Disabled veteran Mike Hughes knows what it means to struggle. He has had one knee replaced already. That surgery allowed him to keep working but didn’t end the chronic pain that he has lived with for years.
For many of those years Mike worked double shifts on a regular basis, working long days and graveyard shifts in order to feed his family. But the rising cost of living outstripped all that hard work.
Mike’s employers weren’t raising his wages to cover the rising cost of living: rent, food, transportation. Despite his family’s strict budgeting, they lost their house, their car, and the ability to buy healthy food.
Mike first called Just Harvest to apply for SNAP/food stamps. At the time he was working double shifts for Giant Eagle while his union tried to negotiate a new contract for better wages. Like most of those who apply for food stamps, SNAP allowed him to move through a difficult period and back to self-sufficiency. Within a couple of months, he found a better job with better wages. He no longer needed food stamps, although he continued to work many hours of overtime.
Mike knew that so many others like him deserved much better. They shouldn’t have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. Especially not so CEOs can take wealth fit for royalty. Those corporate “welfare queens” had received massive tax breaks and government subsidies. Mike saw the injustice of how this then threatened basic safety nets such as SNAP and Medicaid with massive cuts.
Mike understood how hunger and economic insecurity are political. He wanted to help hold our government officials to account for choices that often actively promote such economic injustice. So he allowed the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to make a short video of his story along with other Just Harvest members, to help educate the public and legislators about why protecting access to SNAP and Medicaid was so important.
His activism didn’t stop there. Mike joined other Just Harvest members in registering low-income people to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. He helped to teach those he registered about the issues that would be affected by their choices at the ballot box. He spoke to them about the public policies that shaped their daily lives, like the minimum wage, paid family leave, tax fairness, and safety net access.
Mike remains determined to work with Just Harvest and other people who hunger for basic fairness. We thank him for his years of service — to this country and to Just Harvest’s mission.
Mike’s story was featured in our 2018 annual report.