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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Feeding a new family

Brian Perez receives food from a pantry in Melrose Park, which helps him take care of his new family.
Brian Perez is 21 years old. He is married with a young son and daughter. As a new father, he wants nothing more than to provide for his family. But he is struggling.

“We’re going through a tough time right now,” he said. “It’s really hard.”

Brian had a job in roofing, but was laid off. He’s now working at a temp agency, jumping between retail and warehouse work, to try to make ends meet. The problem is, some weeks he works nearly 40 hours, but others he works less than five. And, he’s been unsuccessful at finding a full-time job.

“No one is hiring for steady jobs right now. I can’t get anything,” he said.

Most of Brian’s paycheck is used to pay rent. He’s living in a studio apartment with his wife and two children.

“We still owe half of this month’s rent,” he said.

Brian has practically nothing left over every month to buy food for his family, which is why he started going to a Greater Chicago Food Depository food pantry in Melrose Park once a month. There, he receives produce, meat, bread and nonperishable food.

Between the food he gets at the pantry and the $200 per month he receives in SNAP benefits, Brian can focus on finding a full-time job, and doesn’t have to worry about feeding his family.

“As long as my family is eating, I’m okay. And I know things will work out,” he said.

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