- Crystal’s daughter has autism and her favorite food was SpaghettiOs with Meatballs.
- But when lockdowns started, stores had run out of supply and Ashlyn was not eating other food.
- Upon hearing this, the whole community flooded her home with donations.
Back in March, when people were panic-buying food and other supplies for the long periods of lockdowns amidst the pandemic, Crystal MacDonald was frantically looking for SpaghettiOs with Meatballs but couldn’t find one anywhere!
While for some it might have been just a precautionary measure during the stay-at-home orders, for Crystal it was extremely important. Her daughter, Ashlyn, has a severe case of non-verbal autism, and ever since she was 4 years old, SpaghettiOs with Meatballs was her favorite. However, since mid-March, she has been unable to eat other food.
“Before the pandemic, she would eat a few other types of foods like cheese pizza, yogurt and grilled cheese. Food is a very sensory experience for her and I believe that most foods are too much, texture and taste-wise, for her,” Crystal told TODAY Food.
“Once she lost her routine of school, and like so many people with autism, routine is vital to their mental health, she stopped eating other foods. I think the predictability of the texture and taste of the SpaghettiOs brings a sense of control and comfort to her in this time of chaos.”
The mother of five stopped working in April so she could take care of her kids while pursuing her accelerated nursing degree from Simmons University in Boston through online at the same time.
So when she realized the local stores near their home in Attleboro, Massachusetts, had run out of SpaghettiOs, she tried searching grocery stores, desperately trying to find one. She also tried alternatives like SpaghettiOs with Franks and others, but nothing worked for Ashlyn.
“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,” Crystal said.
A local paper, the Sun Chronicle, picked up Crystal’s story and featured her in an article about food shortages that some people experienced. After that, the response of her community was overwhelming as donations poured!
“It has been an incredible experience to feel so much love from our community,” she 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.”
TODAY connected with the maker of SpaghettiOs, Campbell’s Soup Company, and they too were eager to help Crystal. Lisa Zahn, the company’s spokesperson, expressed happiness of how SpaghettiOs has become part of their lives and offered to send one year’s supply of SpaghettiOs and Meatballs to the MacDonalds family.
“ This is an amazing blessing and I can’t express my gratitude enough. I don’t have enough words,” Crystal said.