Mario - Washington, DC
My name is Mario, and I live in Washington DC. I grew up on food stamps. When I was a kid, my father left my family and my mother was a single mother. She spent most of her time when my father was living with us as a housewife, so she didn’t have many marketable skills after my father left. My mother could only find work doing housekeeping at a big chain hotel. She made minimum wage and she had to pay our mortgage. A lot of nights there were times where we would have to debate if we would eat a good meal that night, a wholesome meal of meats and fruits, or we’d eat Ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese just because the money wasn’t there. We were on food stamps, we were on Medicaid and we were on WIC. But at the end of the day when you have a family of six with $500-600 to feed us for an entire month, especially in our high-cost area of Virginia didn’t make ends meet all the time. We had to stretch our dollars. We went to food banks, we went to various other organizations.
I also benefited from programs like the free school lunch and breakfast programs. Even as a child, the school I went to had such a high percentage of students who were on free lunch. Sometimes the school lunch lines were very long, and there just wasn’t enough time to feed all the kids.
Now, I went ahead and have been able to progress forward and build my life. I’ve come to realize that these programs were able to give me a stepping stone to building a better future for myself. They are so essential to keeping our children fed, which is such an important thing.
When I hear people talking about the food stamp program being cut, or placing restrictions on things like WIC or Medicaid, it makes me angry. It makes me angry because there are programs that benefit so many children. For me, I can’t forget where I came from. There is such a stigma of people being on food stamps. I can’t stand behind that stigma and not speak my mind about these things. I have to go out there and tell people that these programs are beneficial. If people like me don’t go out and speak their minds about this, then these programs will be cut and attacked, because there is no one out there saying “this is what people on these programs turn out to become.”