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I Called My Member to Stand Up for Grandmother
Why did I call my Congresswoman about endangered nutrition programs like SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps)? Why did I tell her legislative assistant a bit of my own family’s history?
Because of my grandmother. Because of my father. Because of hunger’s toll. Because of the lost potential in children who went to work fulltime at 14 years old.
My grandfather’s death left my grandmother as the sole provider for their four children, ages 1 to 7. She moved from a house to an apartment; made and remade their clothes; took in sewing; kept the gas low; did others’ housework; and scraped the bottom of every barrel. Her own mother was also widowed young and survived by selling soap from door to door. Now elderly and disabled, she moved in with her daughter (my grandmother) and the children.
At the time, there were no social safety nets, and no nutrition programs. As a little boy, my father especially hated being sent to beg a soup bone from the local butcher, but also held his breath, hoping the butcher would leave some shreds of meat on the bone.
The boys delivered newspapers. During summers they worked in a furniture factory from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week. The girls helped their mother with sewing jobs. Nobody complained.
Uncle Jack and Daddy left school to work fulltime after eighth grade. Grandmother anguished, but their jobs were necessary for feeding the family.
Marginal survival, lost human potential.
Can I be silent about national budgeting that makes nutrition a low priority? Can our nation tell families just to put a little more water in the soup? If I didn’t try to maintain the nutritional safety net, I wouldn’t be able to face my grandmother’s spirit.
I had a chance to stand up for her, and I made a phone call.
Mary Cabrini-Durkin is a Bread activist from Cincinnati, OH.
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