"SNAP is a stepping stone -- helping children go from survival to success."
I was 8 years old when I watched my father walk out on our family. Being that young, I did not understand the impact it would have on our daily lives. Our household went from a family of 6 supported by dual incomes to a family of 5 supported by one and that one salary was not making ends meet. After making a career change and securing a second job, there still was not enough money to put food on the table. Rather than watch her children suffer, my mother swallowed her pride, loaded us kids in the car and stood on line to apply for assistance. She was granted food stamps, “government cheese” and my siblings and I were enrolled in the National School Lunch program, where we received free school lunches. Had it not been for these programs there would have been many days and nights that my siblings and I would have went hungry; instead we were given a chance at a normal childhood by receiving these benefits. Not having to worry about where our next meal was coming from, freed up time for each of us to get an education, some of us excelled at sports, some of excelled at the arts, but each of us made it out of childhood to become young professionals within our community. Furthermore, each of us made it out of childhood with a similar goal, to never forget where we came from and to help those that have the unfortunate luck of being where we once were. Eventually my mother got back on her feet and was able to leave the program with her head held high, knowing her kids were always well fed, thanks to SNAP.
"Today, our business success lets us give back to our community both in the United States and abroad. But when we were just starting out, we struggled and relied on food stamps to get by. Fortunately, it was just temporary. We were on food stamps for less than a year, and provided a really important safety net during a time we were struggling to make ends meet."
"Today, I have a cooking show, but as a kid, my brothers and sisters and I needed food stamps to survive."
"Today I play pro basketball, but as a kid, food stamps gave me the energy I needed to play ball and study."
“Today, I’m a Congressman, but as a young Veteran, food stamps helped me feed my family.”
"I was born to teenage parents. Times were tough as you might expect. My father joined the US Army in hopes of providing a stable and good life for what would soon be our family of five. The math of a Private in the Army's income + cost of living for a family of five... doesn't quite add up. Dad reluctantly put us on food stamps, now known as SNAP. Mom enrolled my sister, Amber, my brother, Jeremy and I in our school's free meals program. I remember getting to school crazy early each day so I could make it in time for breakfast - still my favorite meal of the day. I remember waiting for the lunch line to die down before I'd get in it, so no one would see my blue meal card which was a dead giveaway that I was a poor kid. I remember very hard times and having 32 homes in 18 years. But you know what? I don't have a single memory of ever going hungry or worrying where my next meal would come from. You know why? Because these programs work."
Joe's Crab Shack Director of Operations, Michael Young, and Oceanside, California General Manager, Scott Richards, share their story of why Share Our Strength's mission is important to them.
“I used to be the face of hunger. Sixteen years ago, after a terrible accident, my family temporarily relied on federal assistance to help us eat. My wife, my daughter and I needed that support keep food on our table during that tough time. Today, I’m in the position to help other families who may need a hand to get back on their feet.”
“When I was a kid, my single mother had to rely on food stamps to make sure that my brother and I had enough to eat. She was struggling to make enough money to cover all our bills, and that assistance helped her feed us when we weren’t getting meals at school. Fifteen years later, I’m a chef, a combat veteran and a passionate No Kid Hungry volunteer. My life has come full circle from being that hungry child to being an advocate for kids who are in the same position.”
“I’m used to working, buying what I need. I’m not used to doing without and I didn’t want to accept it.” Rosemary has full custody of her three grandchildren, whom she has been caring for since her daughter passed away from cancer several years ago. Rosemary used to work full-time in healthcare but has been unable to work in recent years due to illness and family responsibilities. She struggles financially to care for her grandchildren. She sold her home and moved into a smaller apartment to cut expenses but relies on SNAP to help feed her family. “I’m used to working, buying what I need. I’m not used to doing without and I didn’t want to accept it.” She is very grateful for the assistance. Without SNAP, her grandkids “probably wouldn’t have food to eat.”
“When my wife first told me she thought we may be able to get assistance through the SNAP program I said no, I have to take care of the family. I have to do it. I am supposed to do it. My grandfather did it, my dad did it, I can do it, and it’s a kick in the face when you admit you can’t.” Sam is a married father of two young children. He earned a decent living selling cars without a college degree. He wanted to be a better role model for his children and secure a better life for his family, so with the help of Federal Pell grants, he went back to school full-time to earn his bachelor’s degree. To help support the family while Sam is in school, his wife went back to work but can only get part-time hours from the healthcare center where she is employed. The family has struggled financially since Sam went back to school, but he was too proud at first to apply for government assistance. He broke down one day when he realized there was not enough money in their checking account to buy diapers and milk for his son. SNAP has been a huge help to their family in this challenging season.
52 year-old single mom Brenda works part-time as a sales associate at Macy’s. For the first time in her life she is “only working one job”, and has at times worked “four or five jobs” to take care of herself. She believes in hard work and self-reliance. SNAP was a last resort for her and her daughter, but it has made a difference in the lives.
Married to a husband on disability (a former wallpaper hanger), 43 year-old Lisa takes care of two children (one teenager and one developmentally disabled 19-year old) and runs a home-based computer repair business. Her family has benefited from SNAP on and off for years, particularly when all three children were at home.
34 year-old Scott works the night shift at a Wells Fargo call center to support his wife and three girls. He could barely keep his eyes open throughout the interview but wanted to tell his story. He was a mental health worker with children but was laid off and unable to find work in his field. They rely heavily on in-laws for help, unable even to afford Christmas gifts for their own children. He is optimistic and feels they are doing better now than they have in a while, though they still rely on SNAP to get by. It would be devastating to his family if SNAP benefits were reduced.
Linda and her husband have worked as many jobs as they can find to support their family. However, through the years they have had many hard times. After a car accident set them back financially, Linda applied for SNAP to help feed her family.
Joshua works 60+ hours a week at a local bakery to support his wife and two children. His wife used to work full-time, but his youngest son was born with a heart condition (roughly a year ago) and she stopped working to care for him full-time. He hopes to no longer need SNAP benefits when his wife is able to go back to work when their son is slightly older, but for now SNAP is helping them through this difficult season.
Brandon is a married father of two who works full-time for a local steel company. Though he works full-time, his income does not cover all of the family bills. They rely on SNAP benefits to help with food expenses.
James and his live-in girlfriend received food stamp benefits after the birth of their youngest child. Both work full-time and James has had the same job for 20 years. His girlfriend tried to start her own business around the time their baby was born but the business did not perform as expected, and they needed some assistance to help them get by.
Judy is disabled and caring for her grandchildren full-time while her daughter struggles to get back on her feet financially. Judy worked for over 30 years for a public utility company before having to leave her post as the result of chronic illnesses. To support herself while she was waiting to receive disability benefits, she spent most of her savings, including her 401K. She relied on SNAP to pay for food during this time.
As a 24-year old mom raising a 2-year old son, Keenan, with her live-in boyfriend, Velvet works as a waitress part-time while carrying a full course-load studying to be a nurse. She is somewhat embarrassed that her pantry is full of food for her son. She grew up poor and remembers the stigma of receiving reduced-price lunches at her public school. She recalls not eating during the school day so she wouldn’t have to be seen getting a program meal. She has relied on numerous public programs and is adamant that her duty as a mother is to make sure her son is never hungry.
Laid off from his job at a hospital (trying to get back on the nursing school track after having relocated from out of state), 36-year old Eric now works as a maintenance man in his apartment complex, raising a young daughter, Avery, with his live-in girlfriend. Tammy, his girlfriend, is currently unemployed after being laid-off from seasonal work at a department store. He feels they have a lot to be thankful for, but their reality is living paycheck to paycheck. Without SNAP Eric describes life as just scraping by, but with SNAP they are able to buy healthier foods and going to the grocery store is an entirely different experience.
“I hear people on the news saying, ‘get rid of food stamps’ but if you have never been in that person’s shoes how can you make that judgment?” Thomas lost his wife a few years ago and is currently raising his pre-teen daughter on his own. Thomas has worked all of his life and is pained that he is currently unemployed, despite his repeated efforts to find work. In this difficult season, he often relies on his church, the Federal School Lunch Program, and his SNAP benefits to put food on the table. Thomas believes he and his daughter “would not be able to survive” if not for food stamps and reduced-price school meals.
“I worry about everything, I worry about my daughter growing up stable…If it wasn’t for these programs I don’t know what I would do. [I get] $300 a month in food stamps, it helps tremendously.” Stephanie fled a domestic violence situation in order to make a better life for her two young daughters. They spent six months in a shelter during this time. Stephanie, 41, currently works full-time in a medical office while her girls are in daycare/pre-school. She wants her kids to understand the importance of hard work. She lives frugally, adheres to a strict budget and does not use credit cards. She also looks for fun things to do that will not cost her a lot of money so her daughters can enjoy life as much as possible. SNAP is essential for her to feed herself and her children. It’s tough to cover monthly expenses and this month was particularly hard because a window in their home broke during a storm. They don’t have the extra money to get it fixed. She believes without SNAP she and her daughters would be back in a shelter, and she wants elected officials to understand that SNAP helps working families.
"There were a lot of nights that I came home and just cried. It was a lot of times when I did not know where I was getting the strength to keep going, but I knew that I had to.” Naquila has struggled most of her adult life to support her children. She has 12-year old twins and a 4 year-old son. When her twins were younger, she worked two jobs to support her family but barely got by. (She did not qualify for any benefits at the time.) There were times that her electricity was cut off because she failed to pay the bills on time. She would skip breakfast and lunch and just eat a small dinner to ensure there was enough food for her kids. Even then, they had to improvise to make what little food supplies they had last the week. Things finally started to look up when she got a job, but she did not qualify for maternity leave when she had her third child, so she received SNAP benefits during the first six weeks after having her baby.
Single mom Evannie, 28, raves about her beautiful, smart, funny daughter Lily, 7. With no support from Lily’s father, Evannie works hard to care for her family. She works as a waitress and is struggling to put things back together after having lost a much higher-paying job at another restaurant. She was unemployed for months before finding her new job. She believes she has a good job, but lives check to check and struggles to eat healthy food. Evannie has had many obstacles in her way—health problems, car accidents—but manages to put her daughter first through it all (“I had to leave the hospital against doctor’s orders because there was no one to look after Lily”). Even with SNAP, Evannie says by the middle of the month she struggles to get food on the table and cannot imagine life without this help. She is crushed that she cannot provide small things for her daughter (“no class pictures this year, and that feels terrible as a mom”). SNAP is a tool she has to rely on to “make it.” She knows what it is like to feed Lily and not eat herself. She knows it is awful to skip meals but she does it for Lily.
"There was a time when I nearly lost everything that I had worked an entire life time to achieve, 401K, job, home, etc. I had applied for food stamps and this was a life line until I could get back on my feet. I was one of those individuals that you would never suspect needed this help because I was a former director of 32 companies but good people can experience difficult times especially when one loses their source of income or a job for an extended period of time. These individuals aren't lazy. Someone has to give this person looking for a job a chance. I was grateful for the existence of this program."
"I was a single mother, raising my son on my own. I too asked for assistance and used food stamps for a couple of years. I was scared and ashamed, but I did what I needed to do do to feed my son. I feel passionate about this program and will continue to show my support and volunteer where I am needed."
"I am a single mom living in a rural area who relies on SNAP benefits to feed my daughter. My daughter's father has intentionally reduced his income so his Child Support payment is minimal. Without SNAP, I would have to miss work to stand in line at the local food bank. I have a Master's Degree in Philosophy which has no value where I live. I work retail and earn a decent hourly wage but it's not full-time. To keep my daughter in the home she was born in, I rely on Food Stamps to make ends meet each month. It doesn't feed us for the month but it keeps the frig from running bare."
"For a brief period in 2001-2002, my son and I received food stamps. I am a single mother who received no support from my son's father, and I was unable to find a job in a difficult economy. This brief bridge of assistance made the difference for my disabled son and me."
"Me and my family are still relying on Food Stamps. Though we don't get much, it's enough to get some food in the house. Without food stamps, we would go hungry, and it's the same case with thousands of other struggling families."
"When my son was born I relied on the food assistance Program for just 2 years, and it made all The difference, I now have a healthy Well-fed scientist who studies geology! I have worked full-time earning more At successive jobs but wouldn't have made It without the help. Thank you!"
"As a pregnant divorcee with no assets to my name, leaving a verbally abusive and controlling relationship was extremely hard. If I had not had the Food Stamp assistance for my daughter and son to be fed while I got back on my feet, who knows if I would have had the courage to leave. Please do not remove the one major help that strengthens our nation, the future are our children, and it takes a village. To raise a healthy and emotionally stable future citizens, lawmakers need to show courage to make ending hunger a priority. Food is not a commodity, but a necessity. Please do not make the underprivileged make a choice if they can eat or not."