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This Elected Offical Uses The Food Bank. And She's Not Ashamed.

courtesy of Krystal Marx
Krystal Marx (center) being sworn in as a Burien City Councilmember

Krystal Marx is a City Councilmember in Burien, a suburb south of Seattle. Earlier this year, she posted to Facebook with an unusual confession.

"I'm an Elected Official," Marx wrote, "and I Go To the Food Bank. "

With her post, Marx hoped to reduce the stigma associated with using the food bank. She also wanted to draw attention to how difficult it can be to access this particular piece of the safety net, and to call on citizens and elected officials to improve the situation.

But there was one thing Marx didn't talk about in her post: how her childhood experience with food insecurity shapes her adult relationship with the food bank.

Marx came into KNKX's studios to talk about her "shaky" childhood, and how using the food bank at that time informs the way she sees food, and public service, now.

Full text of Marx's Facebook post:

I'm an Elected Official and I Go To the Food Bank.

The heading of this reads like a 12 Step Program introduction, despite it only being my attempt to point out a simple truth: I – a full-time working, public office-holding individual – go to the local food bank, every few months, to provide for my family. 

I’m not ashamed of this fact, but I am angry about it. 

I’m not angry to have to spend two and a half hours of my day waiting in line with other members of my community, and those of neighboring cities, as we shuffle from outside the church basement’s doors and up to the one registration volunteer. I got to play silly-face games with a four-year old while she snuggled with her mom and dad out under the dilapidated awning.

I’m not angry about the off-brand items and dented apples that have been picked through so thoroughly by the time that I get to them that they look more like spoiled food than fresh. I still put my full share in my cart. I’ve got recipes that don’t care about appearances, and a hungry family that will never know the difference. 

I’m not angry about the potential (likely) stigma attached to utilizing a food bank. I grew up going to food banks – as a customer, and later as a server – and will do what it takes to make sure my children, husband, and neurotic dog get to eat. As an public official, I have been called worse names than the jabs of “hobo” that followed me around my church in the 5th grade, so my skin seems to have thickened up just fine. 

I’m not angry about how much I do or do not make as an elected official. I wasn’t even aware that we would get a monthly stipend until after the primary in August! It’s a different conversation for positions that are “higher up” in the legislative echelon, however, but that is for another time. (I see you, POC and Womxn State Legislators and I've got you!)

I am angry that we value our worker so little that they are unable to provide reliable, nutritious food for their families. 

I am angry that the mechanisms in place for someone to seek help require them to be able to navigate outdated websites, long bus routes, and with no way to carry their items home safely.

I am angry that those two and a half hours of waiting for food are two and a half hours of time they could be spending at work… as evidenced by the no less than four phone calls I overheard while I was last in the food bank line, hearing promises to be back on the job site soon, ask for just another twenty minutes, or to make up the lost time.

I am angry because I realize that if I am struggling every few months, even with my 1.5 jobs and my husband’s VA benefits, how much worse is it for those whose sole income is under the table? 

Then I remember: 

This is why I became an elected official.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.