Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

How WIC Helped Tara Marks Get to Law School


Tara Marks, a Bread activist from Pittsburgh, once used WIC and SNAP benefits. She is currently in law school and gave testimony to the Senate Budget Committee on Feb. 13, 2013. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Today, Tara Marks is in law school—and yesterday she told members of the Senate Budget Committee that her journey from poverty to an advanced degree program was possible thanks to WIC and other similar federal programs.

Many of you remember Tara as the face of the 2012 Offering of Letters video "A Hunger for Advocacy." Her story of poverty so extreme that she skipped meals to provide enough for her son is an inspiration for many advocates at Bread for the World. Pell grants, WIC, and SNAP were the stepping stones that helped Tara escape poverty.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) invited Tara to give testimony. Sen. Murray has said that budgets "...are about the families across America whose lives will be impacted by the decisions we make. They are about their jobs, their children, and their future, and we owe it to them to make sure they have a voice in this process—and that their values and perspectives are heard.”

Tara’s journey plainly shows that budget discussions are about more than numbers—fiscal decisions have real consequences.

For Tara, a budget that funded domestic nutrition programs created a path out of hunger and poverty for her and her son, Nathan. During her testimony, Tara noted that when she was hungry, abundance surrounded her. “This was not a question of availability of food, but a question of affording it. I did not live in a food desert; I lived in a food mirage. I had many grocery stores around me, but I could not afford to go in and shop.”

She passed out from hunger before finally applying for SNAP (formerly food stamps), which gave her access to adequate food.  Food assistance alone did not help Tara move up the ladder of prosperity, but it gave her the stability to get the education that did.

Stories like Tara's and Nathan's not only humanize hunger and poverty, but serve to remind our members of Congress that decisions made today will affect lives tomorrow.  When Murray asked Tara where she thought she would be today were it not for those federal programs, she replied, “I would still be in poverty.”

In a continued effort to give families across the country a place at the budget negotiation table, Murray offers an online platform that allows members of the public to share their stories and ideas. Add your voice to the existing 2,000 submissions.

Today, one of the programs that provided critical assistance to Tara and Nathan—WIC—is in danger.  If the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester are allowed to go forward in the next couple of days, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that roughly 600,000 infants, children, and expectant moms will be without this vital assistance.  Their futures may well depend on your hunger for advocacy.  Call your member of Congress at 1-800-826-3688 and tell them that cutting programs that effectively combat hunger and poverty will not solve our country’s fiscal problems.

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.


« Voices of Hunger: "I Will Be Forever Grateful" Lenten Reflections: Our Journey is the Destination »


What a great story! WIC is not about giving people a handout, but giving people a hand-up so that we can get out of dire circumstances. I greatly admire those who see such programs as a blessing and opportunity to better themselves rather than those who are content to remain on such programs forever.

I was not aware of the cuts that are being considered. Thank you for pointing them out. Are these general cuts to the program or specific cuts to specific aspects of the program? I know WIC was "cut" a couple years ago simply because there was an excess in the budget, but no potential participants were turned away in the process.

Thank you for sharing your story! It is a vivid reminder of how any one of us might need a hand-up and how it has been one of our traditions to be sure that hand-up is available!

I am so glad that WIC were able to help you get into Law school. Getting into law can be difficult and requires you to have a lot of patients and knowledge. Well done and thank you for the post.

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