Meet Vanessa Loucky. Vanessa is working internationally on a personal research project on intentional mindfulness-based communities and has been volunteering with refugees in Greece for more than three months. She relied on CalFresh/SNAP at two points in her life to support her health, the financial well being of her family, and her ability to find meaningful employment.
At what point in your life did you receive CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) and why?
I received food stamps at two different periods in my life. The first time was while I was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer then leader for two years. The second time was after I moved back to the United States after living in Thailand where I was volunteering and working for a foundation providing basic needs to people in the region. During the nearly three years I lived in Thailand, I had been working very hard for very little income and came home with volunteer burnout and some health challenges. I applied for the program to help subsidize my limited resources while I recovered physically and emotionally, and so I didn’t put an additional financial strain on my family.
How long were you/have you been on CalFresh?
I was on food stamps for 2 years during my time as an AmeriCorps VISTA and another year and a half during my transition from working in Thailand.
How did CalFresh/SNAP help you in your time of need?
Being on food assistance was an enormous help to me. I sometimes don’t know how to express what it has meant to me or how grateful I am to have used it. These were times when I had very limited resources/income after college and during my service to America in the AmeriCorps program and later after pursuing service and volunteerism abroad in Thailand. During these two separate periods in my life, food stamps allowed me to pursue service-based outreach, volunteerism and to do an unpaid internship in my field of interest to gain more experience and skills. I would have had more personal challenges, stress and anxiety related to my food needs had I not received this critical assistance.
How did receiving food assistance make you feel?
I often felt guilty that I should not be receiving this assistance or that I wasn’t ‘poor’ enough or in enough ‘need’ to receive it. I also felt bad at times for receiving this kind of assistance, like I didn’t deserve it. I remember having a conversation with my Mom about this. She explained that I had put lots of my own hard earned money towards this kind of assistance when I worked and paid taxes for so many years during and after college and that it was absolutely okay to use something I had helped contribute to in a time of need.
How would you have (or did you) made ends meet without CalFresh?
I would not have been as nutritionally nourished as I was without food stamps. I would have had to dip more into my extremely limited savings. I may have also had to ask my parents or other family members for support which would have been difficult or put a strain on our relationship. I also would have made use of food bank programs or other meal services available.
Did you use any other food assistance programs in addition to CalFresh (i.e. free or reduced priced school meals, pantries, meal delivery services, etc.)?
I went to food banks a lot.
What are you most proud of in your life? Or what are your dreams for the future?
I’m most proud of pursuing the subjects I really wanted to in college rather than just getting a degree that that looked good on paper. I studied the things I felt most passionate about and I’m really proud of myself for that.
I am also so proud of myself for pursuing my own personal healing, growth and development throughout my post-college life including various counseling and other healing modalities.
My dreams for the future are to live in a more self-sufficient mindfulness based community that has community service and outreach as a core value and practice. I also dream to live in a place where I can grow some of my own produce.
What do you want people to know about food assistance programs like CalFresh?
I would like people to know what a tremendous help this program can be for so many people at different stages in their life and to trust that for so many people this can be a stepping-stone to help people find their way or next opportunity or chapter in their lives. I wholeheartedly believe that food should be viewed as a basic human right where every person should have access to healthy and nutritious food and shouldn’t be limited to people based on income or citizenship or qualified need.