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Single mother says Essex County food pantry has changed her family's life for the better.

Mom says St. James Food Pantry helps alleviate stress
Mom says St. James Food Pantry helps alleviate stress 03:33

NEWARK, N.J. -- There is proof one local soup kitchen is making a difference in the community.

St. James Food Pantry feeds up to 125 families a day. It receives food from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, but with rising cost, the pantry is now spending $5,000 a month on meat to meet the demand.

CBS2's Kristine Johnson recently spent time with one mother whose life has changed for better, in large part because she doesn't need to worry about her kids going hungry.

Rebecca makes the trip home from St. James Food Pantry once a month.

As she unpacked bags of groceries recently, each item was like a gift.

"Some good apple juice. The kids will love this. Mozzarella and cottage cheese. Make some lasagna with that," Rebecca said.

A surprise is the popcorn mixed with a favorite chocolate treat that she knows her kids will devour.

"For me, it's the meat, the chicken. They gave two big whole chickens," she said, adding it will feed the whole family.

"You hold that chicken and your smiling when you know it's in your freezer and available," Johnson pointed out.

"Yeah, because, you know, food is expensive," Rebecca said.

It's too expensive for her to make ends meet. She is a single mom. Pictures of her four children hang on the refrigerator door. She's also a domestic violence survivor, and works nights as a certified nursing assistant.

"If this service wasn't there for you, what would life be like?" Johnson asked.

"It would be kind of hard towards the end of the month," Rebecca said.

That's the time when bills are due and food in the refrigerator and cabinets tends to run low.

Rebecca told Johnson on the day they spoke her plan was to make dinner her kids that night.

"Oh yes, because they don't get home until later. So when they get home, they get a big plate of pasta," she said.

Vesta Godwin Clarke runs St. James Social Service Corporation. The center is the largest food provider in Essex County. Absolutely no one is turned away.

"It's a ministry, when you know that you're doing something to help someone else, even in times when we were in need, ourselves," Clarke said.

"They help out. They help out big time," Rebecca said.

And she is grateful. Each tomato and onion she sliced to prepare that pasta meal, even the spices to flavor the  food, was sourced from a mix of funding, donations and volunteers.

Her children, ages 10, 8, 5, and 3, will not go hungry.

But she recalled a time when that wasn't the case.

"What was that feeling like?" Johnson asked.

"Bad, bad. What you going to do next? Real bad you feel. No one wants to feel like that," she said. "Coming up here, I got a lot of hope and I got myself together and everything like that.

"From where I came from, you know, domestic violence and everything like that, it really touched me that people care. And they want to help build people back up," she added. 

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