As part of the American Heart Association and Voices for Healthy Kids Farm Day Fly-in, several families from our Family Action Network recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to share their experiences with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with members of Congress. We were thrilled to see so much representation from the Buckeye State and are honored to share some of our family’s thoughts below.
Lori Jarvis, a mother of four girls from Clermont County, explained to Members how access to SNAP has allowed her children to eat a healthy diet. While she’s no stranger to advocacy, she had a great time while in D.C.
“My most memorable moment would have been standing in front of the Capitol building watching a family take a picture. I had been extremely anxious up until that moment. It was at that moment I remembered why I was there. For them, and families like theirs.
Lori previously testified in front of the Ohio House about the importance of prioritizing Ohio’s children and families.
“Advocating on behalf of other families feels natural. The people in my life make it seem like advocating is a big deal but to me, I see something that isn’t right or that can be fixed so I’m speaking up. That’s what my grandmother always told me. Speak up for the wrongs in order to make them right. Can’t fix a problem if you don’t know there is one.”
One thing that surprised Lori about this experience was how many people were aware of her family already.
“It was a proud and humbling experience. Knowing my voice is powerful enough to reach so many people across this great country.”
Lori’s main take-away from this experience is to never give up.
“Keep pushing. Every child in this country deserves to have someone in their corner. To ensure they grow up to reach the stars. To make sure they have every opportunity available to get them there.”
Luz Martinez, a single mother of three from Cuyahoga County, relayed to members that even though she works full time, she relies on the benefits of SNAP to feed her family and that so many others are struggling, just like her family.
“The most memorable experience for me was walking around DC and actually getting to meet the people there. They asked what we doing there and we told them and they thanked us so much for even doing these things.”
Luz is proud to be able to advocate and use her voice to stand up for what she and others need.
“I chose to go on my son’s birthday because I knew what we were set to do will impact every family across the United States. My son was very proud of me for going and I'm very honored that I had the opportunity to do so.”
Luz has confidence that this program can really be strong for generations to come and that sometimes people just need a little help.
“[When I told the Members] that my family of four, even with me working still relies on these benefits, to see the looks on their faces afterward was priceless.”
Christina Hutton, a mother of three from Miami County, shared that if it wasn’t for SNAP, she wouldn’t have been able to afford her youngest child’s formula.
“He was born premature and required a feeding tube for the first three years of his life. He needed a specialty formula, amnio-acid based, and he went through two and a half cans a week. If it wasn’t for SNAP, he would not have had his formula.” Christina valued meeting advocates from all over that had similar stories and struggles.
“It gives you a sense of strength knowing you’re not alone. When my youngest was in the hospital, I felt alone and scared. I reached out to other parents who had been through the same and they helped advocate for me and my son. It was amazing and if it wasn’t for the advocacy of these strangers, I don’t know where me or my son would be. I feel grateful that I have the privilege to not only advocate for myself but for other families.”
Christina was most surprised by how “regular” legislators are.
“It reminded me of the magazine column talking about how celebrities are just like us. Each legislator had their own unique story of why the SNAP program was important to them. It helped bridge our stories together and get their commitment of support.”
Following this experience, Christina has a greater appreciation for advocacy as a human right.
“We all deserve to have our basic needs met. My key takeaway is that as long as corporations use lobbyists our communities will need advocates.
Alecia Murray, a mother of four from Allen County, thought her meetings went very well.
“I was able to share how incredibly beneficial the EBT program was for my family when my husband unexpectedly lost his job. It was a devastating time with so many worries, but at least we were able to utilize this extremely beneficial program to keep my family healthy and focused. I stressed how important it is for all people to have this safety net in case they unexpectedly come upon a devastating situation.”
Alecia was appreciative of being able to represent others and to advocate effectively for families that are and could possibly fall upon rough times.
“It always makes me so nervous to go in and speak in meetings, but I'm always surprised at how easy it is to advocate for something you feel so passionately and strongly about.”
While Alecia has advocated on behalf of early education issues before, she found it enlightening to think of how so many issues are interconnected.
“[It] makes these advocating efforts ever so much more beneficial for so many like-minded people and organizations.”
Thanks to these incredible families for their advocacy efforts!