1. Background
  2. Economic Justice

My Hunger Story is No Longer Hidden

Quaker Welcome Center

By Christine Ashley, December 10, 2018

It took 20 stories before I had the courage to tell my story of hunger, of feeding my child as a single mother. It was the first time in 22 years that I told my story.

I was motivated by the stories of 22 Allegany College students who attended Witness Wednesday. Slowly, they told their stories of hunger in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Their public health professor, a Quaker, noted that food insecurity was impacting all her students in one of her classes. It turned out that all the students at the Quaker Welcome Center that day experienced hunger.

We heard from a veteran with two sons share about how inadequate the current SNAP (formerly food stamps) allowance was for his family.

We heard from a star basketball player from New York who was holding a job, studying, and playing basketball. Still, he needed SNAP to survive.

We heard from a single mom-to-be who was receiving food assistance from church and federal programs.

As I listened to the students' stories, I remembered feeling how narrow the gap lies between hunger and nutrition, and making ends meet. After the 20th story that day, I added mine.

It was 1996 and I was a single mom-to-be. I had just moved back to the U.S. after living overseas for eight years. I had supportive family members and friends but I still needed help to secure food and shelter for me and my new baby.

I spoke English and was well-educated, but I found the bureaucracy tough to navigate. I was shocked to experience how the process to receive food assistance seemed intentionally dehumanizing and demeaning.

That did not stop at the benefits office. The grocery lines were not always fun as I whipped out my paper coupons while the people behind me grumbled about the time lag. Sometimes people grumbled about my food choices – as if they owned my food as tax payers.

At the Quaker Welcome Center, I looked at all of them and thought, “You would never guess that every one of us in the room shared the common experience of receiving food assistance.”

That's why this December is very important to me, and millions of our neighbors who might go hungry.

The lame duck 115th Congress will need to choose between two competing versions of the 2018 farm bill before their term ends. The fate of 40 million Americans who rely on SNAP, which is funded through the farm bill, rests on the final version they will choose.

Hunger in America is often a hidden story. It should not be. Share your story with your members of Congress and help them choose the Senate version that keeps hunger at bay for more of our neighbors.

Christine Ashley

  • Quaker Field Secretary

Christine Ashley has the honor of nurturing and deepening FCNL’s relationships with Friends across the United States. In this role, Christine develops and sustains FCNL's engagement with individuals both within the Religious Society of Friends and with seekers for the Quaker way of living Faith in to action.