Friday, September 27, 2013

The Faces of Food Stamps + DVD Giveaway (Read till the end!)

By Phoebe Farag Mikhail

It didn’t hit home for me till I read about an adjunct professor at Duquesene University in Pittsburgh who died almost homeless, in absolute poverty. I’m an adjunct professor. If I had to live alone (thank God, I don’t) on the average salary of an adjunct professor at almost any university, I would be eligible for food stamps – and I would need them.

And then I read an essay by a US war veteran on food stamps. “I didn’t risk my life in Afghanistan so I could come back and watch people go hungry in America,” he writes. “I certainly didn’t risk it so *I* could come back and go hungry.” This veteran is not alone. At least 5,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants (the official name for food stamps) have identified themselves as working for the armed forces, and many more are spouses and children of people serving in the armed forces.

If the idea of college professors and US war veterans using food stamps isn’t surprising enough, the makers of the documentary “A Place at the Table,” (nowavailable on DVD), have created a website highlighting SNAP “alumni” – people who once used food stamps and who are now leaders in their communities. They include actors, members of Congress, state governors, authors, athletes, teachers, lawyers – and all of them have one thing in common – they used food stamps at some point in their lives, and this crucial government support when they needed it most helped them move on to the important leadership roles they play today.

Perhaps the most important face of food stamps is the face of a child. Currently, 45% of food stamp users are children, and another 26% are adults with children in their homes – making children the largest group of beneficiaries of the SNAP program. I personally know many working families who rely on the SNAP program to keep food on the table for their young children while trying to make ends meet. Kayla Williams, also a US war veteran, was one of them. In her article about SNAP she writes:
Kayla Williams, Author/Veteran
Like many on public assistance, my family was made up of a working single mom struggling to make it and provide for her child. She was a small business owner, an artist who ran a series of galleries ... There were good years ... then the economy sagged, and there were lean years – years of food stamps and bland government cheese, Christmas presents from charities, peering around the corner to watch my mother sobbing into piles of bills, wondering if the landlord would get fed up with how often we were behind on the rent and kick us out. Even when I was young, I could pick up on the looks we got when buying groceries with food stamps. In high school, it was mortifying to hand over tickets for free or reduced-price school lunches. Those tiny colored scraps of paper might as well have been a scarlet "P" sewn to my shirt, announcing to the other teenagers that I was poor.
Last week, the US House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill that cut the SNAP program by $40 billion. There is still time to save SNAP and invest in the potential of these children by ensuring that they do not go hungry. The Bread for the World blog provides information on how to continue to take action on this matter. I will be contacting my Representative to express my anger at his vote on this bill.  

In addition to taking action on the Farm Bill, I am spreading the word about the SNAP alumni website and the documentary, A Place at the Table. I encourage everyone to explore the website and watch the film, which not only talks about the overall hunger problem in America, but puts a real face on the people that live with hunger, and who are trying to get out of poverty. If you would like to win a free copy of the DVD, there are two ways to gain entries: 1- You can comment on this post below AND share the post via Facebook or Google+ and 2- You can subscribe to my blog via email and verify your subscription using the form below. The winner will be randomly chosen on October 4th, 2013, and contacted thereafter. Please note that I can only ship to US addresses.
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What are you doing to end hunger in your community?