Monthly Archives: February 2015
Doing outreach at Goodwill on Sunday afternoon is always an interesting and inspiring experience. There is always a tag sale; today all clothing with a pink tag is 50% off. Although it is cold and blustery, by two o’clock I have visited with over 50 families, educating them about the benefits of food assistance and listening to a wide range of opinions on the subject.
Did you know that if you live alone and make $10 an hour for a forty hour week that you are ineligible for food assistance by $43? Well $10 an hour is decent money but “Shirley” still finds herself deciding between buying food and paying the light bill, especially when the temperature is near zero for so many consecutive days. Thankfully, I can refer her to several good pantries nearby and encourage her to visit them.
In the door comes “Julie” with a big smile for me because just two months ago when we met, she referred a friend whose disabled son is friends with her son, also on disability for a congenital brain disorder. Two months ago “Julie” shared that her family was doing fine with both parents working full time and their son receiving SSI benefits. Fast forward to today, when she reports that her husband has been diagnosed with cancer and will not be able to work for at least a year. He has been approved for Social Security Disability and only has to wait six months for that to begin. She is fortunate to have FMLA which allows her to take off work for his multiple hospital trips. But that is unpaid time off, of course, so she gratefully takes my information and will call me next week to get together to complete a SNAP application. Her cheerful demeanor inspires me, but she tells me of many years ago when they came home with a baby with a severe brain disorder and not much information and no internet to study and learn. She says those dark days have helped her with this diagnosis and she will find the strength to go on.
And hopefully they will be approved for SNAP for as long as they need it, and that will remove even one small worry. The cold wind is blowing in more customers so I greet more customers with a warm smile. Oh, and I managed to move some merchandise from my table, too. We are all here to help, right?
–Cindy Jones, SNAP Outreach Coordinator
The morning breakfast in the rotunda was a great setting for legislators and advocates to talk. Everyone was able to discuss the problem of hunger without the pressures of scheduled meetings. As I was working the registration table for the beginning portion of the morning, I sincerely enjoyed getting to meet the advocates who came to support our cause. The legislators I was able to talk to (before I had to leave for class) were both enthusiastic and excited to speak to everyone.
The afternoon was spent in meetings with leaders from the House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office. Senate and House leadership both seemed open to discussion but referenced the tight budget.
Overall, the day was a great way to raise awareness about our legislative priorities this year. The direct interaction between constituents and their legislators certainly helped to gain a human element to our cause. Yes, hunger directly affects each of Iowa’s 99 counties, but sometimes it is easy to forget the people behind the cause, and instead focus on how tight the budget is or political differences. Bringing in people who are passionate about hunger and represent Iowa’s many food banks was a great way to remind legislators about just how many people are affected daily by hunger in Iowa.
The Day on the Hill was also a great learning experience. Though I’ve taken classes about the legislative process, it’s certainly a different experience to see the process at work. I witnessed the importance of effective teamwork, and saw how great of a difference it can make. On a more personal note, I also learned how difficult it was to find parking at the Capitol in the afternoon. The Day on the Hill event was a great way to meet Iowa’s legislators and fellow hungers advocates, as well as learn more about how things run at the Capitol.
Submitted by Lauren Attewell, IFBA Policy & Advocacy Intern