprise, and with the uncertainty of the job situation...Then we realized that the school would continue serving food,” she said. “That was a big relief for parents and children knowing that they would continue to eat.”
Five days a week, De Luna gets in the long car line at her local elementary school, where the Laredo Independent School District serves drive-up meals. She receives breakfast and lunch for her kids and those she watches.
For her, the food provides a huge sense of relief during this crisis, but it also fuels the hope she has for her children’s futures.
“This program provides good food so the kids won’t go hungry,” she said. “It’s got vitamins and other nourishing things included, so they can continue concentrating on their studies, get ahead in life and grow up to be better off than us.”
And the kids receiving those meals provides a moment of joy each day amid the struggle for De Luna.
“They get very very excited,” she said of her children. “The food comes well packaged, almost like a present, a present that they open wondering, ‘What’s inside? What are they serving today?’ And they’re like this every day when they open their present. It’s so nice.”
Thanks to the support of our generous donors and corporate partners, we’ve been able to provide No Kid Hungry emergency grant funds to De Luna’s school district for critical equipment to safely serve these meals.
Just like in Laredo – with a population that’s more than 95% Latino – people of color are bearing the brunt of this crisis, facing disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, infection and death due to the coronavirus. That’s why we’re targeting our grants to support communities of color nationwide.
Without programs like these feeding children now, families would be in an even more dire situation.
“Please keep helping with whatever you can,” De Luna said. “Even if it’s just a little bit, continue helping our children because they're really in need now. We’re all in a very difficult situation. Thank you for your support of our children.”
Despite the stress and many unknowns that she and her family are living, she finds encouragement in her hometown, and in the people who make our work to feed children possible.
“The way our community struggles for us and our children to keep us going and offer hope, that makes me proud,” she said, adding, “The food you provide, being able to have food on the table, makes me feel hopeful.”