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Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. - Matthew 25:40

Tara Marks – Pittsburgh

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Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World

Tara Marks’ story of poverty so extreme that she skipped meals to provide enough for her son is an inspiration. Pell grants; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) were the stepping-stones that helped Tara escape poverty and go to law school.

Tara’s journey shows that our government’s budget discussions are about more than numbers. Fiscal decisions have real consequences. For Tara, a budget that funded domestic nutrition programs created a path out of hunger and poverty for her and her son, Nathan. Tara noted that when she was hungry, abundance surrounded her. “This was not a question of availability of food, but a question of affording it. I did not live in a food desert; I lived in a food mirage. I had many grocery stores around me, but I could not afford to go in and shop.”

Tara passed out from hunger before finally applying for SNAP, which gave her access to adequate food. Food assistance alone did not help her move up the ladder of prosperity, but it gave her the stability to get the education that did. Stories like Tara’s not only humanize hunger and poverty, but serve to remind our members of Congress that decisions made today will affect lives tomorrow.

Tara Marks, a former SNAP recipient from Pittsburgh, Pa., is studying to be a lawyer.

FACT: Just over half of all Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65. (Urban Institute, “Transitioning In and Out of Poverty, 2007).

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