Leticia Salgado stands for a portrait with her son, Jayden, at Nourishing Hope’s Sheridan Market. All photos by Alyssa Schukar for Nourishing Hope.
Raising three boys is hard enough. But for Leticia Salgado, the soaring prices of groceries and gas are only making it harder.
“I’m finding it really difficult,” said Salgado, at Nourishing Hope’s Sheridan Market. “I’m just grateful for the pantry and the groceries we get here. It helps me a great deal.”
She lives with her husband and mother-in-law, in addition to her three sons. Erick, who’s 13, and Damian, who’s 10, both attend different schools than Jayden, 15. Driving the boys around to each school is not only a lot of time and energy for a mother — it’s also expensive.
The inflationary rise in prices of food, gas and other goods has affected nearly all Americans in some way. Visits to Nourishing Hope’s food programs have increased about 40 percent compared to the same time last year. And the inflation-related rise in prices has disproportionately affected lower-income Black and Latino households, who were already the most affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent data.
On a recent late June morning at the Sheridan Market, the topic of rising prices was a common theme among those willing to share their stories. Like many others, the Salgado family turned to Nourishing Hope for additional support.
“Even if it’s not everything, it really helps,” said Salgado. “Especially with things like chicken and dairy, like milk and eggs.”
In a household with three growing boys, items like these are consumed voraciously and go quickly. Meat, egg and milk prices have soared well above inflation and other groceries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salgado often prepares chicken and other meals ahead of time and freezes them in Ziploc bags for when it’s time to pack a lunch or get dinner on the table.
“Everything is way more expensive now,” said Tyrece Johnson, 21. “My rent has gone up a bit, so I need to take care of myself.”
Johnson receives food from Nourishing Hope on an as-needed basis. Though his family has visited for groceries before, Johnson is now in a position of filling the fridge in his own apartment. Though he receives some support through public benefits, it’s not enough to keep up with the rising cost of food.
Carla Nunez, meanwhile, is experiencing the economic crises of two different countries. The spike in food and gas prices here in the United States have made it more difficult for her to afford her mortgage and car payments, despite working jobs as a babysitter and a restaurant server.
Meanwhile, the economic collapse in Venezuela has made life much more difficult for her family there. Each month, Nunez estimated, she sends at least 20 percent of her income back to help her mother and father.
“It’s tough,” said Nunez, 27, “but they’re OK and that’s my top priority right now.”
At the Sheridan Market, she finds the food she needs to live a healthy life, including meat, eggs and fresh vegetables.
“It’s a great help to me,” Nunez said. “And the people here are very positive and kind. They want to help.”
Jamica Holliness lives in a household of eight people in North Lawndale, including her two children, ages 6 and 4. Holliness and her family used to shop at stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, but said items at those stores have climbed to prices that are out of reach.
“They eat so much!” said Holliness of her kids.
Despite the challenges, Holliness finds ways to help others as a member of the Parent Leadership Fellowship (PLF) cohort at Kids First Chicago, a six-month program designed to mobilize Chicago parents to advocate for equitable public education for every child in the city.
In the sun-kissed late morning, Maria Medina stood in line outside, flanked by her two daughters, Rachel, 10, and Sarai, 7. The three of them chatted and laughed together.
It’s been a tough several months for Medina’s family. In February, she was hospitalized for three days with COVID-19 after having difficulty breathing. She had no medical insurance. Meanwhile, work has been sporadic for her husband, a day laborer who does landscaping, construction and other jobs.
Add to that volatile mix the inflation-related spike in prices for just about everything. They’ve had difficulty paying medical bills and rent, while also affording nutritious food for their girls. They turned to Nourishing Hope for help.
“(Nourishing Hope) helped me a lot,” said Medina, 34. “This place gives me a lot of fresh fruit, and vegetables for my kids.”
Despite the challenges, their smiles seemed irrepressible on this summer day.
“My kids make me happy,” the mother said, waiting a beat before breaking into a grin. “They make me happy … and angry … and sad.”
Her daughters burst into laughter.