TORRANCE, Calif. — It can be difficult to stretch one paycheck to cover and cook for a family of four children. It’s a budget Margarita Morales has to juggle each day.

“It’s very hard, so it’s either you buy healthy foods or you save a little money and you try to spend it on utilities or on what the kids need,” Morales said.

Morales and her husband were both working full-time to make ends meet. But four years ago, her husband was deported to Mexico, forcing her to take care of all four of her children on her one paycheck. 

“We were homeless for a few months and it was a struggle. I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I really didn’t know if we were going to have something to eat the following day or within the week or the next couple of months,” Morales said.

Luckily, Morales was able to move back in to her parent’s apartment in Torrance. It’s a tight fit, but it’s helping to keep a roof over their heads.

Morales’ family is one of hundreds of South Bay families who are food insecure. That’s where Community’s Child’s Healthy Bags program steps in by sending weekly bags filled with canned vegetables, beans, and other whole grains to schools with children in need.

The nonprofit focuses on filling pantries with healthier options to help combat health conditions like anemia, diabetes, and hypertension.

After four years, the program seems to be working. The nonprofit’s data initially found 27 percent of children who received the bags to be anemic, by 2018 that number dropped to about 8 percent.

“Most of our children are coming from hardworking families with parents who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and we just want to come alongside the parents, partner with them and help give them the best life possible to their children,” said Dr. Roxanne Chang, an L.A. County pediatrician and Board of Directors for Community’s Child.

After Morales saw the amount of support these bags provided for her family, she decided to give back by delivering the bags to schools with families in need like hers at Torrance Elementary. 

“I try to do as much as I can not only for them but also for the school that I also volunteer at because I am so grateful for all the teachers that are there supporting me and all the other families that are a part of this program,” Morales said.

Morales said she’s comforted knowing she can provide healthier foods on the table for her family while she continues to find ways to make her paycheck make ends meet.

Community’s Child relies on donations to support food insecure families in the South Bay. The nonprofit’s Healthy Bags program is seeking donations of brown rice, canned beans and vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and much more.

Donations can be dropped off at 18807 Crenshaw Place, Torrance, CA 90504 or monetary donations can be made online.