Since March, Malka Fazlic has avoided grocery stores as much as possible.
The 48-year-old has COPD, a chronic inflammatory lung disease, and diabetes – two health conditions that put her at high risk of severe illness should she be exposed to COVID-19.
Because of her health, Malka started receiving disability payments in February. She’s grateful because she had to stop working when the pandemic struck, shortly after her disability payments were approved.
The Fargo woman also applied for SNAP benefits and receives about $190 per month.
“I just needed a little help with food, to get around month to month,” she says. “My disability (payments) aren’t enough to pay for all my bills.”
SNAP benefits don’t cover all of her food needs, she says. Malka, who lives in Fargo, visits food pantries when she has enough energy and when it feels safe. Still, she estimates she spends an additional $75-100 in cash each month to eat.
More food assistance would change Malka’s life in so many ways. Right now she shops weekly or biweekly depending on her health situation. She makes a list so she can quickly grab what she needs. Her goal is to spend less than 15 minutes in the store.
“I’m high risk (for COVID-19), so I don’t want to take a long time,” she says. “You try to manage the best you can.”
She identifies sale items beforehand, but speedy grocery trips mean she doesn’t take time to compare prices inside the store. She also doesn’t visit multiple stores to find the best deals.
This means she can easily go over her budget as she balances the need to lower her food costs with the need to minimize her health risks.
“Everything is expensive,” she says. “Even seasonal vegetables and fruits for one person are pricey.”