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PHOTOS: They Give To Others Even Though They Barely Have Enough To Feed Their Family

Sep 26, 2021
Originally published on September 29, 2021 11:19 am

Since Salman Khan Rashid lost his job as a golf coach at a Mumbai sports club during the pandemic, he's been rationing food and some days eats only one meal. Yet he considers himself one of the "lucky" ones.

Although he doesn't have much, he gives food and money to the people he sees begging on the streets. "I believe in giving to people who have nothing and are destitute," he says.

That kind of generosity can be found in many of the individuals and families who we profiled in our special report, "The New Faces of Pandemic Food Insecurity: Hungry, Worried ... Yet Generous." Although they have been struggling to put food on the table as a result of the pandemic, their desire to help others has not waned – and they're still finding ways to share what they have with others.

Read the stories below — and read more stories about food insecurity in the pandemic here. -- Malaka Gharib

Yroné Camelia Araujo Barreto, a 50-year-old Venezuelan migrant living in Quito, Ecuador. She is eating a traditional Venezuelan dish of cachapa, round dough made from corn, filled with pork. She typically eats two meals a day if she's lucky enough to afford it but says she'll give money or some food to others in need.
Yolanda Escobar Jimenez for NPR


Giving money or food to children brings her strength

When Yroné Camelia Araujo Barreto, 50, sees someone begging in the street, she tries to give what she can — even though she can barely make ends meet as a housecleaner.

"Maybe I don't give them money but I buy them a little bit of bread, an ice cream for a child. I give them a positive gesture so they can go on, so they can fight — and that strengthens me a lot," she says.

It's been a tough year for Barreto. Many of her cleaning jobs have dried up because of the economic stresses of the pandemic. Her onetime clients are often out of work and now clean for themselves, she says. She considered selling bags of candy and fruit to cars stopped at traffic lights, but without health insurance, she doesn't want to risk a COVID-19 infection.

This wasn't the life she planned when she left Venezuela. Barreto came to Ecuador in 2019 to escape her homeland's dire economic situation. She says in Venezuela, she had no money to eat, take the bus or get medicine. At least in Quito she could find work, although without a work visa, she is not legally allowed to work in her profession — a teacher specializing in early education — or any other formal position.

Barreto lives with her son, his wife and their two children, ages 8 and 4. No one in the house eats breakfast anymore, she says. "We eat lunch at 1 p.m." and a late dinner at 8 or 9 p.m. so the kids can "hold on until their next meal," says Barreto.

Barreto, left, dances with her granddaughter in the kitchen. She lives with her son, daughter-in-law and their two kids. Even though the family is having a tough time, Barreto says she tries to look for ways to be happy. "When I cook cachapas, I turn on my Venezuelan music and start cooking, dancing and remembering my country."
Yolanda Escobar Jimenez for NPR

It distresses her to hear "their tummies' sound" in the morning, she adds, so she tells her grandchildren that lunch is cooking and will be ready soon.

Barreto and her family receive weekly donations of vegetables and grains from charity groups. Before the pandemic, the family had a balanced diet, she says they could buy meat and fish on a daily basis. Now that's a once-a-week treat.
Yolanda Escobar Jimenez for NPR

She says she is saddened by her plight. But she is trying to be brave. "Every day I have to show my best face, be happy," she says. "I have family far away. They cannot see me down. They cannot see that I left my country because I had nothing — and now I am in another country and I have nothing."

Photos and reporting by Yolanda Escobar Jimenez

Lloyd Abshier, 70, waits for a drive-through food distribution event to begin in Columbia, Tenn. He arrived over two hours early to get food for his wife and two kids. Despite the hard times, he recently gave $30 to an elderly man in need: "I can't see no one go hungry."
Erica Brechtelsbauer/NPR

Columbia, Tennessee (U.S.A.)

He stopped for a man with a sign saying 'I need help'

For the second time during the pandemic, Lloyd Abshier, 70, is lining up at a food pantry giveaway to supplement his family's food supply. The first time he tried, the pantry ran out before his turn.

It's a new experience for Abshier.

A decade ago, he says he had a "good job" as a truck driver, bragging that he "made it to every state you can drive a truck to." Health issues forced him to retire. And his wife is ill and isn't working currently.

The couple has two children, ages 14 and 18.

His family's main source of income is now his Social Security check. That worked out OK until the pandemic hit – and food and gas prices began to rise, he says.

For this reason, Abshier says he has less money to spend — and he's had to ration his budget. He's had to cut the family's grocery purchases by 40% to keep the electricity on in their trailer home. "We've got the light bill," he says. And he just called his cable TV provider to cut the service. "We just cannot afford it."

Volunteers with the nonprofit groups One Generation Away and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee load up cars with shopping carts full of donated food.
Erica Brechtelsbauer/NPR

Abshier and his family have not changed their eating habits too much over the past few months, he says. But they've definitely been eating a lot more ramen noodles because the prices of food at his usual grocery stores have become "outrageous," he adds – especially the price of meat.

Abshier stands outside his car after receiving groceries from the food bank. The items include milk, yogurt, cherry tomatoes, bread, eggs, bok choy, cabbages, grapes and mini cherry pies.
Erica Brechtelsbauer/NPR

Things are looking up for Abshier on this Saturday in early September at a drive-through food bank event. There are about 400 cars in line, and with 34,500 pounds of food available, it appears that everyone will be served. Abshier says he isn't picky when it comes to what they give him. "I don't really know what they got and don't care what they got. Any little bit helps."

Waiting in line, Abshier shares how upsetting it is for him to see other people struggling. A few weeks ago, he was at Walmart and he saw an elderly man pushing a lawnmower with a sign saying "I need help." Abshier asked him what kind of help he needed. "Any kind of help I can get," the man responded.

Abshier gave the man his home address and told him to swing by the house. "I had $30," he says. "$30 is all I had. And I gave it to him."

"I can't see no one go hungry. I can't do that."

Photos by Erica Brechtelsbauer. Reporting by Tasha Lemley

Salman Khan Rashid, 24, right, and his mother, Sana Rashid, at home. Salman lost his job as a golf coach at a Mumbai sports club during the pandemic. The household, which includes Salman's three sisters, is now surviving on savings. But when he's able, he'll give a little money or food to others facing food insecurity.
Viraj Nayar for NPR


He rations his food — but still gives to others

Aloo bhaji, a potato dish, is Salman Khan Rashid's comfort food. "[The potato] has been the one vegetable I was eating before the pandemic that I am eating now as well — perhaps in a smaller quantity, but the preparation is still the same. It gives me some feeling of normalcy."

Rashid, 24, lives with his mother and three older sisters in their 20s. When the city shut down due to the coronavirus, he and his sisters all lost their jobs. Rashid was working as a golf coach at a Mumbai sports club, and his sisters worked at a bank, at a car dealership and as a tutor. The family is now surviving on savings.

Rashid says for now, everyone at home is rationing the food they eat. They're not sure how much longer they will be unemployed. It might even be another year, he says. He's worried what will happen if another COVID-19 surge hits India.

Salman's typical lunch: one piece of Indian bread and one curried potato.
Viraj Nayar for NPR

"I try to save leftovers from lunch so I can eat that for dinner. If there aren't any, then I eat one egg," he says, his go-to cheap and filling food. On a recent day, his diet included a cup of tea and roti, Indian bread, for breakfast; roti with aloo bhaji for lunch; and a boiled egg for dinner. The family members go to bed hungry much of the time, he says.

The Rashid family home is a garage converted into an apartment. A curtain separates the kitchen from the living area.
Viraj Nayar for NPR

Despite Rashid's increasingly dire situation, he recognizes his family is lucky. "Even with the little I have, I believe in giving to people who have nothing and are destitute," he says. And when he is able, he gives a little food or a bit of money to people in need.

Photos and reporting by Viraj Nayar

Antonio Carlos "Carlinhos" da Silva Costa, 49, eats spaghetti, beans and chicken at a food stall in Bahia, Brazil.
Antonello Veneri for NPR


He shares his $3 spaghetti plate with a friend on the street

"Living on the street, you get used to eating [only] when you have something to eat," says Antonio Carlos "Carlinhos" da Silva Costa, a homeless 49-year-old flanelinha — the nickname for an informal worker who cleans and guards people's cars.

His meals depend on how much money he has in his pocket. Sometimes he has enough to buy a freshly prepared dish from a food stall. On a recent day, Costa treated himself to a heaping plate of spaghetti, beans and chicken. Vendor Mariangela Pereira says she normally charges about $3 but gave Costa a half-off discount because "I learned I need to give food to the people."

Costa then paid that act of generosity forward. As he sat down to eat, his friend Tarciso, who also lives on the streets, passed by. Costa invited him to join him, splitting his plate of food.

It wasn't always this way. Costa and his wife, Rosa, earned enough money to afford a small apartment and "get by," he says. But she died a few months ago from cancer.

Costa says his diet is significantly less healthy than it was before the pandemic. He used to eat fruit — he's fond of mangoes especially. And he really misses pirão — a type of thick fish stew.
Antonello Veneri for NPR

This loss, combined with the pandemic, have pushed Costa from stability to street life. He used to live on about $150 a month. Now he lives on about $40 – much of which comes from government emergency aid.

"Now I'm alone and I can't [afford] rent anymore," he says.

Or food. He fills up when he can since he is never sure where his next meal will come from. He makes a little money from his job, but things have slowed down during the pandemic. So he gets ready-to-eat dishes and soups from nonprofit groups and churches, and sometimes the car owners give him food. He also fills up on bread because it's cheap — so much bread, he says. He laughs and says he can't take it anymore.

Costa, left, greets his friend Tarciso as he passes by. Since his wife died a few months ago, he has been living on the streets. Without her income, he can no longer afford their apartment.
Antonello Veneri for NPR

With Rosa gone and work hard to come by, he spends his time with his dog, Galego the only one he has to take care of, says Costa.

Photos and reporting by Antonello Veneri

Femi Oyekan Moses, left, and his wife Mary share a dish of boiled beans and corn at their home in Oyo, Nigeria. Before the pandemic, he says, "I used to give my wife enough to get bags of rice, garri [cassava flour], pepper, fish and meat."
Olu Jameson for NPR


They share vegetables from their garden with others

With his jobs as a house painter and a clergyman, Femi Oyekan Moses could easily support his wife Mary and their six children, between ages 10 and 20. Even school fees for his kids weren't a problem.

After COVID hit, the church closed and the painting jobs dried up. Moses, 57, and his wife had to make the decision to split up their children and send them to live with better-off friends and relatives in Lagos, a three-hour drive from Oyo, where he and his wife live. His two oldest were heading to university, he says, but the financial constraints put a hold on their plans.

Femi and Mary sit together at home. Femi says he remains optimistic the family will return to the life they had before the pandemic. For now, he says, the support of friends, family and church helps them cope.
Olu Jameson for NPR

Moses did find work selling produce from a farm, but now he makes only about $10 a week compared to $300 pre-pandemic. He used to be able to buy bags of rice and beans for his family. Now he can only afford to buy cups at a time — and sometimes doesn't even have the money for that. Many days, he and his wife skip lunch. Rising food costs add to the problem, he says.

The meal Moses misses most? Fried egg, bread and tea with plenty of creamy milk, he says. A normal meal now is a dish of beans and corn. It's not his favorite, but it's a meal they can afford. He shares the recipe: Boil the beans and corn in water "till it gets soft. Then add salt, palm oil, pepper and onion to it," he says.

Left: Mary prepares a dish of beans and corn. The couple relies on food donations and vegetables from their garden, including corn and yams, for meals. Right: Mary seasons the dish with pepper.
Olu Jameson for NPR

Some of the food they eat, such as corn and yam, comes from their garden. When Moses first grew his vegetables, he planned to sell them. But after seeing people around him struggle during the pandemic, he decided to share his harvest. He keeps some for his family but now gives the bulk of his produce to church members, neighbors — and anyone, he says, who he feels is in a worse situation than him.

Moses is optimistic things will improveand prays to God to send help. "I can't really give a precise time or date when this [struggle] will end but I'm trusting God to send a helper soon because the situation is terrible."

Photos and reporting by Olu Jameson

Additional credits

Yolanda Escobar Jimenez is part of the Everyday Projects community, contributing to Instagram accounts from countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, North America and Europe. Visuals edited by Ben de la Cruz, Ian Morton and Nicole Werbeck. Text by Suzette Lohmeyer. Translation of Brazilian interview by Marco Storel. Text edited by Malaka Gharib and Marc Silver. Special thanks to Caroline Drees, senior director for field safety and security at NPR.

Let us know what you think of this story. Email goatsandsoda@npr.org with your feedback with the subject line "Food Insecurity."

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