SNAP spotlight on Ricky Belgarde
Ricky Belgarde grew up watching his parents skip meals so their four children could eat. There were even times he skipped meals himself when not enough food was available.
The struggles have shaped Ricky’s thoughts on food assistance today.
Growing up in Minot, N.D., Ricky and his family have spent the majority of their lives on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Like Ricky, his parents are disabled and the program has offered them a consistent safety net during difficult times.
“There were times I cried for my family because my dad and mom tried so hard,” Ricky said. “Not having any money for their kids to have food… If it wasn’t for food stamps, we could have starved easily. There were times when my family couldn’t even celebrate birthdays because we didn’t have anything.”
Now 27 years old and living on his own in Fargo, N.D., unfortunately the difficult times surrounding hunger are still a concern for Ricky and for reasons outside of his control.
A number of years ago, when working at McDonald’s, he went to sit down. He fell from his chair and woke up in a coma three weeks later. He was diagnosed with epilepsy that now prevents him from both driving and working. He receives SNAP benefits along with Social Security that are his primary means to get him to the end of each month.
Understanding his difficult situation and all the SNAP program has meant to he and his family, Ricky is passionate about stopping lawmakers from making any cuts to the program.
“People could die physically without food,” he said. “There are families that are disabled that are low income and there are a lot of people that are low income that rely on you to do your job. We put you in an office to be on our side. You are just going to cut that when you probably have never gone a day without worrying about it (food). There are days my family has gone worrying about it. I don’t want my kids to grow up having to worry about it.”
For Ricky and his family, the SNAP benefits they have received are more than just a benefit. They are a way of life.