A Toni’s Kitchen Guest Story: Honduran Family

(NOTE: This is part of a series of stories focusing on how we work to improve the lives of our guests at Toni's Kitchen. To see previous "Toni's Guest Stories," please click here.)

Late last year, Dania, 25, learned from a church worker in Bloomfield about the food pantry at Toni's Kitchen. Quickly, she became a guest, making weekly visits to stock up on fresh produce, canned goods, protein and diapers for her three children, ages 6, 2 and 1. One day she noticed a flyer. When a volunteer translated the contents into Spanish, Dania learned that she could also enjoy a hot meal on the days she visited the pantry. Dania passed the word to assorted relatives, all of whom reside in Newark, but live too far apart to see each other regularly.

Now, Thursdays are family days for Dania, her stepfather Louis, her sister Anna, and Anna's daughter, Emily. Reunited around a table inside the soup kitchen, they catch up with each other's lives as well as enjoy a hot meal before moving on to the pantry to select supplies. "They cook really good food here," Louis says in Spanish, relying on TK staff member Britney Noboa, 24, to translate for him and his stepdaughters.

"This is when I get to see my sister," Daria says of Anna, 26. That means a lot, given all the separation the sisters have endured since leaving their native Honduras. Dania came to the U.S. in 2014 and settled in New Jersey. Four years later, Anna also emigrated, but settled in Massachusetts, where she had her daughter Emily. Earlier this year when Anna got sick, she realized she needed family care and moved to New Jersey.

Her relocation has worked out well for the family. "Transportation is better here," says Louis, 37, who met Anna and Dania's mother in New Jersey after making his own migration 21 years ago. "Everything here is closer."

Nodding in agreement, Anna says that there's also "more stuff to do here." Best of all, she says Emily, now 3, is able to attend pre-K, which was not accessible when they lived in Massachusetts. "Emily knows her numbers in English and Spanish," Anna says proudly. "She loves to write her letters."

As the meal draws to a close, both Dania and Louis ask for boxes so they can take home the chili remaining on their plates. Meanwhile, Emily tucks into a brownie. "Very good," she says, with an enthusiastic thumbs-up. No translation is needed. Her delighted smile says it all.