Mendoza School of Business

Ruth Riley goes to Congress, recounts childhood hardships in advocating against cuts to food stamps

Published: October 29, 2015 / Author: Hoopfeed

Former WNBA player, Olympic gold medalist and Notre Dame graduate Ruth Riley testified before Congress this morning on the importance of food stamps and advocated against cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In the past, Riley has written about how her family needed to rely on food stamps when she was child to get through hard times.

See a video of her testimony and read the entire transcript on the Hoopfeed website.

Excerpt of the testimony of Ruth Riley
Former WNBA Athlete, Olympic Gold Medalist
Before the House Agriculture Committee, Nutrition Subcommittee
Re: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Breaking the Cycle

October 27, 2015

Good morning Chairwoman Walorski, Ranking Member McGovern and members of the Committee. I would like to thank you for this opportunity to share my experience on the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what my family called “food stamps.”

This is an issue that is woven into the fabric of my childhood. My father walked out when I was 4 years old. He left my mom to raise my sister, brother and I on her own. She found herself
doing whatever blue collar work she could find to provide for us. It wasn’t easy. Besides the rare instances I would wake up in the night to find my mom crying at the kitchen table as she was trying to navigate our family’s finances, I was pretty oblivious, as most kids are, to the level of poverty we were living in.

I knew there were some times when my mom paid for our groceries with what looked like monopoly money instead of cash. Off and on throughout my childhood I would have a little ticket that got me a free breakfast or lunch at school. But as a kid, I had limited knowledge of food stamps or free and reduced price school meals. I just knew that, somehow, when we needed it, there was always food.

Because I had this food, I was able to learn and focus in school, which ultimately led me to graduate with honors from the University of Notre Dame. It also fueled my real passion. Basketball. I’m grateful and proud of the success I’ve had in winning championships at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels. I often joke that growing up I was tall, lanky and uncoordinated. Looking back, I can’t imagine what my path would have been if I’d been tall, lanky, uncoordinated…and hungry. When times were tough, the nutrition I received through programs like food stamps and school meals helped me grow stronger. It saw me through all the numerous hours of training before and after school, lifting with the football coaches and playing pick-up games with the guys. It was all physically demanding and I could not have done it if I hadn’t had enough to eat.


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