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Children & Family Services: Could you walk a mile in their shoes?

By Ashley Dooley Wohlgemuth

By Ashley Dooley Wohlgemuth

Many SNAP recipient families will be walking into a hidden emergency inadvertently spawned by government good intentions

Click here to read the entire January 2019 newsletter

It’s an increasingly heavy load

You’ve probably heard the proverb, “if you walk a mile in their shoes.” Some credit this to be a Native American expression, while others trace its origin to the famous poem Judge Softly, written by Mary Lathrap in 1895. A temperance reformer, poet and licensed preacher, among other things, Lathrap wrote:

Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

If you walked a mile in the shoes of a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient today, this is what you would encounter:

A mother with three children would normally receive $387 per month. This equates to $12.90 per day or $1.07 per person, per meal. Obviously, this limits her choice of foods. Meals often consist of spaghetti, canned meats, frozen foods and boxed meals such as macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper. Rarely would she have fresh fruits or vegetables. This, of course, is not enough. So, she makes regular trips to food pantries, asks for assistance from her church or social service agencies, gets fast food because it’s cheap, or “borrows” food stamps from someone she knows. In 2018, 86 percent of the people we saw at Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph were single, separated, divorced or widowed women, with nearly half having children in the household.

Due to the recent government shutdown, federal agencies decided to award February SNAP benefits early, in an attempt to ensure families wouldn’t go hungry during the hiatus. That same mother of three suddenly received a January payment of $774 – the equivalent of two months. Since she didn’t recall receiving a letter stating the amount was going to increase, she assumed this was her new total and decided to celebrate by buying premade frozen meals and a roast. She also splurged on more snacks and junk food, knowing how much her children love to indulge.

Although the government’s step might have been taken with the best of intentions, that $774 needed to be spread out over two months. Instead, this mother of three now heads into February with no SNAP benefits for the month. Any short-lived celebration has propelled her family into crisis.

If this short journey in the shoes of many low-income families on SNAP has made you consider their pain, please consider dropping off food donations Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at our offices located at 4001 Blue Parkway in Kansas City, or 1123 South 10th Street in St. Joseph.

Ashley Dooley Wohlgemuth
Children and Family Services Director


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