Dawn's Story: Confronting the Stigma of SNAP

July 11, 2013
by Dawn

My name is Dawn and I am the face of hunger in Idaho. I may not look like I've struggled with hunger — but what is a hungry person supposed to look like? A deadbeat? Well, I have worked full time my entire life. I was laid off a few years back when the economy fell, and for the first time, I could not afford to feed my family.

I remember sitting in the car crying for an hour before finally gathering the courage to apply for food stamps. I could not believe my life had come to this. The people who helped me apply were very friendly, but the rest of the world wasn't so kind.

One day I was in line at the grocery store. The woman in front of me was using food stamps to purchase food. "I should have known better than to come to the store on the first of the month," the woman behind me said. "All these losers and their food stamps —my hard-earned tax dollars. I could never eat as well as these people and I work for a living. Don't you agree?"

Actually, I told her, I didn't agree, as I was on food stamps myself. I politely excused myself from the line as she exclaimed, "Well you don't look like you're on food stamps!"

Although it hurt me, I hope that woman learned something that day. I hope she learned that food stamps are used by regular people — working people who have fallen upon hard times. Most people are only on food stamps a short time. I've been off them a year now — working full time as a nurse. I've also made it my mission to share my story and speak out against hunger. I know I won't change the world, but if I can help one person, then it's worth it to me. Hunger is something no one should struggle with — nevertheless be judged for having to.

This week, the Feeding America blog is focused on sharing the promise of SNAP in the lives of the people we serve. Dawn's story is one snapshot into one family's real-life struggle to get enough to eat and how SNAP benefits helped them get by.

Did you know every SNAP dollar spent generates $1.79 for local economies? Learn the facts on current threats to SNAP benefits.