Season 4 | Episode 4
“My mantra at ArtworxLA has been that every human being has a purpose, calling, and destiny. And our job at Artworx is to help students discover it, or rediscover it, and take ownership of it and then really give to the world what they were meant to give.”
Matt talks to Jamie Zavala, Executive Director of ArtworxLA, whose mission is to combat the epidemic high school dropout crisis by engaging students in arts programs that inspire them to stay in school and flourish as creative adults.
The pair discuss the positive impact the arts can have on impressionable teens, the patience the interview process takes, and the importance of being your most authentic self. Matt also makes it his mission to find Jamie a suitable suitor!
Your mom used food stamps. And one of the things that you told me that you didn't share on the show though, which I think is really important, I would love for you to tell people about what it actually meant when she had to go to that cashier with her food stamps.
What it felt like to go with your mom and take those food stamps out of the book?
So, here's what I remember. I remember being about five years old and going with my mom to the grocery store and, , I was a pretty precocious kid even back then. And we'd get to our turn, to purchase.
And back then food stamps were actual coupons. They were in a book that was stapled together and they were perforated. And if you tore them, they were no good. So, you had to tear it out perfectly along the perforation. And they looked kind of like money, but they were multicolored, so it was very, very obvious this wasn't money.
And I remember it just kind of took forever cause she would have to very carefully take each book had however much money in it, maybe $30 worth and , in different denominations. And it just took so long. And I said, “mom, why don't you tear them out while we're in line or ahead of time so that we don't take so much time?
People behind us are getting annoyed.” And she said, “Well, it's just one of the rules that you can't tell them out ahead of time. You have to tear them out in front of the cashier when you're in that.” And I didn't think about it at the time I was a kid. I was like, oh, it's the rules. But later I realized that it was just one of many small indignities that hardworking people, like my mom had to endure because people were so concerned about fraud. “What if you gave your food stamps, traded them away for drugs, and so the person giving the coupon at the register isn't actually the person who's the recipient.”
And there's so little fraud in these systems, but that's what people focused. People are in need. This is food. And I'm so grateful now that because of the kind of advocacy that people who've been in this space for so many years have done that people don't have to do that anymore.
We now have what we call an EBT card and it works just like a debit card and you don't have to hold up the line at the grocery store. , and nobody has to know that you're using, , a government safety net program to, to buy that food. And there are still restrictions. You can't buy alcohol, you can't buy toiletries.
Although, if you need food, you probably need things like diapers and tampons as well, but that's a whole other issue--and that advocacy makes a difference and giving people, their dignity is so important.
Honestly, why I wanted you to share that is that you were the child of a mom who needed food stamps to get you fed.
And here you are now the CEO of the west side food bank, providing food to families who don't have it. And how cool is that?
Yeah, it's pretty powerful. And it's why I do this work. I love knowing that I get to give other parents the same sense of relief that I felt that my mom felt when we knew that no matter what other challenges lay ahead, there was going to be food.
Farm to Family – a program run by the California Association of Foodbanks that secures excess produce from California’s fields, and delivers it to food banks throughout the state.
Farmlink Project – A nationwide organization that connects farmers to truckers to foodbanks, rescuing over 60 million pounds of food to date that would have otherwise gone to waste. This 501c3 was founded during the pandemic by college students who were once young volunteers at the Westside Foodbank, and in fact, WFB was their first recipient.