Duckworth says food stamps let her stay in high school

Duckworth says food stamps let her stay in high school
© Greg Nash

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) revealed that having the benefit of food stamps when she was in high school allowed her to stay enrolled as a student.

Duckworth shared the details about her experience growing up in poverty in an interview with The Washington Post that was published on Tuesday.

"Those food stamps kept me in school so I could graduate high school, so I could go enlist in the military," she said. "Public schools and food stamps and all of that made a difference in my life. And I think that that makes this country stronger. That's why I support these programs. Not because I'm any particular label."


The Illinois senator explained that the idea of Americans needing to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" discounts the fact that many people who live in poverty are hardworking.

"Sometimes you just need a helping hand. And when I got that helping hand along the way, it made the difference in my life. If my yearbook teacher had not bought me dinners, if I did not have the school lunch and school breakfast program, I would have dropped out of high school," she told the Post.

"There are people working as hard as they possibly can, and they’re still not even keeping their heads above water. They’re sinking further and further under," she continued.

She explained that having experienced that reality first-hand, it is something she brings with her in her work in the Senate.

"I explain that I worked harder as a 15-year-old trying to work a full-time job, literally scrounging through garbage for money, and hustling on the side, than I have ever worked in my entire life. And so did my parents," she told the Post. "So let me tell you, it wasn’t a lack of hard work."

Duckworth also shared that if she hadn't had government programs like food stamps or the benefit of graduating high school, things could have been different for her.

"I would still be a wonderful person, but I would probably be working two minimum-wage jobs and never have finished high school or gotten a college degree. And I certainly would not have been qualified to serve in the military or become a U.S. senator. And because those things were there, that kept me in school so I could get my high school diploma. And that made a difference, not just for me, but for my country," Duckworth said.