Maria’s Story
“I barely make ends meet. I don’t use the lights during the day, and I don’t buy as much food as I’d like.”

Maria, California

Every morning, I pray that the government will use their heads to see the needs of the people. How can they cut Social Security? How can they expect a family to live on less than $1000 a month? I am worried for the children – that they are able to eat or at least have a glass of milk – because so many of them grow up with parents who take care of their needs instead of their children’s. I know what that is like. My father was a drunk.

I left Mexico in 1954 to help my widowed mother support the family. The best paying job I could get was as a farm worker. It paid $3.50 an hour, which was a lot more than I could make in Mexico, and I could work 16-hour days. After Cesar Chavez came in, we were forced to work less, so I had less money to send home. Still, I paid for my brothers and sisters education and gave them a better life. One became a doctor, one an accountant, and one a maternity nurse. I’m the only one still alive.

Now that I’m retired, life has become a struggle. I live on a Social Security check of $874 a month. I barely make ends meet. I don’t use the lights during the day, and I don’t buy as much food as I’d like. The kinds of foods I’m supposed to eat as a diabetic are expensive, so instead of trying to buy them, I grow cactus, garlic and herbs myself in my little garden. I don’t go hungry only because of the food pantry. Most of what I eat I get from there and I’ve learned to use the food little by little, so it lasts for the whole month. I make lot of soup because I can stretch it out over many meals out.  And soup is cheaper than salads. Sometimes, my friends who still work in the fields bring me fresh vegetables. I don’t know if they know how much I need the food. I think they bring it to me because they love me.

I have learned to respect the way I live, and I live in peace with what I get. Next month I’m going to be 85 and I worry about what I will do if I can no longer pay the bills. But as long as there is the food pantry, I will survive.