From the time James and Shirley were married in 2007, the challenges have seemingly come nonstop, with everything from health issues to job loss impacting their family of five.
Those challenges recently reached a breaking point when chronic migraines led James to lose his job as a warehouse worker, setting in motion a series of events that resulted in the family losing its house in Montgomery and moving to DeKalb.
With the family in need of help like never before, a simple internet search led James to Barb Food Mart, a school-based food pantry designed to provide assistance to families with children enrolled in DeKalb School District 428.
“It came to the day where we didn’t have food, so we had to do something,” Shirley said. “That’s when James started going to the food pantry, and we’re so thankful.”
Steady income remains elusive for the family despite Shirley’s best efforts to make ends meet as a consultant for a company that specializes in organizational products for homes and offices. Her time is also increasingly consumed with tending to James’ health needs and caring for the couple’s twin 5-year-old daughters.
These realities make James’ weekly trips to Barb Food Mart that much more of a blessing.
“We wouldn’t be able to make it without the resources we get here,” James said. “We get milk, we get bread and we get cereal. And it’s not just food. You can occasionally get shampoo and gels.”
James and Shirley’s story is not uncommon in DeKalb County, where 13.9 percent of the population faces food insecurity according to Feeding America’s 2013 Map the Meal Gap study.
James and Shirley often went to bed hungry last summer as they struggled to meet their financial obligations. That changed when they discovered Barb Food Mart, which is providing a major boost on the family’s road back to financial stability.
“There was a lot going on that basically made a situation where everything snowballed,” Shirley said. “We’re just trying to rebuild and get out of the hole by paying our bills on time, and by paying our bills on time, that leaves no money for food. That’s why we are going to the pantry.
“I really am so appreciative that food is a stress we’ve been relieved of to focus on the things that will help us to recover and to move forward.”