Millions of Americans today still feel the sting of unemployment, rising food and fuel prices and a sluggish economic recovery. However, even as families knocked off course by the economic downturn fight to get back on their feet, Congress is considering slashing funds for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).
We asked those who had been on food assistance to share their own personal stories with us. More than 75 did so, eloquently bearing witness.
Reading their letters tempts one to conclude that we may not need SNAP after all, if we can only eradicate lymphoma, stroke, diabetes, blindness, disasters like Hurricane Katrina, unemployment, divorce, poverty, unforeseen illness and old age. The letters show how those touched by this issue depend on the program.
I've include excerpts from three of the letters below. The real-life details people are willing to share about their struggles is truly humbling. At Share Our Strength, we've often said that those who are hungry are not only vulnerable but voiceless. But this response shows how determined they are to make themselves heard. And it underscores why we must bring urgency, accountability and the highest performance standards to our efforts to achieve No Kid Hungry in this nation.
I am 16 years old and my mother is a single mom trying her best to keep us afloat. My father doesn't help pay for any of our bills and mom must do everything by herself. She works five days a week and goes to college. Most of the time we are struggling. We use food stamps to get our food. If we didn't have food stamps I don't know what we would do. Most think people on food stamps are sponges, but my mother is everything but a sponge. We don't struggle because my mom doesn't work hard enough. We struggle because of the economy and simply because what cards we were dealt. My mom works very hard to better herself and I can see her getting stronger everyday. I know that one day my mom will no longer need food stamps and I won't either. Some people do not exactly have a level playing field but having their food payed for helps. - Kaitlyn, Idaho
Like so many other people, I was the eldest of two siblings being raised by a single mother. The struggle for our family to stay fed was aided by school lunches and by my grandmother who often supplied our evening meal and most meals on weekends. It wasn't until I was much older that I came to realize that she fed us so frequently because there was often little to eat at home by the end of the month. As an adult with a professional job and a college education, I sometimes run into people that make negative comments about people on public assistance. They could never have guessed that I had been one of those people.... It is tempting to vilify people that have fallen on hard times because then you can comfort yourself with the idea that if you do everything right, this won't happen to your family. Sometimes life just doesn't turn out the way your planned it -- not because you failed, were lazy or didn't try hard enough . . . but because that is life. - L., California
And Shelley from Nebraska wrote about growing up in broken home with a divorced mom on food stamps: "Many times I would ask my friend if she could get me something to eat from her house. It was humiliating. If it had not been for programs like free lunch, food stamps and summer lunch programs I could not tell you where or what we would have eaten. Imagine my shock when I was old enough to realize I was living in one of the richest countries in the world. It was all very confusing. If a child is born to parents that cannot take care of them that is not the child's fault. The children should not have to suffer hunger. No Kid Hungry you are my hero. It is because of programs like yours that hungry children also get free breakfast in school. This is not an easy story to tell and I have never written on this. I thank you for giving me the chance to speak out against childhood hunger in America. I have always wanted to."
Follow Billy Shore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/billshore