Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World
Barbie Izquierdo is a young mother who has found the task of feeding her children challenging. Having lost her job during the recession, she was often unable to buy enough food for her daughter, son, and herself. Looking back on the hardest days, Barbie recalls thinking, “I literally have nothing left. What do I give them?” Some days, Barbie skipped meals to make sure that her children could eat.
“I feel like America has this huge stigma of how families are supposed to eat together at a table,” Barbie says, “but they don’t talk about what it takes to get you there or what’s there when you’re actually at the table.”
As the valedictorian of her high school class, Barbie dreamed of going to college and earning a degree in criminal justice so she could earn a decent salary. But first she had to figure out how to keep her children fed. The seemingly simple act of providing food was a stressful struggle—jobs are hard to find in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.
Eventually, Barbie qualified for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which provided some relief. But finding healthy and affordable food on a slim budget is its own challenge for those who live in poor neighborhoods. Barbie had to take two buses and travel an hour to reach a decent grocery store. The food she was able to buy with her SNAP benefits usually lasted only three weeks.
Barbie Izquierdo, who appeared in the movie “A Place at the Table,” is finishing her college degree at Esperanza College, Philadelphia.
FACT: Nearly 15 percent of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table. More than 48 million Americans—including 15.9 million children—live in these households. (USDA, “Household Food Security in the United States,” 2010).