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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Struggling after surgery

Lavinia Woolridge leaned against a wall inside the Robert Crown Center in Evanston, surrounded by nearly 200 people. Some laughed and chatted. Children scampered across the floor. A woman walked past Lavinia with a babbling baby in her arms. But, Lavinia wasn’t hearing any of it. She was concentrating. Finally, she looked up and smiled.

“29 years,” she said. “That’s how long I was a nurse.”

Lavinia, 60, might still be working if she hadn’t hurt her back and needed two surgeries to repair it. But because of that injury, she was on disability. She was struggling to afford food, which is why she was at the Robert Crown Center, waiting for the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Producemobile distribution to begin.

“This helps a lot because I’m on a fixed income and I’m very limited in what I can buy at the store,” Lavinia said.

She’s been coming to the Producemobile for nearly a year. On that day, she was receiving oranges, apples, mangos, broccoli, potatoes, bread and more. As a nurse, she knows how important nutritious food is to good health.

“With this, I supplement what I can’t afford otherwise,” Lavinia said. “I love salad, but I can’t afford to buy all the ingredients, which is why it helps to get some here.”

The need is high in Evanston. Lavinia arrived 45 minutes before the distribution began, hoping to be at the front of the line. She received ticket number 157.

“The way the economy is now, people don’t have jobs,” she said. “This kind of thing comes in handy. Everything helps, and by the grace of God, I’m still going.”

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