Moving America Forward

What Happened When This Mom Came Up Short on Her Grocery Bill Will Give You Hope

April 17, 2014
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What Happened When This Mom Came Up Short on Her Grocery Bill Will Give You Hope
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Assistance that totaled less than $20 made a significant difference in Andrea Gardner's life.

Andrea Gardner, a mom with five kids, was struggling to make ends meet after her husband was laid off. Like many Americans, she relies on food stamps to help put meals on the table.

Out grocery shopping one day, Andrea found herself unable to pay her $17.38 bill because the store’s EBT machine (which is used to deduct money out of a person’s welfare benefits account) wasn’t working, and she didn’t have any other form of cash on her. That’s when a perfect stranger standing behind her stepped in and paid off the entire tab.

Andrea wrote about this experience in a touching blog post titled “To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store” published by the Huffington Post.

“You didn’t judge me. You didn’t snarl ‘Maybe you should have less kids.’ You didn’t say ‘Well, get a job and learn to support yourself.’ You didn’t look away in embarrassment or shame for me. You didn’t make any assumptions at all.”

MORE: North Carolina’s Food Stamp Crisis Is Nearly Resolved, But It’s Not Too Late to Help

“What you did was you paid that $17.38 grocery bill for us. You gave my kids bananas, yogurt, apple juice, cheese sticks, and a peach ice tea for me; a rare treat and splurge. You let me hug you and promise through my tears that I WILL pay this forward. I WILL pay someone’s grocery bill for them. That $17.38 may not have been a lot for you, but it was priceless to us. In the car my kids couldn’t stop gushing about you; our ‘angel in disguise.’ They prayed for you. They prayed you would be blessed. You restored some of our lost faith. One simple and small action changed our lives. You probably have forgotten about us by now, but we haven’t forgotten about you. You will forever be a part of us even though we don’t even know your name.”

Andrea’s story is a sobering reminder that this could be happening in your own neighborhood grocery store. In a recent article, Slate reported that 1 in 7 of Americans are on food stamps. And it’s not just people who are chronically unemployed who need a little help. Slate also reports that the fastest-growing group of people who need assistance are actually people with jobs and work all year round.

Times are tough for millions of people across the country. But it’s stories like these that show how ordinary people can play a big part in making sure families like Andrea’s don’t go hungry.

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