“Community Voices: Why Nutrition Assistance Matters,” a national campaign led by TalkPoverty.org, Center for American Progress and other national partners, collected stories about people’s personal experiences with hunger. On Oct. 8, selected stories were shared at a gathering on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., during a day of action to advocate for protecting and strengthening nutrition programs like food stamps and school and summer meals.
Two Hunger Through My Lens participants, Robin and Andrea, submitted personal stories that were selected for publication in a special book. It was distributed to all House and Senate offices on the day of action.
Read their stories below.
I have fought to overcome poverty from childhood. I completed two college degrees, traveled out of the country, and have helped others in desperate situations. However, I never thought the day would come when I would have to use SNAP. And then, life happened. I fought having to use food stamps, but I was hit with challenges that I never anticipated. I was hungry all the time and eating less to make sure that there was enough food for my children.
I finally reached the point of desperation where I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, crying and staring at my pantry. At that point, I realized that I could go hungry, but I would not let my kids go hungry. I swallowed my pride and applied for SNAP.
There is no reason that anyone should go hungry in this country. I continue to work with Hunger Free Colorado to fight on behalf of those who need a safety net of food security during unexpected times.
When I was in kindergarten, my parents’ dissolving marriage left my mom, sister, and I in poverty. I distinctly remember my mom having to borrow my savings to buy food. I decided I would never find myself in that situation. Becoming a doctor seemed like the perfect answer: help others and always have security.
At 30 years old, I was married with two children and a good job as a family physician. I also had a tiny hobby practice to help people who were uninsured. I was only just starting to learn about the many effects of poverty when I had the most educational and personal experience of my life. When my son was just 3 years old and my daughter an infant, I suffered a vertebral artery dissection and two strokes.
The strokes were cerebellar, so it did not affect me cognitively; however, they left me very dizzy and fatigued. I didn’t have the stamina to care for my children all day, but I could function normally as a physician for a few hours. Chopping food and cooking dinner was too tiring, but suturing wound was quick and still within my abilities.
We soon realized that our only option was for me to continue to work and my husband to care for both me and our children. I quit my main practice and worked only at my hobby practice, where I could set my hours based on my needs as I recovered. We lived on our savings until they stared to run out.
It took me awhile to realize that we would qualify for food assistance. My husband and I were both working as hard as we could. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us. At the same time, I had been recommending to my patients that they sign up for food assistance—saying that needing it had nothing to do with how good a person they were or how hard they were working. The safety net is there for these sorts of situations.
My experiences using food stamps and facing society’s negative perceptions led me to have a strong desire to share my story. There is no shame in needing help. It is the responsibility of a civilized country to make sure that everyone has access to basic necessities such
as food, shelter, and medical care.