I am the 1 in 8

susan-cover-webI am the 1 in 8

Susan Johnson

It’s hard to imagine that 1-in-8 people in Southwest Virginia are at risk of going hungry. “Most people equate it with a homeless person,” says Susan Johnson, a volunteer at God’s Grace Food Pantry in Marion, Va., “but in actuality, it’s not that. A lot of people that go hungry are the people struggling to pay their bills who have to choose between food and medicine, or food and heat.”

Susan, her husband, and their daughter know this from personal experience. A cold winter in a poorly insulated rental house pushed the Johnsons’ electric bill to over $600 a month. “We thought it might have been a mistake,” she says. But even with blankets hung over the doorways and windows covered in plastic, their baseboard heaters could not keep the house or her family warm. “It was a really, really rough winter.”

At the time, Susan was working at Walmart, her husband holding two jobs at Food City and Mid-Mountain food; they couldn’t qualify for SNAP benefits, and yet they didn’t have enough money to both pay their bills and buy the food they needed. They went on a payment plan for their utilities and turned to God’s Grace to supplement their family’s food. Without that assistance, Susan says, “we couldn’t have survived.”

For many families like the Johnsons, the unexpected, even a simple change in the season, can be enough to bring on a crisis. “A lot of people in Southwest Virginia live paycheck-to-paycheck,” Susan says. “They don’t have savings accounts. They don’t have money put away for emergencies. They cash their check on Friday and pay their bills. If something unexpected happens, that money has to come out of wherever else it’s been budgeted.”

And this is why God’s Grace Food Pantry and FASWVA’s other partner feeding programs play such an important role in our communities—to help our friends and neighbors. Now, Susan and her husband volunteer every week, collecting food for the Partner Pick-Up Program. Why?

“I want to give back what was given to me.”