Watch Caroline share her story on YouTube, if you can’t view the video above.
Transcript of Caroline’s speech:
Hi, I’m Caroline Pooler. I’ve been an artist in Denver for 30 years, and consider this work with Hunger Free Colorado my most important to date. Hunger Through My Lens offers all of the participants a chance to use our voices so local governments and agencies can hear and see the raw truth about hunger in Colorado.
I appreciate each and every one of you who has taken time away from busy lives to put down your cell phones and daily routine to learn more about the issue of hunger AND more importantly THE IMPACT HUNGER has on people; individuals and families just like yours.
With today’s financial climate and deep cuts to social programs looming on the horizon, the truth is anyone of you today may know someone struggling with hunger but not know ”that” about them. You see it’s really hard to say to your peers or colleagues I am hungry, my family doesn’t have enough to eat until next payday.
From my perspective… Prior to 2012 I lived a “normal life.” I had a place of my own, and like any mom who can, I was able to help my employed 20-year-old son with a bag of groceries here and there. Working successfully in medical research, then suddenly facing job loss because I made the difficult decision to turn in the doctor I worked for, to the Office of Civil Rights. Consequently he fired me. Since that time, I’ve found re-entering my field has presented enormous obstacles.
Initially, I turned to urban farming as a way to occupy myself & meet some nutritional needs. By the grace of God, at 53 I have the physical ability to do the farm work, but we all know there’s a large population of people who don’t have that physical capability or luxury of child care. For the first year of my struggles, I resisted applying for food stamps, feeling I should leave benefits like those to families with children. In addition to urban farming, local food banks have been an enormous blessing, filling a nutritional void. I learned firsthand though how deceiving that can be. The food bank had to turn down those of us in the back of the line, because the shelves were vacant.
The memory still brings tears. I just walked down the street and cried, not only for myself, but for the moms that were turned away and the desperation we shared. At that point I applied for and was awarded SNAP benefits. I can’t tell you how much that meant to my overall nutrition and ability to function.
Fast forward to September 2013, I received my letter pertaining to the recent SNAP cuts [effective Nov. 1]. My benefits will be lowered by forty dollars. Eating is more than putting food in my mouth. It’s important to nourish my body and soul with sustenance. This way of life won’t change, but government cuts will indeed pose more difficulty. I WILL manage, but for moms with kids it will be even harder. How many gallons of milk a month is forty dollars?
In many ways the experience of hunger and extreme poverty has taught me so much about the true meaning & importance of human dignity something that is free. No one in Colorado should have those lessons taught to them as the stomach growls too loud to sleep some nights. Just the simple things like the beautiful flowers on the breakfast table at The Gathering Place gives women esteem and hope for the future. Yesterday I attended my orientation at Emily Griffith Opportunity School with high hopes the new training will lead to a fulltime job offering me the chance to once again be truly self-sufficient.
The Hunger Through My Lens project, and the opportunity to speak to you today has given you a chance to see hunger through my lens. Now, with you, the journey begins.
Caroline Poole shared her story at the Hunger Free Colorado Summit on Oct. 1, 2013. She is one of the first participants of Hunger Through My Lens.
Background on Hunger Through My Lens: The project serves as a platform for Coloradans — the real-life experts about the impact of hunger — to reframe and recount their stories. The first group of participants includes nine women who are showing how hunger impacts their lives, families and communities through photographs and quotes. They have chosen to lead and participate in this project, and let people into their lives, in order to create change in how we view and understand the issue. Their stories are unique, and through their lens, we see that no one is immune from experiencing hunger. Learn more online.