For me, fall is a time of reflection, of looking back and taking stock of life. Today, I was reflecting back on the first couple of months here at PRFC and I was discussing with my colleagues about the responses I have received as I have shared about some of the work we are doing to end hunger in our community. I am not doing this work for the glory or the money (remember I am VOLUNTEER In Service To America), I am doing this work because I have seen first hand how hunger affects children every day while they try and learn and grow at school. I am excited to share the work we are doing and the programs being developed to help those that need a hand up to improve their lives.
Food for thought this Monday though, was the amount of judgement, shaming, and misconceptions out there about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
and other programs to help the most vulnerable among us. Could you imagine for just a moment feeding everyone in your family for $4/day. How do you make every penny count? I had a community member tell me how disgraceful it was as she watched “that welfare person fill her cart with junk.” Can you imagine how that mother feels as she struggles to balance feeding her children and stretching that $4 as far as possible to make sure her babies bellies are full? To have to make the choice between a small bag of apples or 3-4 boxes of cereal?
How about Foster Parents? They have opened their homes and hearts to children who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned. To help offset the costs of caring for these children, they are given a SNAP card to help feed them. A friend of mine who does foster care shared her story of how she was ridiculed for using SNAP while having a “good paying job” and carrying the newest iPhone. This happened in the middle of her grocery checkout. She was embarrassed and felt the need to defend herself and the children she was caring for.
We simply don’t know what is happening behind the scenes in other people’s lives. Situational poverty is very real and affects up to 40% of households in the U.S. The loss of a job, a car or home repair, or divorce can profoundly affect the lives and financial health of families. How can I judge someone else for trying to better their lives when I could be that person if my circumstances change at any given time?