I could be on FoodShare tomorrow. It is something I’ve thought about before. Some circumstances are beyond our control. We don’t know what the future brings. I recently spoke on the phone with a gentleman who was making $70k a year, but lost his job. He was having troubles finding a new job and applied for FoodShare. He had lived his entire life very comfortably and never would have expected to be on FoodShare. I regularly hear similar sentiments from many of my clients. Some have even worked at or volunteered at food pantries, never imagining that they themselves would someday be on the other side asking for help.
Life isn’t predictable. Medical situations especially can change the course of a person’s life. I’ve spoken to clients who have gotten into accidents or developed chronic illnesses that prevented them from working. Having always assumed that they would be capable of working their entire lives, they are troubled by the thought of asking for help. It is not easy to go from being a working adult with a livable salary and money to spare to going to not being able to provide basic life necessities for oneself or one’s family. That is why we at the FoodShare Helpline try to make the application process as easy and pleasant as possible.
Sometimes our clients are hesitant to accept help because they are afraid that doing so will take away help from someone who needs it more. That is not how the FoodShare program works; there is no cap to how many people can receive the benefit. If something were to happen to me, I could be on FoodShare tomorrow. In my day-to-day life, I’ve heard the stigma associated with people being on FoodShare. I think one way to undermine that stigma is by talking about the unexpected. Few people expect to be on FoodShare. Oftentimes, people who reapply for FoodShare after being off of it for a while no longer have their old QUEST cards. They threw them out because they didn’t think they would ever need the assistance again.
It’s important to remember that most people aren’t living on FoodShare for years and years and years. Most are on it for several months until they can get back on their feet. It is supplemental income used when someone is going through a rough time, oftentimes unexpected.