Good Food for All in Lincoln, NE: Perla's Story
Perla and her daughter Amina participated in Good Food for All in Lincoln, Nebraska. They received 12 weeks of produce boxes that helped them while Perla was applying for her work permit in 2021.
Growing up in Venezuela, Perla always had fresh mangoes. Her family had a tree in the front yard of her childhood home, and she and her brothers would go out every morning to pick up the ones that had fallen from the tree overnight. “I used to go in the morning and the whole floor was covered in mangoes,” Perla told her daughter, Amina while we were visiting her earlier this year. “That mango tree never gave up giving mangoes. It was always mango season.”
When she moved to Lincoln, Nebraska with her daughter, there weren’t any mango trees around. She was starting over in America and it was hard to adjust to the cold, midwest winters at first. “Nebraska wasn’t the first option I had in my mind,” she told us, “But Nebraska is overlooked. When you go to big cities like New York or San Francisco you get wowed instantly, but when you live there a little while, you start to realize there are problems. When I moved to Nebraska, I didn’t like it at first. It was too cold. I couldn’t see anything.”
But Perla found a community that welcomed her with open arms, helping to connect her and Amina with resources. “But then, slowly, I started noticing things under the surface,” Perla said, “There’s a lot of people here, a lot of organizations trying to make a difference for people that lost everything. I found communities of different kinds from all over the world. I’m learning to love this city.”
Connecting with one of those organizations that provides daycare for her daughter, Educare, was how she found PHA’s Good Food for All program. As a community partner, Educare was distributing weekly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to hundreds of families like Perla’s. “The families who are here in our Educare building should not have to face food insecurity. If you just drive around the neighborhoods that we serve, there’s very limited access to healthy, nutritious foods,” said Krista Koch, who is a Family Engagement Specialist at Educare Lincoln.
The 12-week program connected Perla with the kind of healthy, nutritious food for her and her daughter that she strives to provide all the time, but couldn’t access at that time. “When the boxes were coming, I couldn’t work legally in the United States. I had to rely on what was available here, which was programs to feed the homeless or food banks.” The Good Food for All program delivered the kind of food she wanted to feed her family to her doorstep when she needed it most.
“I notice when I eat fruits and vegetables I have more clarity. I sleep better. I have less health problems. I’m more active. When you put the good stuff in, you start noticing that your motivation is higher, even things like the colors. Everything starts looking better.”
When she opened one of the boxes and saw a pineapple, she was reminded of her home. “This is a blessing, because I haven’t had a pineapple in so long. Just looking at it makes you feel a little bit more at home,” she said. And there was so much more. She was introduced to new vegetables like spaghetti squash and other things she’s never seen before. And the regular access to high-quality produce made it easier for her to focus on feeding her daughter lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Perla continues to center her family’s meals around vegetables. Perla told us, “I grew up in a culture where things came from the ocean and the forest. So, I never thought that cooking from scratch was rare. That is very important for me to maintain. I want to pass what my grandmothers did to my daughter, and the way I do that is by making the food that she sees me making.”
Perla’s story is shared by so many of the more than 20,000 families we connected to fresh produce through the Good Food for All program in the last year. More than 18 million servings of fruits and vegetables reached families in 29 cities, and it’s just the beginning of PHA’s work to create long lasting change in partnership with communities around the country.
You can watch a 5 minute documentary about the impact that fresh produce can have on families that includes Perla’s story below.