Advocacy in Action: How WIC Got Tara Marks to Law School
Advocacy in Action
Today, Tara Marks is in law school — and on Feb. 13 she told members of the Senate Budget Committee that her journey from poverty to an advanced degree program was possible thanks to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and other federal programs.
You may remember Tara as the face of the 2012 Offering of Letters video "A Hunger for Advocacy." At one point, her poverty was so extreme that she skipped meals to be able to feed her son, Nathan. Pell grants, WIC, and SNAP were the stepping stones that helped Tara escape poverty.
Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) invited Tara to give testimony. Sen. Murray has said that budgets "are about the families across America whose lives will be impacted by the decisions we make. They are about their jobs, their children, and their future, and we owe it to them to make sure they have a voice in this process — and that their values and perspectives are heard."
Tara's journey plainly shows that budget discussions are about more than numbers — fiscal decisions have real consequences.
For Tara, a budget that funded domestic nutrition programs created a path out of hunger and poverty for her family. During her testimony, Tara noted that when she was hungry, abundance surrounded her. "This was not a question of availability of food, but a question of affording it. I did not live in a food desert; I lived in a food mirage. I had many grocery stores around me, but I could not afford to go in and shop."
She finally applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), after passing out from hunger. Food assistance alone did not help Tara move up the ladder of prosperity, but it gave her the stability to focus on her education.
Stories like Tara's and Nathan's not only humanize hunger and poverty, but serve to remind our members of Congress that decisions made today will affect lives tomorrow. When Murray asked Tara where she thought she would be today were it not for those federal programs, she replied, "I would still be in poverty."
Today, WIC, one of the programs that provided critical assistance to Tara and Nathan, is in danger. If the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration go forward, roughly 600,000 infants, children, and expectant moms will be without this vital assistance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Photo caption: Tara Marks, a Bread activist from Pittsburgh, once received WIC and SNAP benefits. She is currently in law school and gave testimony to the Senate Budget Committee on Feb. 13, 2013. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World