—Michele Calderon Photography
Mother of three
“It helped me. It really, really helped me.”
Janetlynn arrived in Kingston in August of 2015, with her two youngest children in tow. Newly separated from her husband, she left her home in Pennsylvania to find an area where she could get quality care for her son, who has multiple disabilities. As a woman who is HIV-positive, she was also in need of specialized medical care.
The family was living mainly on Janetlynn’s Social Security Disability income, which was enough to disqualify them from living in a shelter, but barely enough on which to survive.
They found temporary housing in a motel room. To get enough to eat, they frequented a soup kitchen and food pantry, and ate a lot of low-cost microwave meals, a diet that took a toll on their health.
Janetlynn went to Hudson Valley Community Services for assistance, and found she qualified for SNAP benefits. The monthly supplement, formerly known as food stamps, helped her to buy nutritious food for her family.
“I was able to get food like sandwich meat. I was able to get fruits and vegetables,” she said.
On weekends, when the price of the motel room increased, the family traveled to New York City to stay with Janetlynn’s mother. There, they had access to a stove, so Janetlynn used her SNAP benefits to purchase ingredients for home-cooked meals that sustained the family during the week.
With consistent access to nutritious food, she saw her family’s health change for the better.
“I saw a big difference in my son’s attitude, in his behavior,” she said. ”Before, he acted out because I didn’t have enough good food for him. Now, he had rice, he had beans, he had vegetables and all of the good stuff.”
Eating healthier food helped Janetlynn’s elevated blood sugar level to subside.
The assistance she received from SNAP also helped to give her a feeling of independence.
“I could pay my bills and get myself together and I didn’t have to worry about, ‘Am I going to buy shoes for my kids or am I going to give them food to eat?’ I didn’t have to make that choice.”
In June of 2016, Janetlynn secured a job at Hudson Valley Community Services as a peer navigator who counsels people with HIV. She is working on her bachelor’s degree in human services and hopes to eventually get a law degree as well. Her goal is to be an advocate for people who have been victims of discrimination.
She and her children now live in an apartment and have transitioned off of SNAP. She is thankful for the assistance the program provided.
“It helped me. It really, really helped me,” she said.
When Janetlyn needed SNAP, it was there for her.
Watch the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s video of her story: