Community rallies during coronavirus pandemic to find SpaghettiOs for girl with autism

Tennessee teacher cries in front of schoolchildren after hungry student asks her for SpaghettiOs

A Tennessee elementary school teacher says she was brought to tears after a student ‘so innocently talked about food, and the lack of it.’ The teacher and her colleagues collected money to buy the child SpaghettiOs.

It takes a village to raise a child and persevere through a pandemic.

One Massachusetts mom is feeling grateful after those within and beyond the local community helped her search for SpaghettiOs during the coronavirus pandemic. The canned pasta is the only food her autistic daughter will eat lately, and it's been in short supply amid the ongoing outbreak.

Crystal MacDonald says it has been "a light in the darkness" to receive widespread support in her search for SpaghettiOs for her daughter.
(Mark Stockwell/The Sun Chronicle)

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While many families across America went wild buying toilet paper and disinfectants when the pandemic was declared a national emergency in mid-March, Crystal MacDonald had different mission in mind: stocking up on SpaghettiOs.

MacDonald’s daughter, Ashlyn, has autism and is mostly nonverbal, Today reports. According to MacDonald, the 11-year-old has only wanted to eat SpaghettiOs with meatballs since the pandemic began and upended her traditional routines.

“Food is a very sensory experience for her and I believe that most foods are too much, texture and taste-wise, for her," the Attleboro woman explained. "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."

When supply of the canned pasta ran out at the local supermarket, the mom of five went looking at stores across the area – “calling or visiting up to 20 per day” in search of the product, Today said.

When supply of the canned pasta ran out at the local supermarket, MacDonald went looking at stores across the area  — “calling or visiting up to 20 per day” in search of the product.
(iStock)

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MacDonald eventually took her search to social media, and local newspaper The Sun Chronicle featured her in an August piece about food shortages during the pandemic.

From there, the mother's mission was met with an outpouring of support. The family has received over 100 cans of the must-have pasta to date, with even more on the way.

Campbell’s Soup Company caught wind of the MacDonald family’s story, Today reports, and will be sending them a year’s supply of Ashlyn’s favorite SpaghettiOs with meatballs.

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“I didn’t expect this,” MacDonald told the Chronicle of the shocking surprise. “It’s so nice to see support from people in our community. Everyone is so tired from the virus, it’s nice to see people still care.

“It feels like a light in the darkness,” she added.

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