Thanksgiving on Food Stamps

Tyra Gardner knew the meal she and her two sons were likely to be sharing this Thanksgiving in the Brooklyn shelter they call home wouldn’t be anything fancy. She stood Tuesday in the middle of a waiting room in St. John’s Bread and Life Soup Kitchen in New York City, her exhausted toddler sleeping on her shoulder and her 5-year-old tugging at the hem of her canvas coat out of boredom. The single mom, who had just left an abusive relationship weeks before, was waiting in line for a bag of carefully selected groceries that would feed them through the holiday.

Garner, 25, and her two children are typical of the families relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — which has been demonized by Republican presidential candidates recently. Poor, disadvantaged and usually employed at least part-time, struggling parents rely on the government every day to put food on the table for their kids. It’s a profile of poverty that has become increasingly common in the past decade and a half, and one that draws a sharp contrast to the extravagant spreads of turkey and side dishes commercialized as America’s annual day of feasting.