Celebrating mothers in food banking across the globe
May 8, 2020
This Sunday, in most countries around the world, families will celebrate Mother’s Day and honor the influence of mothers.
At GFN, we applaud our food banking moms – women who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, juggling professional and personal demands – and helping to feed the hungry in their respective communities. These super moms are fielding partner calls and WhatsApp messages, managing teams, jumping into media interviews, purchasing food in bulk, ensuring logistics run smoothly, and getting massive amounts of food to those who need it. They are also parenting and homeschooling during a pandemic.
They’re moms like Susan Mukuhi, Chairperson for Food Banking Kenya. Susan has four children – 13, 10, 7 and 4 years – and has been with Food Banking Kenya for five years, overseeing Partnerships and Networking. Susan said, “Being a mother and a food banker on the frontlines of COVID-19 feels both fulfilling and at times scary. This is because it’s a calling and this is the time when our services are most needed. It is the time to change livelihoods, save lives, and give hope. It is also worrying because of our interaction with beneficiaries in the wake of COVID 19. It hurts because I can’t hug my kids when I get to the house like I used to, because I want to ensure they are safe.”
Tsanka Milanova is the Executive Director of the Bulgarian Food Bank, the only food bank in the country. Her daughter, Hristiana, age 12, has literally grown up with the food bank, having volunteered there since she was six. When asked about a typical day now, Tsanka replied, “I usually get up at 6:00 a.m. and go to the office, or more often to the warehouse, at 8:00 a.m. or earlier to meet the challenges of the day. A working day at the food bank sometimes lasts more than 10 hours. But every minute is precious and adds value. When I go back home, I am tired but grateful because I know I am setting an example for my child.” Tsanka continued, “Professionally, I am proudest of our team synergy and determination to keep doing our work. Personally, I am proudest of my daughter saying, ‘Mom, thank you for the inspiration. I admire your determination every day.’”
In Argentina, Josefina Correa has been Executive Director of Banco de Alimentos de Tucumán for 15 years. She’s a mom to three daughters: Catalina, 13; Matilda, 8; and Guillermina, 7. About the COVID-19 pandemic, Josefina shared, “I have never experienced anything like this before. Today, the middle class, professionals, people with informal jobs, street vendors, educated people who are disabled – we are helping them all with food. This situation is very sad. People arrive feeling great shame, desperately requesting help in order to bring their children a plate of food.” Josefina also said that being a mother and a food banker during this time “feels like a great challenge.” Like so many of her colleagues, she is balancing both crisis management and caring for her children, including homeschooling.
Our food banking moms also carry concern for how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting women around the world. The burden of care is falling heavily to women; intimate partner violence is rising; reproductive health services are hard to come by these days.
Susan from Food Banking Kenya shared, “I do worry about women who are the most affected by COVID-19. Being a mother, I really feel for women who are not able to put food on the table for their children. Women are adversely impacted by this pandemic; in the informal settlements [we serve], women are always fending for their children.”
“I always worry about the impacts of societal crises on women, as women are often the primary caregivers of children and parents, carry the bulk of the emotional labor within households and are extremely vulnerable in environments like what we’re living through with a lower ability to escape where there may be escalating or episodic violence,” said Tania Little, Chief Development and Partnerships Officer at Food Banks Canada. “Women in Canada are not necessarily more vulnerable than in other parts of the world where these issues might be much more severe, however, when you add in poverty, housing and food insecurity, barriers around freedom of movement, fear and mental health – women are likely to be significantly impacted and highly vulnerable regardless of where they live.”
In Indonesia, Food Cycle is not quite three years old. CEO and Co-Founder Astrid Paramita said that, amid COVID-19, the organization has pivoted from mostly virtual food banking efforts to suddenly distributing tons of food. She has worked quickly to scale Food Cycle’s efforts, while at the same time caring for her two children, ages six and three. With her kids now home, Astrid acknowledged it makes work “more difficult.” She shared, “I am now supposed to home school [my children] which has been challenging, considering people facing hunger need me to do my work and is currently my top priority.”
GFN is surrounded by incredibly dedicated and hardworking food banking moms. With much gratitude in our hearts, we salute these women for all they are doing to fight rising hunger – and for all they are doing to raise the next generation of community leaders.