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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: ‘This food – it makes one come to life’

Norberta Almazan Bahena received bags of fresh produce from a Producemobile in Logan Square, which helps her maintain a healthy lifestyle as a diabetic.
Note: Norberta is a Spanish-speaking client, so her quotes have been translated for the purposes of this piece.

Norberta Almazan Bahena is on the cusp of two milestones: she’s turning 73 in a few weeks, and 2014 marks her 40th year living in the United States. For her, picking up two large bags of food during her first visit to the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Producemobile distribution at the McCormick Tribune Y in Logan Square serves as an early – and important – birthday present.

Having migrated from Mexico City to Chicago to better her economic situation, Norberta admits her plan didn’t work out as expected.

“I didn’t make as much of a fortune, but I’m content. With little money – and illness – but I make do,” she said.

Norberta worked a number of jobs over the course of her career, her responsibilities ranging from sewing and washing clothes to serving food in restaurants to working with manufacturing equipment. She was laid off from her last job and hasn’t had a steady income since 2001.

Since then, making ends meet has been a challenge.

“There will be days when there’s very little in my refrigerator,” Norberta said. “A small piece of bread, a couple pieces of fruit, a little bit of milk.”

Now, thanks to the Producemobile, Norberta's fridge is full of fresh fruits and vegetables such as beets, cabbage, corn and melons.

As a diabetic, Norberta finds maintaining a healthy diet especially difficult.

“You have to pay a premium for healthy food,” she said. “But this food – it makes one come to life.”

Despite the obstacles she has faced trying to stay nourished on a limited budget, Norberta stays positive, explaining that the best antidote to adversity is willpower.

“You have to fight ... to maintain a good life balance,” she said.

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