Neither my family nor I were ever on food stamps, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) but there were times where we should have been.
We weren’t really that bad off,” my dad once told me.
I recall church members dropping off food and clothing at our house. I also remember receiving anonymous donations to help us keep the lights on. But according to him, that didn’t make us “bad off.”
My dad worked full-time. My mom raised three kids and sold crafts on the weekends. They were doing the best they could. SNAP would have been such a help to us during that time, a temporary boost that would have taken a world of stress off of my. My mother recalls that our garden was a life-saver and we “just had to be creative with food” like making bread and cheese casserole.
That period of need did not last very long for our family. Though, just after graduating college, I really could have benefited from SNAP. I graduated with honors from one of the top private universities in the state, yet was not able to find a job that would pay the bills. And returning to my parent’s house was NOT an option. I ended up with a job that paid just under eight dollars per hour. Do the math on a forty-hour work week. In no way did my wage come close to being enough to cover the rent, utilities, food, a car payment, and a student loan. I applied for a deferment on my school loan. Denied. I applied for low-income housing. Denied. I turned to donating plasma once or twice a week as a way to buy food. Each donation paid around twenty dollars. I wish I had known about SNAP then. But like my dad, I really didn’t think I was that bad off, at least not compared to what I would eventually witness.
Fortunately, I was hired by the city two years after graduation and have been a firefighter for nearly fourteen years now. Every day I see what “bad off” looks like. I can still see the faces of two toddlers I encountered that were so weak they could not hold their heads up. You watch those horrific commercials about hungry children in other countries. That could never happen in this country, right? Wrong!
These children did not create the situations in which they find themselves and I wish the policy makers could see what we (police officers, fire fighters, medics) see when we go to work. These kids desperately need the help that SNAP can offer, as a crucial key in the fight against childhood hunger and ensuring that all kids can get the food that they need to grow and learn.