A Refugee Learns about SNAP


July 11, 2019 By: Abigail Reeth Category: Hunger Stories

When Nika first arrived in the United States more than two years ago, she felt overwhelmed. As a refugee from Ukraine, she was trying to learn a new language, become accustomed to unfamiliar food and absorb everything she could about her new home. “Everything was new,” Nika recalled.

Nika’s husband found a job at a factory soon after they moved and Nika stayed home to care for their children and work on learning English. Nika and her husband did their best to support their growing family on a single income, but they needed help. “We were really struggling,” Nika remembers. They found that help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). “Without SNAP, it would be much harder for us,” Nika explained.

Life with SNAP

Now, with food assistance, Nika said, “My mind doesn’t worry anymore.” Nika can be sure that her two young children will have enough to eat every day. “I can buy what I really need for our family,” she explained.

Thanks to SNAP and Second Harvest Heartland, Nika can access a greater variety of healthy, familiar foods. “It is so good to buy at the farmers’ market,” she said. She is even able to shop at a Russian grocery store to get foods she remembers from Ukraine. “[You] can buy what you love that is very healthy, tasty, and brings you joy.”

Nika is grateful for American food assistance programs like SNAP. “In Ukraine, there is no support as you have in America,” Nika said. “In Ukraine, it is most like ‘help yourself.’” But in the United States, Nika has learned “Never be shy to ask for help.” She shared, “Sometimes it was really hard, but I learned that we have to ask.”

Looking to the Future

Now that Nika is confident her family will have enough to eat, she can begin to focus on her future. She hopes to get a driver’s license soon, and she is taking English language classes, so she will be prepared to attend college, find a job and fully participate in American life. “We’re excited,” she said. “Just step by step you will achieve what you go for.”

Nika also plans to tell other refugees about SNAP—just like a Second Harvest Heartland SNAP outreach specialist explained the program to her. “I can help other people who maybe come to this country and do not know, so I can tell them.”

Nika has a message she wants to share with those facing food insecurity: “You are not alone.”

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