Karn’s Story: Benefiting from SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid in Decorah, IA

Decorah, Iowa is a quaint, all-American town centered around a courthouse and a veteran’s memorial. Like most towns in America, it is also struggling. The town values self-sufficiency, and when their neighbors are in need, they pride themselves on knowing they are there to help each other out.  But since the recession, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they need just a little more help to get by.


Like many people who receive government assistance, if you are working it helps you to get by, and if you’re not working it helps you to better take care of yourself. A strong economy and a strong military depends on the health and quality of life of those working in it. When there is a lack of opportunity for people to take care of themselves, shouldn’t we be able to rely on the help of our neighbors and the government to get by?

Here’s Karn’s story about how SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid helped them provide for their child, and help them eventually get a job that better provided for their health and needs. It was graciously assembled by Half in 10’s “My American Story,” project.

As a teenager I struggled. I made poor decisions and fought with addiction. At nineteen, I got pregnant and realized that I had to change my life. I worked with my local Department of Human Services office and got an apartment that had low-income rent assistance. I enrolled in the local community college through the Job Training Partnership Act program. While in college, I worked part time, received state aid (known as the Family Investment Program in Iowa at the time) utilized the WIC program & food stamps, and my child and I were on Medicaid. Because of these programs I was able to meet the basic needs of myself and my child and focus on improving our lives by getting a college education. After 2 years, I graduated with an associate’s degree and completed my paramedic class work, enabling me to go into the EMS field. As a result, I was able to get a job as a paramedic and no longer needed assistance from those programs. I spent the next 9 years working as a paramedic – giving back to my community by helping to save lives and deal with emergencies. During that time, my income continued to rise. I got married, bought a house, and had more children. I now work as an administrator for a public transit agency. I have a good, stable income and my husband and I continue to raise our children to be upstanding citizens that contribute to their community. My life is good. This is due to hard work on my part and government programs that were there when I needed them so that I could take the steps necessary to change my life.


  1. Read more of Half in 10’s “My American Story” collection here.
  2. See more photos of Decorah, Iowa by Paul McClure here. 

One thought on “Karn’s Story: Benefiting from SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid in Decorah, IA

  1. It is always nice to hear a success story, in addition to giving back by working as as EMT and also in public transit, now a taxpayer that supports other who are in need. It’s nice when it works.

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