Nancy and Edward have been neighbors for more than a decade. Over the years, they have developed a cooperative relationship—Nancy helps Edward with affording the bus, and Edward helps Nancy carry her groceries. “One hand washes another,” Edward laughs.
The pair visit a few food pantries in their area regularly to help stretch the money coming in from a fixed income. “Even though we have food stamps, after [my income], which is $750 a month, after paying rent and phone and electric, there—there’s not much left for necessary things,” Nancy says.
Edward agrees. “Yeah, it seems like you’re always running out, and you try to make money go further each month and it never works that way.”
“When you have to choose between helping your daughter buy her medicine, or buying a gallon of milk, I’m sorry, I’m going to give my daughter money to buy her medicine,” Nancy says.
Nancy’s daughter is thirty and lives in Pflugerville. Recently she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy after ten years of exhibiting symptoms. “And she’s… in bad shape right now. So it’s, supposedly she’s had it for quite a while and they never discovered it.”
Nancy wishes she could help her daughter more but she, too, has disabilities. “With my disabilities I can’t physically help her… because I need physical help. And I’m lucky to have good people in my life.”
During her days, Nancy spends most of her time at doctor’s appointments. “When I’m not running to doctors, I’m playing with my cats.”
Nancy has two cats— an older female cat, that, as Nancy explains, “is just a grumpy old thing… and if she wants to be grumpy, more power to her,” and a rescue Nancy nursed back to health two years ago. “He was almost dead when I got him.”
Nancy laughs, “Now he’s a big ol’ monster.”
Julia Mandel, the Central Texas Food Bank VISTA who spoke to Nancy, points out that she seems like a great caregiver.
“I have to be,” Nancy says, “because if I don’t, who’s gonna do it? I mean, like Ed, he asked me one day, ‘How do you keep going?’ and I said, ‘if I don’t do it, there’s nobody gonna do it for me.’ So here I am.”
At one point during the interview, Edward’s number was called, and Nancy stayed behind to continue talking with Julia. Asked if there were any particular food items that kept Nancy coming back to the pantry, she answers, “Actually, it’s the people that keep me coming back.”
“They treat us with respect and, and dignity, and that’s something very hard to find. When you’re so low down that you can’t even go buy your own food, you have very little self-respect, and you don’t… need to be rushed through. It just makes you feel less than you already are. And here they treat you with utmost respect and dignity and treat you like an equal human being.”
“I would tell [anyone thinking about coming to get food at the food pantry] that they deserve it. They don’t deserve to be left out with nothing. That it’s—it’s a basic human right not to starve.”