Photo: Joseph Molieri
Many people think those of us who need food assistance are nothing but deadbeats and leeches, but the truth is that most of us have jobs; we have families who need to eat and children who are wondering when dinner will be ready. I first found myself needing food assistance when the recession hit a few years ago and my employer laid me off. As a single mother and the sole means of support for my children and myself, I eventually realized that if I was going to adequately care for my family, I was going to have to ask for help.
For me, applying for benefits, including SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps], was like admitting defeat. However, the worst part of the experience was how society treated me once I received the benefits. Once, a woman at the grocery store said to me, “I should have known better than to come to the store on the first of the month with these losers and their food stamps. Don’t you feel the same?” After I explained to her that I was sorry she felt that way, as I received food stamps, she said to me, “Well, you don’t LOOK like you’re on food stamps!”
I can tell you that people who receive food stamps don’t have a certain look. They are people like you and me who need a hand. I can never fully know another person’s path in this life, so I do my best not to judge anyone. Solving the problems that contribute to hunger is a huge challenge that will take time and the efforts of all of us. But if we put aside our judgments and work together, we can make sure that families like mine never have to face hard times or hunger alone.
Dawn Phipps is a nurse and hunger activist living in Boise, Idaho.
FACT: Although nearly 49 million Americans receive food stamps, the program is working as it was intended. Food stamp usage is designed to increase during tough economic times, like the current recession, and will decline when the economy rebounds.