I worked for the state for 40 years. The last few I spent as a case worker – approving food stamp applications for folks on the other side of the desk. I always said to myself back then, "Now, you are only a few paychecks away from being on that other side." I never thought I'd actually end up on the other side – that someday I'd be the one in need of help. But my world changed, and here I am.
A few years ago – out of the blue – I was given guardianship over my two grandchildren, Aaron and Carson. At the time I had enough money to feed myself, but suddenly I had two growing boys to feed too. Even though I was working full time and living off retirement savings, my income was not going to be enough. Food was going to be a problem.
During the school year I could make my dollars stretch. School provided them with free breakfast and lunch so I only had to worry about dinner. But as that first school year came to the end I grew anxious knowing I'd have to provide them each with two extra meals.
At first I was embarrassed to ask for help. I'm 64 years old and have never asked for any type of assistance. But this was beyond me. It was about my grandchildren eating and I knew I had to do whatever it took to keep them from going hungry. I sent my boys to a summer program – sponsored in part by Golden Harvest Food Bank – that provided them with free breakfast, lunch and sometimes a little bag of food to take home on the weekends. The help made all the difference.
I can say I'm no longer ashamed to be on the other side. I've been treated with dignity and respect and my grandchildren have enough to eat. The summer feeding program gives them the fuel they need to do well in school which will help them get into college. In that way, it's providing them with so much more than food – it's providing my grandchildren with a future.