By Jessica Easthope
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Dept. of Agriculture reported the number of American children who are food insecure has gone from 11 million to 18 million. Theresa Monforte-Caraballo is trying to feed as many of those children as she can.
“We do this because our kids, really really need us,” Theresa says.
Theresa is the Founder and Executive Director of Grandma’s Love, a nonprofit that feeds hungry children in Brooklyn and Queens in a way that guarantees they feel no shame.
“We had very plain, nondescript backpacks they were given out on Friday at the end of the day,” she explained, “so no one really noticed that there was an extra backpack going home with certain children.”
But the pandemic turned Grandma’s Love’s operation upside down. Children attending school online made it hard and in some cases impossible for Theresa and her team to get food to those in need.
“We started delivering to houses,” Theresa told Currents News. “We called it our door drop offs. We had a staff member do some deliveries and then we hired a delivery gentleman. He would come in twice a week and he would drop off all of the bags to the children we would normally drop off at school for.”
Grandma’s Love had to adapt and do it quickly because the number of families who needed food was growing by the day: 2.4 million New Yorkers are food insecure.
“Every day you came in, the phone was ringing off the hook and the need was there and it just kept increasing and increasing,” said Tina Raeder, a volunteer at Grandma’s Love, “and we just rose to the occasion because we had to and we wanted to.”
Before the pandemic, Grandma’s Love was feeding 125 students and their families. During the pandemic, that number rose to 450 families.
The organization went from a backpack of food that could be returned and refilled to this:
“We ended up doing a week’s full of groceries,” Theresa explained. “It cost us more, but again this was COVID, some people can’t get out, some people are afraid to go out.”
Every bag feeds a family of four, but some bags can be customized to fit more or include a personal touch that makes a world of difference.
“Especially if the kids,” Tina added, “we would send a small bag of cereal and that was theirs. We saw a picture of that and that just tugs at your heart.”
Fighting for every single dollar of funding, Theresa says even when Grandma’s Love has had nothing, she held on.
“Through the grace of God, even when we’re down with nothing something happens,” she said. “It’s faith that keeps us going. We strongly believe if you do good, good will continue to come to you.”
The bags that Grandma’s Love packs with care are full of so much more than food.
“We’re giving them hope and they know there are people out there who care for them,” Tina says.
Virtual school could be the future for many students.But as long as there are children who need food, Grandma’s Love will find a way.