Lawrence Strickland remembers what it was like to be a hungry child in Tampa.
“You do whatever it takes to eat,” he told me. “Whether it’s knocking on a neighbor’s door asking for a pack of chicken, or waking up early in the morning at 9 o’clock or 8 o’clock and going through the phone book list of churches at 9 years old. I had to explain to them our situation and hopefully get assistance.” Strickland’s family hadn’t always been in need of the kindness of strangers. But when his mother went through a bad breakup and, as a result, became addicted to crack cocaine, “we went from stable housing to a trailer with roaches in neighborhoods that we weren’t familiar with.”
When Strickland became an adult, he thought he’d beaten the hunger curse: he had a good job as a corporate trainer, was married to a woman with a position at a local uniform company, and was, he thought, secure. But then he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and was in and out of hospitals so often that his employer let him go. To make matters worse, Strickland’s wife lost her job when the uniform company relocated to Missouri. Once again, hunger was a part of his life, and though he and his family received SNAP assistance from the government — commonly referred to as food stamps — the allotment for a family of four, of about $10 a day, didn’t meet their most basic needs.
So they learned to make do. “We’re okay with food most of the time,” Strickland told me. “We don’t really have too many issues with that, ’cause we eat within our food stamp assistance. It runs out but we become pretty creative with things. You have to put bread and water together, see what it makes. You have to take powdered milk and eat a potato.”
Fortunately for the Strickland family, their pastor has given them a place to live, and Metropolitan Ministries, the extraordinary anti-poverty organization led by Tim Marks and headquartered in downtown Tampa, has helped them with food, daycare, and other necessities.
But without MetroMin, it’s not clear how this family could sustain itself. That $10 a day is all the government is offering.