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Selling nopal gives life to unemployed mother in child care desert crisis

daycare desert
Posted at 1:37 PM, Jan 21, 2021

Maria Figueroa sets up a portable plastic table on a busy street corner in the Little Village neighborhood. She bundles up and wears a puffy, green winter jacket to withstand the 19 degrees Fahrenheit temperature.

She is ready to start cutting nopal pads. They are a staple in Mexican cuisine and a favorite in this community.

“We need to work. There is no other option,” the Mexican immigrant said. “I lost my job at a nopal packaging plant in April because I missed several days. I could not find child care for my children.”

This single mother says she had no options, so she turned to what she knew best: cutting nopal pads.

However, it forced her to bring her children, who would complete their virtual learning education while sitting in a van.

Researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) say the child care industry in the United States is hanging on by a thread.

“It’s very stressful and expensive,” Rasheed Malik, a policy analyst for CAP, said. “It leads to financial pressures. Mom and dad must work opposite hours. Maybe mom is staying home and not working hours she would like.”

Malik says child care deserts are scattered across the United States and it is a crisis that will impact other industries soon if it is not properly funded. This analyst says Black and brown communities already suffered with child care deserts prior to the pandemic, and now, the problem has escalated.