In mid-March, when people were stocking up on canned goods and toilet paper at grocery stores throughout the country, Crystal MacDonald couldn’t find SpaghettiOs with Meatballs anywhere.
For some, having a pantry full of non-perishables during lengthy stay-at-home orders was precautionary, but for MacDonald, it was paramount. MacDonald’s daughter Ashlyn has severe, non-verbal autism. When she was four years old, she tried SpaghettiOs with Meatballs and, since mid-March, has been unable to eat anything else.
When she realized the SpaghettiOs were all out at her local market in Attleboro, Massachusetts, MacDonald began checking grocery stores and food pantries all over the area — calling or visiting up to 20 per day.
In addition to searching daily, MacDonald tried other variations like SpaghettiOs with Franks or similar items by Chef Boyardee, but nothing worked.
“I tried all the non-brand name versions I could. I even prepared them when she couldn’t see the can but she always knew it wasn’t SpaghettiOs and would refuse to eat them,” MacDonald said.
In early August, Attleboro’s local paper, the Sun Chronicle, featured MacDonald in a story about people’s experiences with food shortages. Afterward, MacDonald received an outpouring of support from her community, from tips about where to find the product to donations of cans directly to her door.
“It has been an incredible experience to feel so much love from our community,” MacDonald told TODAY. “As a parent of a special needs child, it can be a lonely existence and one that you imagine others to not quite understand. Especially in these times of such turmoil and hardship, it has been incredible to experience such kindness.
The surprise gift brought MacDonald to tears.
(Photo courtesy of NBC/Boston)