Stories & Voices
Food Insecurity Takes a Toll on Single Mom of a Child With Autism
May 28th, 2020
UJA Federation of New York >> Careen with her son Caiden in 2018.
Careen with her son Caiden in 2018.

Careen Williams is a loving single mom to her son Caiden, age 7, who has special needs. He grapples with autism, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and pica, an eating disorder that leads him to consume non-food items.

Before the pandemic, when Caiden was thriving in school, Careen was able to work part-time as a coach to a pre-teen with autism.

But since the coronavirus outbreak reached the New York area, Caiden’s school closed, and Careen’s no longer able to work because she needs to care for Caiden at home. Without her modest income, Careen has turned an occasional visit to the food pantry at the JCC of Staten Island — a UJA partner — into a weekly visit.

The JCC’s kosher food pantry serves a spectrum of Staten Island residents: individuals ages 20 to 90 who are healthy or have disabilities, working full time or unemployed; families; undocumented immigrants; English speakers and Chinese, Russian, Spanish or Yiddish speakers.

In May 2019, 532 people were served at the pantry. In May 2020 that figure more than doubled.

Making ends meet is a struggle, yet Careen remains dedicated to doing the best she can for her son. And she’s also reaching out to help others during this difficult time.

“Sometimes we overlook the things that have indirect impact on our lives. A gentle touch, a look that shows heartfelt sympathy, or a compassionate tone that expresses true emotional connection,” says Careen.

She knows firsthand how these small gestures can bring great comfort, especially when times are tough.

 “This is my take away from my multiple encounters with these inspiring individuals from the JCC. I feel a sense of indebtedness which has prompted me to sign up as a volunteer to serve others as they have served me.”