By T.R. Edwards, Esq.
Advocacy Director, Hunger Task Force
Dear Editor, We do not ask for help. We do not tell anyone when we struggle. Too often, we refuse to share our pain, struggle, or sorrow until we simply cannot hold it in anymore.
That is, it seems, what it means to be a black person in America. Too often, we are afraid to be perceived as weak, incapable, or unable to make do. And to our credit, just as often, we do make a way. But right now, that way may not be available. Now is the time to do things a little differently.
With food and other prices rising at a rate our country has not seen since the 1970s, it is getting more difficult to “make a way.” In Milwaukee, hunger is a major issue. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2021, the City of Milwaukee had a poverty rate of 24.6 percent, ranking it one of the top 50 U.S. cities with people living below the poverty line. Accordingly, about 1 in 10 seniors are food insecure or going hungry. These seniors do not have access to sufficient food, or access to food of adequate quality, to meet their basic needs. Similarly, and unfortunately, 1 in 4 children are also enduring hunger and insecurity. It is not just our elders and our babies struggling; we are all feeling it.
There is help available. One program that can help us subsidize our food budget and reduce food insecurity in our community is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or FoodShare, as we call it, in Wisconsin. With the Pandemic Public Health Emergency still in effect, eligible individuals could receive up to an extra $250 per month to buy food. This is a significant increase from the $20 per month seniors were receiving pre-pandemic. A family of four could add an extra $835 a month to their budget. With FoodShare, you are eligible for other support, including discounts on cell phone service, internet access, and you could even get help to buy a computer or tablet. Your children also become categorically eligible for free breakfast and lunch at school.
The pandemic era boosts to FoodShare, and other programs have helped many in our community bridge the gap between providing adequate healthy meals versus skipping meals to maintain their household budget. With FoodShare set to scale back in the new year, the time is now to get the support that you are entitled to and ensure you and your family do not continue to struggle to “make a way.”