Hunger Hides in the Suburbs
Heidi and Dennis Groess live in a modest split-level home in the suburb of Cottage Grove, Minn. They have four children. Cole loves to play basketball. Lily’s game is creative writing and Simon enjoys flag football. Liv, the youngest, likes playing with her Barbie dolls, but wants to try gymnastics.
Dennis is a production manager at a local church. Heidi worked full-time for many years until a health crisis and the cost of childcare led her to become a stay-at-home mom.
The Groess’ are a hard-working, middle-class family who enjoy trips to the park, watching their children play sports and volunteering at their church and Second Harvest Heartland. They also happen to shop at the Friends in Need Food Shelf and have used the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).
“Our involvement in food assistance programs began out of a rare necessity to bring nutritious food into our home, to feed our family with very limited funds,” Heidi said. “Our grocery budget was slashed, and we needed to do something.”
Uncovering Hunger, Unleashing Hope
Heidi’s situation is not unique. Many working families find themselves in need of food assistance during the rough patches in their lives. Heidi is open about her family’s experience shopping at food shelves and using SNAP because she wants to remove the stigma attached to needing help.
“No one chooses to be hungry,” she said. “But people need to be aware of the programs that are in their neighborhoods. We have been blessed with a large network of family and friends, so we will never know the true food insecurity that others who may feel alone experience.”
Although Heidi and her family no longer use SNAP, they still shop at the food shelf when money is tight.
“Our food situation may look vastly different than our neighbors’, for better or for worse,” she said. “But the more we talk openly about hunger, the less, I hope, it causes insecurity and the more it empowers people to pool resources and provide for their families.”
Hunger takes away hope for far too many families and puts the 1 in 8 children who go hungry at risk for developmental problems, malnutrition and obesity. SNAP gives back that hope.
As you give thanks this holiday season, remember to join Heidi and her family in fighting hunger. Give a gift of time, money or conversation to help fill every table.