Grandmother’s struggles turn to giving back to people in need

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee grandmother's struggle to feed her family has turned into a chance to make change. Anita Garrett is a member of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin's Food Leaders Lab. It's a leadership program for people who know what it's like to be hungry.

She's sharing her experiences using food banks to feed her five grandchildren, and the program has even given her the chance to take her mission to Washington, D.C.

Discussing food is an emotional issue for Anita Garrett. Her passion is clear the moment she starts talking about it -- she even gets tears in her eyes. And don't get her started on prices at the grocery store.

"Two dozen eggs is almost $10, okay? A bag of potatoes is $9," Garrett said with a shake of her head.

She knows the struggle of stretching a dollar. Garrett is raising her five grandchildren, between the ages of nine and 17. It's something she considers a second chance.

"As a mother, I wasn't good, but God gave me a chance to be a good parent with my grandkids, and I'm unstoppable," she said with passion.

To make sure her family has healthy food, she's turned to local food pantries and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.

"No child should go hungry. I came up from a family that didn't have any food," she said.

"Anita is very genuine. She's very real. And her emotions and her passions are always at the surface," said Matt Stienstra, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Programs for Feeding America.

Stienstra has gotten to know Garrett through the Food Leaders Lab.

"Which is a leadership and development program for people with lived expertise, with hunger and food insecurity," he explained.

Garrett joined the program this year, providing insights on food programs, which can be used to make them better.

"The people on the ground that are participating in these programs, that visit food pantries, it's critical that they have a say in the process and a seat at the table," Stienstra said.

But Garrett is also learning how to change and improve the system herself.

"It's been overwhelming. I've learned so much. And it's still so much to do," she said.

One of the biggest things she's gotten to do is visit Washington, DC for the White House's Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

"This is the first time this conference has been done in 50 years," Stienstra said of the conference.

"Oh my God, I still can't believe it," Garrett said of the experience.  

Garrett got to bring one of her grandchildren along and she heard President Joe Biden speak on the issues closest to her heart.

"He talked about hunger, he talked about the school lunches, he talked about nutrition. He talked about health," she said of the president.

Garrett was clearly excited to soak it all in.

I think I received a text message with a photo about every 3-4 minutes from her throughout. It was really exciting to live vicariously through her experiences there," Stienstra said with a big smile.

It's inspired her now that she's back home, too.

"I just want to learn more and more about how I can help my community. How we can get better resources, how we can get things passed. how we can get things changed," she said.

Garrett gets up early in the morning to go to food pantries for her family and for her neighbors. She uses social media to tell her community about the resources available to them.

"Sometimes I get up and don't even need it that day, but if I can get it and drop it off to somebody that I know need it, that just brings joy to me," she said.

Garrett will be graduating from the Food Leaders Lab soon, but her advocacy is only just beginning.

"Oh, they're not getting rid of me. oh, no, no, no. I'm going to keep going and keep going until I can't go. I just want to learn more and more about how I can help," she said.

For more information on Feeding America's Food Leaders Lab, just visit their website.

Grandmother’s struggles turn to giving back to people in need

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