For too many families across our country, hunger is an ever-present reality. There’s not enough money to pay the bills. Food stamps help many people, but they often don’t bridge the gap to the next paycheck. People who never thought they’d have to ask for help find themselves appealing to family, friends, and churches for assistance to get by. And yet each morning, they get up and keep going—going to work, sometimes a double shift; caring for children, maybe with medical needs; finding the resourcefulness to make it through another day. Their persistence is amazing, but it shouldn’t happen in the richest nation in the world.
Consider Cassondra, single mother of two bright and spirited young children. Samuel is your typical rough-and-tumble three year old. And Carmen, the two year old, is Cassondra’s “miracle baby”: hospitalized at birth, on a ventilator for the first two-and-a-half weeks of her life. She’s healthy now—a little delayed in some of her milestones, but full of spirit. “They evolve into beautiful kids every single day,” Cassondra says with obvious pride. “And I love it. I love being a mom.”
Cassondra has a steady job in a canning factory. She works the night shift, but calls it the “graveyard shift” with a laugh because she’s tired all the time. She was lucky recently to get three days of overtime. That will help with expenses, but still, the money runs out. Food stamp benefits last her about half the month. From time to time, she has to pawn her belongings to make ends meet.
When they go to Walmart, Sam asks for toys he sees in the checkout counter. What child doesn’t? But Cassondra has to tell him “no.” “There’s countless times that I’ve broken down crying because I didn’t have anything for the kids, or for myself. But I would rather them eat and me go without than me eat and them go without.”
No mother should have to make that choice.
Tosha’s story is both similar and different—hunger has common themes, but a million different faces. Tosha is the mother of four children ranging in age from 8 to 14. Like Cassondra, she bursts with love and pride when she talks about them. Like Cassondra, she worries when the money runs out, and pawns her belongings to make the dollars stretch.
“I just try to show my kids I’m strong, I can do it, we’ll figure it out,” Tosha says. “They don’t even know half the time what’s really going on, but it’s very hard. Our cabinets have been empty several times.”
For most of us reading this, an empty cabinet means life got busy and hectic—a quick trip to the grocery store and our shelves are stocked again without another thought. But for too many women like Cassondra and Tosha, empty cabinets are a sign of shame. Holidays can be excruciating. Two Christmases ago, Tosha remembers, the family wasn’t even able to afford a special meal—they ate just like any other day. The kids got a few presents, but they had to wait until January for them, when the family was on better financial footing to afford them. “A month later kind of takes the fun out of Christmas,” she said.
Tosha suffers from kidney issues, so she’s not able to work. Thankfully, her husband got a job—not a great one, but it’s something. And like Cassondra, Tosha is thankful for food stamps, but they rarely last the month.
These stories hurt our hearts. And we believe they hurt God’s heart as well.
That’s why we’re proud we’ve partnered with Feed the Children this year — an organization fighting every day to create a world where no child goes to bed hungry. Visit Feed the Children’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages and give them a like or a follow, so you can learn more about their work.