By Tara Vocino
Locals struggling financially as well as town and state officials commented on what it was like to receive backpacks and food in the parking lot of Price Rite on Thursday morning.
Price Rite Marketplace and Feed the Children, together with event partners Nabisco and Pepsi, provided families in need in the Revere area with food and essentials to prepare them for the back-to-school season. Each of the 400 families, who were pre-identified by The Salvation Army, received a 25-pound box of food; a 10-pound box of essentials, including shampoo, conditioner, lotion and personal-care items; additional food, such as fresh produce and shelf-stable items provided by Price Rite Marketplace; and two backpacks filled with school supplies for the new school year.
Local dignities, who spoke to the issue of food insecurity in the local community, provided opening remarks before volunteers distributed food and essentials.
U.S. Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts 5th District) said one out of five families struggle with hunger, and this event provides children with the tools and resources that they need to be successful. “It provides them with the nutrition that they need to learn,” Clark said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly said the items provided give students a fair shot academically and at life. “When you see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they get the materials,” Kelly said, “it’s like Christmas in August.”
Mayor Brian Arrigo called the event a magnificent gesture of good will that reminds families that they aren’t forgotten. “I can’t think of a better day,” Arrigo said.
Fighting hunger is at the heart of Price Rite Marketplace’s charitable giving, and paired with Feed the Children’s vision to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry, they have created an initiative, Price Rite Marketplace: Feeding Minds & Bodies, to provide some of America’s most vulnerable children with food, personal care items, books and school supplies throughout the year and help tackle the serious issue of childhood hunger. Price Rite Marketplace and Feed the Children will host eight events in 2018 to address seasonal issues, such as lack of food during the summer months, back-to-school, and holiday hunger, according to spokesperson Alexis Paul.
Recipients of the food and backpacks commented on what it felt like after they went through the assembly line.
Revere resident Kristen Perez received 25 pounds of food and 15 pounds of essentials for her daughters: Olivia, 17; Cierra, 12; Angelique, 11; and Kris, 4. “Thanks for helping my family of five,” Perez said. “We’re in need of help, and the city does wonderful things, such as we get Christmas from The Salvation Army every year.”
Perez is organizing a similar effort, called Kristen Cares, to give back what she received.
Peabody resident Brenda Williams received food, water and backpacks for Mariana Gerardy, 23, and Brenda’s grandchildren: Isaiah, 10; Joey, 3; Ayvah, 4; and Zylayna, 7. “I’ve been going to The Salvation Army for church for seven years, and I love helping people,” Williams said. “I’m glad that they could, in turn, help me.”
Jaqueon Gomez said it means more to her because she’s 22 weeks pregnant. “It’s nice for people to help me when I’m in need,” Gomez said.
Chelsea resident Marisela Hernandez received backpacks for her sons: Hector, 10, and Bryan, 8. “I lost my job about a month ago, so it was even more special,” Hernandez said. “I did find a job in housekeeping since then.”
Family Partner case manager Iranya Rivera noted that undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for government assistance; therefore, she feels that it’s a great opportunity for them. “Most of them aren’t legal, and the school year is about to start,” Rivera said. “They’re afraid that if they receive government assistance, it will affect their immigration process. If they have kids, they can receive WIC, but it’s just for the kids, not for the adults.”
Malden resident Tracy Vincent, who is a working single mother, said she doesn’t have enough money to pay her bills. “I received water, backpacks and books,” Vincent said. “I’m very grateful – this helps me immensely. I drive a special needs bus.”
Her daughter, Amanda, said thanks for helping out her family.
Chelsea resident Estelita Vale received backpacks, water, vegetables and books for her children: David, 12, and Jocelyn, 8. “I’m very grateful for all the things I’ve received,” Vale said.
Lynn resident Jessica Collins, a struggling single parent to Carrie, Mia, Destiny and Melanie, said she’s never seen anything like it. “It’s the most amazing and thoughtful thing,” Collins said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Councillor-at-Large Steve Morabito said it comes down to the fundamental values of giving back to the community. “A lot of people are in need even though the economy is thriving,” Morabito said. “Some people work two jobs, just to support their family. As families make up their school list, some realize that they don’t have enough money to buy school uniforms.”
(Advocate photos by Tara Vocino)