Hi friends! I'm back with the second installment of the Hunger & Hope series with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and today we're hearing from Jackie Leung. Jackie speaks about learning to let go of the shame that inevitably creeps in when we ask for help. As a single mother living on a student budget, Jackie was hesitant to accept support from the resources (SNAP, WIC and the food bank) that were available to her.
How relateable is her story? I may not have experienced these feelings as they relate to hunger, but I have ABSOLUTELY been in a place when I've run out of options but feel too stubborn or prideful to ask for help. And when I do this, I not only miss out on the actual assistance (which I need), I ALSO miss out on something really beautiful and transformative — allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to let another human offer me love, time, resources and generosity. This type of love benefits both the giver and the receiver ... and I think the world needs a little more of that right now.
My hope is that by reading Jackie's story, we can diminish the stigma around asking for help. Because sometimes we can't do it all on our own.
I understand the shame and relief of dealing with hunger. When I was a single parent and full time student, I struggled to ensure there was enough food. I lived on a student budget, yet I was also a parent to a 3 year old. For a time, I felt ashamed of using SNAP, WIC, and the food bank because of my upbringing. The first few times I used my SNAP or WIC card, I felt my face go red with shame. After sometime, I realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of, and if someone judged me for using either resource, it showed more about their character than about mine.
The fear of stigma or being shamed by my family or from society finally went away and I realized I had to do what was best for me and for her. I did not want her to see me struggling to feed her, and thankfully, she never saw what I offered as a failure on my part. I did take her to the food bank occasionally, so she was aware of the facilities, yet I did not explain to her fully what we did there other than that we were grocery shopping for food. Now she is old enough to understand there is hunger in the world and that there are resources available to people regardless of their backgrounds and there is nothing to be ashamed of to use the resources available.
When I was a student, I encountered other student parents who struggled with providing food for their children. Many were unaware of resources unavailable to them or felt ashamed to utilize resources believing that the resources were better served for folks who struggled harder than they/we did. I talked about the resources often; during meetings, during one-on-one mentoring sessions, and was active in posting such information on the various social media groups we were connected through. I had folks on multiple occasions private message me later, thanking me for the information.
I want to reach out to folks within the community who struggle with access to food. I specifically want to reach out to single parents, or single parents who are/were full time students and starting their careers. I understand many of the struggles they experience, and while their story may be different, in the end, my goal is to ensure that they are aware of resources available to them so that they can make informed choices that best serve them and their families.
Love & Respect,