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Michael and Melissa were having to make tough choices back in 2011. Melissa was in school full-time and between the two of them they were working three jobs, but were still struggling to pay the rent, pay utilities, and pay for food.

“We tried to resist it as much as we could. We didn’t want to pursue food stamps, but after a while we looked into the option of going onto the SNAP program,” said Michael. “I remember the day we got approved for them actually,” said Melissa.“We were waiting to hear back from them and going over our electric bill and we said ok how long do we have before our electric will get turned off and how much food do we have. Just then they called and told us we had been approved for emergency benefits. It was such a sense of relief.”

The couple received $200 a month for the both of them to purchase groceries, and while they were stretched thin with that amount, Melissa’s life experiences held her back from the couple visiting pantries.

“I had gone to pantries as a teenager when I still lived with my mother, and I had to go by myself because my mother worked full-time,” said Melissa. “I think for me it was the stigma, because I remember those experiences. I felt like we didn’t really need it, I felt undeserving.” “I think when I look back on it we probably did need to go to a pantry,” Michael added.

They were only on SNAP benefits for 11 months and now are back on their feet with Michael serving as the morning radio show host at WTIM in Taylorville and Melissa as a counselor.

While their time on SNAP benefits did not last long, making tough choices between food and other necessities is something Melissa has been faced with much of her life. She has now broken the cycle of poverty, and wants people to know one thing about children growing up in poverty. “They are not less capable, they are not less intelligent or hardworking.

A lot of times it’s just opportunity and I was fortunate that I was presented with opportunity to put myself through school and a partner who supported me. Money is the only difference when it comes to kids who need food.”