Ande was in trouble, and she knew it. For the last few months, she had been treading water, pulling in just enough money to keep up with rent, pay bills, and put food on the table for her young son. But now the holidays were right around the corner, and Ande was sinking. So, when her community announced that it would soon be hosting a Feed the Children Resource Rally where she could pick up food, it felt as though she’d been thrown a lifeline.
“Having enough food is one of our major worries,” Ande told us. “I’m sure (it is) for every mother. Nobody wants to see their kid ask for food, like, ‘Mom, I’m hungry.’ It’s one of the most heartbreaking things.”
Ande is far from the only parent struggling to stay afloat as the holidays approach. 2023 has been a financially rough year for most Americans. According to recent research, nearly 80% of people whose net income is under $50,000 are living paycheck to paycheck and are unable to cover additional expenses. A single emergency – an illness, car accident, or even a cold snap resulting in a higher heating bill – can wreak havoc on an already-limited budget.
“I can spend $100 at a grocery store and come out with barely anything,” said Kim, a single working mom of two. “When my refrigerator is empty, I feel like less of a person. It takes my confidence down when it comes to being a mother, because I feel like there’s a job that needed to be fulfilled that I could not fulfil.”
The cost of food isn’t the only thing that has families like Kim’s stressed, though. Name something a family with children needs, and chances are the price of it has gone up:
- Back-to-school shopping hit a record high in 2023
- Gas prices have increased throughout 2023
- Average rent costs rose 8.6% between 2022 and 2023. The cost increase for all shelter was the most it’s ever been since 1982.
- Estimates by the U.S. Department of Labor place childcare at up to $17,000 per child, per year
This is all happening on top of the recent reduction to SNAP benefits, which lowered families’ spending power by an average of $223 per month.
Together, these factors have created the perfect storm for struggling families. And now that it’s the holiday season, there is even more pressure to provide.
“When the holidays come around, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas... it's like, am I going to be able to do it?” said Katrina. “And it’s not just food. Am I going to be able to get my kids one or two gifts for Christmas? It was just my son’s birthday, and I wasn’t able to do anything for him. I try not to make it so noticeable that I’m struggling, but he feels it. He knows that something’s going on.”
Every parent wants their kids to experience the joy that this time of year is meant to bring. But parents like Katrina, Kim and Ande worry that the holidays will be a time of heartbreak rather than hope if nothing changes. How do you explain to kids that you cut every cost you could, but they need food, and school supplies, and a warm place to sleep – and that’s why Santa keeps missing their stockings?
When you donate this holiday season, your gifts provide more than a meal. You give struggling parents the chance to catch their breath and look beyond the next oncoming wave of bills. Knowing that their basic needs will be met frees up families to focus on the holidays as a time of togetherness and love, rather than another expense.