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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: Raising our voice

Ulondia Johnson tells her story to Rep. Robin Kelly's staff as Food Depository executive director and CEO Kate Maehr looks on.
Ulondia Johnson has struggled with hunger practically her entire life. Living in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, she has had trouble finding jobs and making enough to support her three children.

“I would come home crying because we didn’t have enough to eat,” she said.

She knew she had to break her cycle of poverty, so she enrolled in a six-month certificate program at a local college that trained her to teach art. She’s now working at the Golden Gate Day Care Center, a Greater Chicago Food Depository member agency near Altgeld Gardens.

“You just have to have the right mindset and good things will come to you,” she said.

But, Ulondia wasn’t content just defeating her own hunger. She wanted to make a difference for her neighbors in need. She applied, and was accepted for, a scholarship to join the Food Depository at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference this past week in Washington, D.C.

“I have known hunger in my life and so have my children,” she said. “I want to tell lawmakers that story.”

And she did. On Tuesday, Food Depository advocates visited with 11 lawmakers on Capitol Hill. In a meeting with Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly’s staff, Ulondia told her story, while holding back tears.

“I have experienced hunger,” she said. “It’s hard when you don’t have enough to eat.”

After the meeting, Ulondia received plenty of hugs from the other advocates. As she walked away from Rep. Kelly’s office, she knew she had made a difference.

“My voice was heard today,” she said.

For more on the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, read the live blog or check out our Why I Advocate series.

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