You may think you know what food insecurity looks like, but you haven't met this family.
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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Jillian Hollingsworth paid a steep price to stay home while her children were young.

With no maternity leave plan at her job in South Carolina and the high cost of daycare, she had quit to stay home to take care of her babies. But, that job had provided health insurance for her whole family, so her husband, Wesley, found a new state government job that had health benefits. The only problem? It paid about half of what his previous job had, leaving them in a tough situation.

“Our financial situation just nose-dived,” says Hollingsworth.


“We were struggling. I mean, we had a mortgage, car payments, and student loans,” she continues.

But she knew the cost of daycare was too high (it would've sapped all the extra income she could have earned working) and she wanted to be there for her kids.

Photo via istock.

She wanted to be home with her children because she knew how important bonding with a parent can be for their development.

But after their second child was born, the couple learned they qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

For more than 50 years, SNAP has offered nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income families. It’s the largest national program to provide families support to put food on the table when they need  it most.  

Benefits used to come in the form of food stamps, but after 2004, recipients in all states could use an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card as part of this program. It looks just like a credit/debit card, which reduces fraud and provides more dignity and convenience to those it helps.

Jillian and Wesley were both college graduates, and had maintained regular employment, but they just couldn’t make ends meet after they had children.

Image via iStock.

“I don’t think anyone in our family has ever been on food assistance, but it’s not something we were ashamed of,” says Hollingsworth. “We were so thankful that program existed to help us.”

About 34% of South Carolina’s children received SNAP benefits in 2015, according to a 2017 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Nationwide, in a typical month, SNAP helps feed 20 million children.

That’s one in four children in the United States.

SNAP is helping stabilize food-insecure households, which gives kids a better shot at a healthy, happy life. Food insecurity is about more than being hungry. Malnourishment can affect not only a child’s health, but school performance and behavior. That, in turn, can alter their chance at success later in life.

But, just by eating healthy, regular meals made possible by SNAP, kids are getting sick less often and doing better in school. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP participation can lead to gains in reading and math skills among elementary school children, especially young girls, and increase their chances of graduating from high school.

Image via iStock.

With help from SNAP, Hollingsworth could buy fresh, nutritious food for her children as she taught them to eat solid foods.

A bigger food budget meant better choices were available, not just $1 menu deals at fast-food joints, boxes of mac-n-cheese, and convenience-store grub.

Plus, many farmers markets now accept SNAP, making it even easier to get locally-sourced, fresh food. Between 2009 and 2015, the amount of SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets actually quadrupled, according to the Farmers Market Coalition.

And that's great news for families like Hollingsworth's.

It’s especially nice to have more options when you’re a family strapped for cash, she says, because that’s often not the case. You can feel pulled in all directions with limited resources to meet your family’s needs. But SNAP provides low-income families with benefits to buy food which frees up additional income to pay bills. Hollingsworth appreciated that priority.

Today, Hollingsworth and her husband no longer need SNAP to feed their children.

After all, they never meant for it to be a long-term solution, but it was there to help them when they needed it most.

SNAP is designed to be temporary, requiring a renewal process every three or six months.

Image via iStock.

While receiving SNAP and taking care of her babies, Hollingsworth baby-sat for other children and studied to be a doula. And once her studies were complete, she was able to increase her earning potential. Those efforts, plus her husband’s work promotion, enabled them to get off SNAP within a year and a half.

However, they’re forever grateful for how SNAP helped her family.

“SNAP was very helpful while we had it. It’s built into society to help people just like us. People think if you’re on government programs, you’re living beyond your means or you’re lazy. But that’s not the case,” says Hollingsworth. “My husband was working every day. We were working towards being in a position so I could work and be with my kids, and we did that.”

Today, they have three healthy, happy children, and Hollingsworth attributes some of that to SNAP’s role in their early growth.

The needs of many families like theirs, considered the “working poor,” fall through the cracks. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 8.6 million working poor Americans in 2015 — those who work hard but are still below the poverty line. Many don’t believe they can qualify for this resource until they get back on their feet.

SNAP is one of the simplest ways for food-insecure families to put healthy food back on the table. The more families who know about it, and learn how much it can help, the more children will grow up with brighter futures.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.