Viola Davis may live like a Hollywood star today, but her upbringing was far from glitz and glam.

In a latest issue of People, the Oscar nominee opened up about her childhood in Central Falls, R.I., where she grew up in poverty and often searched trash cans for food. “I was one of those kids who grew up hungry. I’m 48 years old now, and it’s only been recently that I can admit that I would jump in trash bins looking for food and I would steal from the corner store because I was hungry,” Davis shared. “I would fall asleep in school on a daily basis because we had nothing.”

“My house was a condemned building,” she added. “It was boarded up and infested with rats.”

As a result of her experience, Davis teamed up with the Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to raise awareness and money for the Hunger Is campaign. “We have an image of hunger that comes from Africa, but this is America,” she explained. “And unless your belly is distended, we don’t have an image of what hunger looks like here.”

She went on to thank programs like Hunger Is for helping her overcome her circumstance. “I am the first generation of my family to go to college. Those programs made all the difference for me,” The Help actress said. “It’s been cathartic for me because I always had a lot of shame with going in the garbage dumps that had maggots in it, too. It has brought healing in my life to be able to talk about it.”

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