Kamelia Pinnock had to set aside her pride the first time she visited a food pantry in 2011.
“It’s not easy to reach out for help,” she says. “It took a lot for me to stand in line with everyone to wait for assistance.”
At the time, she was newly divorced after a 10-year marriage. The victim of domestic abuse, she was homeless and responsible for five children: her two biological children, two nephews and a niece. Putting food on the table was her biggest priority.
“Once my kids are fed and comfortable, I’m comfortable,” she says. “The worse thing is a child who is hungry.”
She eventually found a stable job as a receptionist and obtained housing. But she still struggled to buy food, so she turned to food pantries for. groceries and sought out free hot meals from organizations like The Salvation Army.
She was able to finish her college degree, which led to a better job providing services to people struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues.
Kamelia remarried in 2015. With two adults employed full-time, the family was able to cover expenses like rent, utilities and food. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Kamelia caught the virus and suffered a heart attack related to her illness. She wasn’t able to work for a few months.
Then she found out she was pregnant. Her husband left before their baby boy was born in the spring of 2021. Kamelia was left to cover all of the household expenses even as she took family leave to recover from delivery and take care of her newborn.
“When we got this home, I thought we’d be husband-wife with two paychecks,” she says. “Now it’s all up to me.”
She quickly fell behind on bills. Finding money to feed a family overwhelmed her, so she again turned to local food pantries even though it was hard to find the time with a new baby in the house. She also applied for federal food assistance.
This time, she is seeking food for herself and three teen-aged boys. Her niece is now an adult. Her daughter recently started college in Seattle, Washington. She received a volleyball scholarship but it took precious cash to purchase items her daughter needed before traveling to school. Kamelia says the financial sacrifice is worth it.
“I hope things go better for her,” she says.