In summer 2018, StoryCorps recorded 49 conversations as part of a project focused on changing the the narrative about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the program formerly known as food stamps. We recorded conversations between close to 100 participants, most of whom were SNAP beneficiaries, in partnership with 15 community-based organizations in Alabama, Texas, Michigan, and Kansas. Made possible with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the project also aimed to emphasize the critical support SNAP provides for children and families across the country.
In Alabama, Texas, Michigan, and Kansas, StoryCorps’ participants talked about what compelled them to apply for SNAP and how the program has improved their lives. In the stories we share below, you’ll hear from participants who received SNAP benefits when they lost a job, required emergency surgery, or needed to purchase expensive, allergy-friendly food. SNAP enabled these folks to cover gaps in income and buy affordable, nutritious food at local markets, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets.
Individuals with whom we recorded asserted that SNAP had inspired them to become food justice activists. SNAP beneficiaries described going on to earn multiple degrees and passing forward the benefit as mentors in their own communities. Farmers who accept SNAP spoke about finding fulfillment in serving communities in health crises and food deserts, areas in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. SNAP allies described changing their minds about the value of the program when they connected with customers who lived plate to plate.
Below, you’ll also hear from participants who shared stories of confrontations — at the grocery store and at the Health department — in which members of their own communities questioned their motives in accessing these benefits. These folks’ experiences demonstrate that negative stereotypes long associated with food stamps persist with SNAP. Participants described the difficulty of accepting what is still perceived as a handout rather than a “hand-up.”
You can listen to some of the stories we recorded below, and learn more here at the home of the project, the State of Obesity.
Jeremy Huffman and Adam Ingrao
“It’s not just about access to food; it’s about access to hope.”
Fellow veterans and friends talk about transitioning from the military to their roles as farmers and healthy food advocates supporting families who participate in SNAP.
Emily and Tim Brown
“One thing I feel I’ve learned in life over the long run is that you never know what a day may bring.”
Husband and wife Tim and Emily Brown recall how SNAP helped their family get through a difficult time after Tim lost his job.
Jennifer Wells-Marshall and Helen Jones
“I worked every single day of the week, but it wasn’t enough.”
Dr. Jennifer Wells-Marshall tells her friend and colleague, Helen Jones, about when she received SNAP benefits for a period of time when her daughter was young before going on to get her Ph.D.
Max Gage and Catherine Gage
“It’s been huge to actually see firsthand what food does to us and our health, to see how it can turn your life around.”
Catherine and her 16-year-old son Max talk about the importance of having access to food and how SNAP helps their family get the nutrition they need.
Kolia Souza and Brian Johnson
“Having those benefits was my way out and my way to make a better life for myself and my daughters.”
Kolia Souza reflects on how SNAP enabled her to get back on her feet after leaving an abusive relationship.
Andrika Harmon and Kristi Gay
“I had to turn around to her and explain, look, this is what is going on in my life.”
Andrika Harmon talks with Kristi Gay, her nurse home visitor, about how SNAP helps her buy healthy food to support her young family while she is working and finishing college.