Today, Joeanna Mouzon is a flourishing 10-year-old. She does well in school. She wants to become a chef.
But around nine years ago, Joeanna, my daughter, had a condition that doctors call "failure to thrive." This means she was not growing well and was malnourished in a way that affected her physical and cognitive development. Even with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps), I was having trouble feeding her. But it helped.
That's why I believe that President Trump's budget is absurd. Though I want to ignore it, I can't let this one pass. It's personal, and it's an act of violence toward America's children.
The proposed budget doesn't just gut health care for the sick and vulnerable, it also rips the guts out of SNAP. All that is being offered in return is an offensive replacement — food in a box.
SNAP has decades of bipartisan support because it's a strong, effective program. It promotes health and well-being, facilitates healthy eating, keeps grocery stores and farmers' markets open, generates jobs, and stimulates the economy.
For every dollar spent, $1.74 is generated in the local economy. It's an economic engine for the United States, and it's good public health.
I grew up as a hungry kid, and it was traumatic. I know that any cut like this will only traumatize people further.
And I know what it's like to have your benefits pulled out from under you, just as this budget proposes. Joeanna was sick but surviving when we had SNAP. But things got much worse when we were cut off of SNAP after my husband's salary increased just enough to make us ineligible.
When I lost those SNAP dollars, I relied on cheap foods high in salt and sugar, and it made my daughter's health worse. It meant more trauma for both of us, and if she hadn't had access to doctors, nurses, and social workers, I think Joeanna might still be struggling.
Today, I am a member of Witnesses to Hunger. We're an anti-poverty advocacy group formed by Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health. I've worked with the center's founder, Mariana Chilton, who also runs a research study called Children's HealthWatch, which has connected with more than 10,000 Philadelphia families.
Through that research, I know that many families have stories like mine. And many suffer without anyone knowing.
So, as a witness, I have to speak out. I know what it's like when you lose the benefits that help put food on the table; I've seen what happened to my amazing daughter.
When we talked about the White House's proposal, Mariana told me, "This flies in the face of science, rational thinking, and people's experience. It's just a sick joke that tries to shame millions of people."
That's why I have to speak out. I will not be shamed. I am a survivor, and so is my daughter. She wants to be a chef.
And I will not let an ignorant, cruel budget get in her way. Neither should you.
Sherita Mouzon is a member of Witnesses to Hunger, a program in the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health's Center for Hunger-Free Communities.