Massachusetts town bands together to help feed a girl with autism during the pandemic

Town bands together to help feed a girl with autism
Town bands together to help feed a girl with ... 02:05

I thought I had reported on every subject imaginable — until this week, when I traveled to Attleboro, Massachusetts, and met Crystal MacDonald.

Crystal's unlikely obsession with canned pasta began after the birth of her daughter, Ashlyn.  Ashlyn is autistic, and earlier this year, she stopped eating food altogether — with the sole exception of SpaghettiOs and meatballs.

Teachers and therapists were working to expand her palate when the pandemic hit, clearing grocery store shelves of a lot more than just toilet paper.

"Couldn't find SpaghettiOs anywhere," MacDonald said. "It's like they were there one day and the next they were gone." 

"Wait, wait, wait – Why was there a run on SpaghettiOs?" I asked. 

"I don't know if people thought, like, if the world ended you could survive on SpaghettiOs — I just know that I was losing my mind trying to find them," she said. 

Cans of SpaghettiOs are shown in the back of a car.  Crystal MacDonald

And that's when the miracle happened. SpaghettiOs just started showing up on her doorstep — hundreds of cans sent by people in the community who'd heard about Ashlyn and wanted to help.

"And if it wasn't for the kindness of people like that, we would not have gotten by," MacDonald said, adding, "When you have a child with special needs, their future is always in the back of your mind.  Who's going to take care of them when I get old?  And to see people come out and embrace us, gave me so much hope that they will love her and take care of her when I'm not here." 

SpaghettiOs is hardly a culinary cause celebrate — but in this home, at least, every can is now fortified with faith in humanity.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.