Phil Knight, Executive Director for the Food Bank Council of Michigan used SNAP benefits after experiencing a severe life upset in the form of a divorce. With his two young sons, he moved to Michigan where he had a support group- but shortly after enrolling his sons in school, his support was transferred out of state and they were on their own.
Now alone with his boys and no clear career path and too many degrees to get employed, Phil found himself in Michigan’s worse economy since the Great Depression.
SNAP helped Phil and his family achieve normalcy in their lives
Phil counted quarters and dimes but never had to count nickels or pennies. The social worker at the high school his sons attended put them on free lunch, and suggested they apply for SNAP benefits. He felt ashamed- How did this happen to him? Educated, successful in his career but now going to work some place every day knowing that what he made was not going to be enough was devastating.
For 18 months Phil and his sons struggled, before he landed a job as the Executive Director of a nonprofit an hour away from their home. He worked to bring that agency to health and watch it grow in its effectiveness and influence. When Phil contacted DHHS and told them he had a job, they discontinued his SNAP food benefits. Today, he remains grateful for the hand up and for his government walking in when it seems everyone else was walking out.
Four years later the Food Bank Council of Michigan was conducting an executive search and other leaders in Phil’s community who knew his story directed the search committee to him. “You should go talk to Phil Knight, he understands the mission of the food banks better than most. He has a story to share.” He is now in his fourth year with FBCM.
Why should Congress strengthen SNAP?
Irony is often a difficult road map to follow but Phil is proud to invest his one handful of life by helping to remove the toxic stress of food insecurity by taking hunger off the table and replacing it with access to healthy nutritious foods. The truth is, that most folks have a bit more month than they do money, and they need help for a little while. Frankly, how we respond to them as a society says way more about us than it does about them.
SNAP worked for Phil and his sons and he is grateful. We so appreciate him sharing his story.