December 15, 2019

Duckworth Honored with Heartland Alliance Health Food for Life Award


[CHICAGO, IL] – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) was recognized for her work supporting our most vulnerable by receiving the Food for Life Award from the Heartland Alliance Health. The annual award is given to leaders who support the mission of Heartland Alliance Health, which strives to provide assistance for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, struggling with mental illness and substance use and battling chronic illness. During her remarks, Duckworth highlighted her personal experience with food insecurity as a teen.

“I know what it’s like to be unsure where your next meal is coming from and in the wealthiest nation in the world, no one should go hungry, no one should be forced to choose between paying rent and paying for groceries,” Duckworth said. “I’m honored to receive the Food for Life award from Heartland Alliance Health and to have them as my ally in the fight against poverty, homelessness and injustice.”

Remarks as prepared below:

Hello, everyone!

Thank you so much, Ed, and thank you to everyone at Heartland Alliance Health. It’s an honor to receive this award and to be here with all of you this afternoon.

The work organizations like yours do to help some of the most vulnerable Illinoisans access healthcare, food and nutrition services is impressive, and it inspires so many of us every day.

What we’re working for isn’t complicated:

In the wealthiest nation in the world, no one should go hungry.

In the wealthiest nation in the world, no one should be forced to choose between paying rent and paying for groceries.

In the wealthiest nation in the world, access to basic necessities like food and healthcare should be a right, not a luxury.

I believe in all of that because I know what it’s like to be unsure where your next meal is coming from.

My dad was a Veteran who put himself through college thanks to the GI Bill, then went on to find a good career that helped support our family of four.

But at age 55, he all of a sudden lost his job. Soon after, we were forced onto food stamps—teetering on the brink of homelessness.

I was just a teenager at the time, but I still remember going to the grocery store with my parents and counting out our last five $1 food stamps to buy as much bread and bologna as possible—then praying that we’d have enough to last the week.

I still remember saving my apple from my school lunch and bringing it home, lying to my dad and telling him that I wasn’t hungry, just to make sure he ate at least one thing that day.

There’s a level of desperation you don’t understand until you see a proud man who’s served his country for as long as my dad did accept a lie from his daughter, from me, knowing that we both knew it was a lie.

Sadly, my story is not unique. Every year, millions of Americans struggle with food insecurity, and the Trump Administration is making that awful reality even worse.

Earlier this month, the Trump Administration announced its plans to kick hundreds of thousands of Americans off food assistance, the latest installment of cruelty by this administration.

The Trump Administration might view “hundreds of thousands” as just a number. But I know that there are faces behind that figure… families like mine desperate for every scrap of bread they’re able to get.

For those families’ sake, we must keep defending critical safety net programs such as SNAP, rather than instituting harsher work requirements that put so many Illinoisans… so many Americans… at risk.

And I want you to know that I’ll never stop working to expand these programs and make sure that Illinoisans have the assistance they need to get ahead.

But SNAP isn’t the only program we should focus on.

I’m also focused on bringing fresh food into low-income areas through community gardens, which give residents an opportunity to work side-by-side with their neighbors to cultivate their own fresh, healthy produce.

Community gardens are an important—but too often overlooked—tool that helps people around the country lead better, healthier lives.

Americans of all backgrounds benefit from the sense of unity and shared purpose these gardens foster and the positive impact they have, including reducing hunger and improving access to nutritious foods.

These are just some of the things we can do to help reduce food insecurity across Chicago and across this country, but there’s always more to be done.

And that’s why I want to thank you one more time for all that you do…

For believing—like I do—that providing healthcare involves more than just what happens in the doctor’s office.

It means ensuring that those who are homeless have a roof over their heads at night…

It means guaranteeing that those who are struggling to find work don’t also have to struggle to feed their kids…

And it means making sure that those who are sick have a community around them to help them through those worst-case scenario moments.

So thank you. I’m honored to receive this award, and so grateful to have Heartland Alliance Health as my ally in the fight against poverty… against homelessness… and against injustice.