Nikki made the trek from her residence in Penn Hills to the food distribution. Prior to the pandemic, Nikki held a career providing social services. However, her employment was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Facing an abrupt and significant change in her lifestyle, Nikki initially tried to support herself by finding alternative employment. “It’s really interesting because while it seems that so many people are hiring, that’s not necessarily the case. I interviewed for hundreds of jobs before I got an offer – [even] at Target, Walmart. They would tell me that I was overqualified and that they would get back to me.”
Having the opportunity to receive food at distributions from the Food Bank has allowed her to steadily stabilize and readjust in the face of challenges brought on by the pandemic. “When I come here, I don’t have to use the cash that I have to purchase food… I’m able to pay a little bit back on my electric bills and utility bills.”
When she first lost her job, Nikki struggled to get help with food through public programs such as SNAP. “I applied [for SNAP benefits] earlier on when I lost my job. I applied, but even though I wasn’t getting money right then, they based it on [the compensation] I had received [during my previous job] so I was not eligible.”
If she could impart any words of wisdom upon those who find themselves in a similar position, she would encourage them to, “just do it. Come out here. I know the long lines can be intimidating. Sometimes people are shameful and, in the beginning, I felt like, ‘Okay, I can hold on a little longer because someone needs it more than me.’ And I didn’t want to take food from somebody who was maybe worse off than me, but I just finally did it.”
Nikki adds, “And I think that people should kind of get over the stigma of what some people consider handouts. That this is what this is for. It’s for people who are like me that have given and given and given for many, many years and just fell into [this space of food insecurity] because of COVID.”