Viola Davis knows what it means to go hungry.
As a child growing up in Central Falls, Rhode Island, the Oscar nominee reveals that there were days she would have to “jump in trash bins looking for food” because there was nothing to eat at home.
“I was one of those kids who grew up hungry,” she says in the latest issue of PEOPLE. “I would steal from the corner store because I was hungry.
“I would fall asleep in school on a daily basis because we had nothing.”
Davis, 48, is now working with the Safeway Foundation and Entertainment Industry Foundation as a spokeswoman for their Hunger Is to raise awareness around childhood hunger. “We have an image of hunger that comes from Africa, but this is America,” she said. “And unless your belly is distended we don’t have an image of what hunger looks like here.”
The Help star, who is the first generation to go to college, says programs like Hunger Is are what “made all the difference.”
Read more of Viola Davis tearjerking interview in the latest issue of PEOPLE.