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‘To come here, it’s been a lot for me’: Food pop-ups offer support in uncertain times

Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, Verona Wainwright has had adjust to her new normal.

Verona Wainwright at Trinity United Church of Christ's pop-up food distribution

Verona Wainwright at Trinity United Church of Christ’s pop-up food distribution in Washington Heights. (photo by Joshua Lott for the Food Depository)

Wainwright’s work painting senior buildings and apartments for a contractor ended as a result of the pandemic. She hasn’t been able to attend church since March. And the biggest change, she said, is her 18-year-old grandson moved in with her after his school closed, just weeks before graduation. Despite the upheaval, the South Shore resident, 59, still finds the bright sides of her current situation. Instead of letting stress and uncertainty take over, she said she keeps herself focused – a coping skill she credited to being from a military family. She’s been working on home projects, caring for her two English Mastiffs, doing puzzles, and – on warm days – riding her bike. On a chilly morning in late May, Wainwright was excited about an upcoming job interview. She also expressed an appreciation for having more time to learn more about her eldest grandchild and share life lessons with him. “The fact that this (virus) is affecting everybody and I keep myself sane by staying busy, that’s what I’m trying to instill in him,” she said. One thing that has also helped prevent stress is the support she’s received from her community’s pop-up food distributions. Wainwright represented just one of about 1,000 households that received a box of nonperishable goods, fresh produce and meat from a recent pop-up hosted by her church, Trinity United Church of Christ.
“To come here, it’s been a lot for me, because I’ve been able to stretch (my funds). I know what it’s like to not have.” – Verona Wainwright
Trinity is one of seven faith- and community-based organizations on the city’s South and West Sides that has offered weekly pop-up distributions in partnership with the Food Depository. Even before the pandemic, Black and Latino communities in Chicago already struggled with disproportionate rates of poverty and food insecurity, a trend that has only worsened with layoffs and school closures. The food is a blessing, Wainwright said. She receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, but they doesn’t last the entire month, especially not now that grocery prices have gone up. “To come here, it’s been a lot for me, because I’ve been able to stretch (my funds),” she said. “I know what it’s like to not have.” By coming to receive food, Wainwright said she also wanted to set an example for her grandson that she’s not afraid to seek help in times of need. Now, they will have all they need this month. “This month of June, I’m good,” she said.  

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