Sulma’s 1-year-old daughter plays and coos on her lap as she watches her 5-year-old son Jefferson play with his two cousins in their apartment in San Mateo. Every week, Sulma watches her young kids during the day while her niece watches them at night. Sulma works as an office custodian in the evenings, and her partner Elmer works two full-time jobs. They each get about 5.5 hours of sleep a night.
Sulma’s night shift cleaning offices in San Carlos is the only job she’s had since coming to the United States nine years ago from El Salvador. When shelter-in-place orders were announced in March 2020, the offices where Sulma worked closed, and she quickly needed to find a way to pay her mounting bills. Sulma eventually took out two loans to cover essential expenses and sought out food assistance from Second Harvest of Silicon Valley for the first time.
After multiple stops and starts at her job due to coronavirus restrictions, Sulma was struggling to make ends meet. Then, at eight months pregnant, she caught COVID-19.
The free grocery distribution at Menlo Park Senior Center became a lifeline for Sulma and her family. Not only did she start receiving enough nutritious groceries for her household, but she also received free diapers, which Sulma says saved her about $100 a month after her daughter was born in September 2020.
“I have one hour of break time at my job and it’s eight minutes from home, so I can come home to breastfeed.”