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The Single Mother’s Struggle with Food Insecurity

Annika was losing weight and losing sleep. During the week she took 12-hour shifts at her job, and on the weekends, cleaned houses for extra income. She biked everywhere she could – gas prices were simply too expensive to justify filling up her car.  

In more ways than one, Annika was running on empty. But all she could do was grit her teeth and keep going. After all, how else was she going to take care of her kids?  

“I’ve had to choose between (paying) a bill and food,” she says. “I had to choose the bill, so we could have a roof. It feels terrible when you can’t take care of your kids, but you try to do what you gotta do.”  

Annika’s struggle, though heart wrenching, is not unique. Food insecurity can affect any family, but families headed by single mothers experience it at a higher rate. According to the USDA, nearly one-quarter of all single mother households in the U.S. experience food insecurity.   

What makes single-mother households more susceptible to food insecurity? Some of it is statistics: any household that relies on a single breadwinner is more likely to struggle with food insecurity. Moms take the lead, overseeing more than 80% of single-parent homes

Additionally, women make, on average, only 82% of what men do. So, even though most single mothers do work, they’re likely to make less than their single father counterparts.   

Julia is a tutor and parent engagement liaison at an elementary school. A single mother of two pre-teens, she’s also the primary caregiver for her elderly father. Like Annika, her primary focus is getting enough money to pay the bills. That takes all or most of her income, leaving her to rely on food pantries for her family to eat.

As someone who works in education, Julia realizes the importance of nutrition for her kids.

“I make sure that my kids always eat before me… that they have everything they need,” she says. “I make sure that they have fruit, vegetables, because their brains are still growing.”

Candace became a single mom when she left an abusive relationship and took her teenage daughters with her.

The price of safety was financial security. Her budget barely stretches to afford necessities, let alone ‘luxury’ purchases like new shoes for her kids.

“My daughters got bullied a couple of times (at school),” Candace says. “‘Oh, your mom can’t afford name brand sneakers.’ ‘I’m happy with what my mom’s given me.’ That’s what my older daughter told one of the girls that was bullying her in school.”

Candace is teaching her daughters resilience; still, she says, she doesn’t want them to have to struggle in the future. Candace, like other single moms, is ready to do anything it takes to improve her children’s lives.

Your gifts to Feed the Children help single mothers, and single parents, around the U.S. Women like Candace, Julia and Annika say that knowing they have a support network gives them hope.

“If it wasn’t for (the donors), we would be some hungry people,” Candace says. “So, I thank you guys for supporting the community services… to bring food to the table for families that are in need. I was really in need, and I thank you so much.”

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