Danielle arrives at her home and is greeted by her four children. The kids are delighted to discover that their mom has brought home fresh ingredients for a healthy dinner, plus a package of strawberries, which they open and begin eating immediately. “They eat really well,” Danielle says. “They like fruits and vegetables—and vegetables are expensive.”
Often, Danielle faces a choice between buying groceries and paying for rent. She visits food pantries when they need it, receives SNAP benefits and carefully plans meals to make funds last longer, but with four children in the house, having enough to eat is a struggle.
For Danielle, finding the time to prepare meals is also challenging. Today, she has worked midnight to 6 a.m. providing in-home hospice care. Then from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., she participated in training to earn a certification for maritime welding. “Any time you’re working, taking care of kids and going to school, it’s going to be tough, so you just have to make the best of it,” she says.
Ever since taking a shop class in high school, Danielle has wanted to weld. “I always loved it, but it was never really an option,” she says. “Women didn’t weld.” Instead, she pursued a career in retail management. “I had my life together,” she describes. But then things changed.
Less than a year ago, Danielle was a victim in a domestic violence dispute and made the decision to flee with her four kids in the middle of the night. With no resources or financial stability, their family was homeless. Without a place to leave her kids during the day, she was forced to quit her job. “Everything kind of fell apart,” she says.
Then Danielle discovered Women in Skilled Careers (WISC), a 12-week program launched through Hampton Roads Workforce Council’s (HRWC) Virginia Career Works. The purpose of WISC is to create a pipeline of skilled workers for the ship repair industry by targeting an under-recruited population: women, specifically those who have received services for issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking, homelessness and poverty.
Now Danielle is in a cohort with seven other women who are earning their certification for maritime welding. “I can’t wait to tell my kids when they see a huge ship, ‘That’s what Mommy does. I fix those. I make a difference,’” she says.
As Danielle works toward total self-sufficiency to provide for her family, the Foodbank alleviates some of the worry associated with not having enough to eat. Through funding from Feeding America, we have partnered with Virginia Career Works to offer SNAP outreach and nutrition education and distribute a weekly bag of food to individuals in the cohort. This way, they can focus more on their training and less on providing food for their families.
Inside the weekly bags are fresh produce, frozen meats and shelf stable items, grab-and-go breakfasts and healthy snacks. Danielle says that receiving the bags puts her mind at ease because it’s one day of the week that she doesn’t have to worry about how she will feed her kids. “It’s peace of mind knowing that it’s one more day where everybody is taken care of,” she says. “The peace of mind is priceless.”