Lawson Picasso is a mother, successful professional and local advocate for people in need of access to resources. She is an advocate with the San Antonio Food Bank (a member of the Feeding America nationwide network) and attended the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in Washington, D.C. on September 28, 2022.
Waking up hungry is a constant, high-pitched, ringing white noise that you learn to adapt to as you go about your day… surviving. Every day, food becomes less about the luxury of being full and more about fueling your body enough to get through another day. That is what my experience was like. Hardships are not always experienced one at a time. My circumstance brought a juggling act of displaced living—taking shelter in my car with my dog, waitressing, and using the employee perk of a free gym membership to shower and maintain a display of normalcy.
The White House recently held the Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health—the first event of its kind in more than 50 years. On behalf of Feeding America and the San Antonio Food Bank, I had the opportunity to share my story with others at the conference in hopes that my input could help shape policies and programs to support those living on the razor’s edge.
The consistent message throughout the conference was that in order to end hunger, we must also advocate for a comprehensive set of federal support programs. Programs that include wraparound services and assistance to help support individuals out of poverty and sustain them as they change the course of their lives for the better. This includes access to affordable housing, workforce programs, health care, education and proper food resources.
At the conference, conversations were vulnerably shared among policymakers, nonprofit leaders, federal partners and those with firsthand experience, like me. Discussions revolving around diverse experiences echoed among those brave enough to share them, with the goal that their stories would assist in creating solutions that come from those who need or have needed the support.
For me, I see my struggles as a blessing. The conference awakened my purpose to find my place in rooms where we can hold conversations that consider solutions that are a direct response to those who need assistance. It is important that after the conference, I continue championing programs like those offered by Feeding America.
As a reminder of where I was nearly a decade ago, I carry my waitress nametag in my bag. It is a small token of how far I’ve come and how quickly we can fall through the social gaps and settle into the shadows of chronic poverty. It reminds me to always lead with humility and gratitude as I align myself with organizers advocating locally for support and opportunities that will help others access a better life. My hope after the conference is that no human being—no mother, no friend, no senior, no child—ever has to experience the pain and high-pitched, ringing white noise of hunger again.