Hunger at Home
Barbie Izquierdo is a young mother who has found the task of feeding her children challenging. Having lost her job during the recession, she was often unable to buy enough food for her daughter, son, and herself. Looking back on the hardest days, Barbie recalls thinking, I literally have nothing left. What do I give them? Some days, Barbie skipped meals to make sure that her children ate.
"I feel like America has this huge stigma of how families are supposed to eat together at a table," Barbie says, "but they don't talk about what it takes to get you there or what's there when you're actually at the table."
In fact, the tables of young families are most often the ones standing bare. Households with children are twice as likely to experience food insecurity, meaning that the family does not know how to find its next meal. That's nearly 17 million children in the United States. Having gone hungry many days as a child, Barbie was determined that her children would not be caught in the hunger and poverty cycle.
As the valedictorian of her high school, Barbie dreamed of going to college and earning a degree in criminal justice so that she could earn a decent salary. But first she had to figure out how to keep her children fed. The seemingly simple act of providing food was a stressful struggle —jobs are hard to find in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.
Eventually, Barbie qualified for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), which provided some relief. But finding healthy and affordable food on a slim budget is its own challenge for those who live in poor neighborhoods. Barbie had to take two buses and travel an hour to reach a decent grocery store. The food she was able to buy with her SNAP benefits usually lasted only three weeks.
"It gets tiring," says Barbie.
Barbie Izquierdo is one of the people profiled in the new documentary A Place at the Table, coming to theaters, iTunes, and on-demand on March 1, coinciding with Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters, also called "A Place at the Table." For more information, visit the Offering of Letters webpage: www.bread.org/ol.