H is for Hunger

Connections

Pardon me, but I’m getting on my soapbox again. (Please come back tomorrow for some fun, cozy, and book-related reading.)

Hunger.

Yes, hunger exists in affluent countries where affluent people think poverty is a choice.

Food prices have risen dramatically in just the past year, while those on fixed incomes have few options for cutting costs. We see more people in poverty, while available resources diminish. I won’t post links here, but you can google “food stamp legislation” to see the array of proposed bills.

TL;DR version: Poor people don’t deserve money for food because they squander it on lobster, steak, cruise ships, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, swimming pools, and other dens of vice. Becoming poor strips people of intelligence, so the government must mandate how poor people spend their money.

(Something to consider: middle-class and upper-class Americans receive tax deductions, i.e. government handouts, for adoption children, improving home offices, taking business trips, and funding religious organizations with homophobic and racist agendas. No drug testing or per-transaction limit for receiving these funds, either.)

We are proposing to shame poor people for the crime of being poor. How? By limiting where they can spend the money they receive in food support.

When I was in college, a friend from a very low-income family became pregnant. Her parents helped her out with low-cost childcare, but she worked minimum wage jobs (she was limited due to injuries from a car accident). Thanks to help from a social worker and local support services, she received milk, formula, cheese, cereal, and enough food to herself and her baby. She was too young (emotionally) to become a mother and there were a lot of problems, but she and her child had enough to eat.

Another friend received low-income benefits because she had two preteen daughters, no stable employment, and back issues that made work difficult. Did she report absolutely all of the money she received from other sources? No. Did she live a luxurious life filled with filet mignon and fresh-caught shrimp? No.

Some other friends were international graduate students, young and newly married with infants. One family received benefits for a year before returning to their native country. The other received permanent residency and is working toward citizenship.

The affluent think, “I worked darn hard for what I have! No one handed me anything! Why should I work my tail off when lazy people get free food handed to them? Of course they shouldn’t get to buy lobster or go to the movies.”

For people who think they earned everything they have, let me ask a few questions. I’m genuinely curious.

  • How did you earn the right to have parents raise you, likely in a stable relationship (that might include remarriage, etc.)?
  • How did you earn the right to prenatal and obstetric care that ensured you arrived into this world with a chance at health?
  • How did you earn your ability to attend school, rather than having to go to work early in order to support your family?
  • How did you earn the security of a safe place to sleep, food to eat, and perhaps even a desk where you could do your homework and maybe even a parent to help you with it?
  • How did you earn having parents who were able to provide for at least some of your basic needs growing up, so you were able to focus on education and career development?
  • How did you earn being born into a culture that closely aligned with that of the dominant and work culture, so you understood the undefined rules of becoming a professional?

People are poor for many reasons. Sometimes it may be due to laziness, but often it’s due to things like untreated mental illness, the inability to afford treatment for mental illness, family history that involves economically challenging factors, growing up in poverty, experience with violence and abuse, and a whole host of other factors.

As some long-time readers know, a friend of mine claimed to be abused last year and in fear of her life. I took her in, but her story never added up. I subsidized her expenses (and am still struggling with the financial repercussions) until she finally left–while taking my money and possessions.

The kicker? She and her husband, together, make four times my annual salary.

Yes, fraud exists. Yes, bad people take advantage of good intentions. But do we punish an entire class of people–an entire class of people who have already jumped through millions of hoops to prove their financial need? Do we micromanage what food they can buy and how many times they must visit an ATM to receive their grocery money?

In this day and age, no one should be hungry.

Period.

Why is this so difficult to understand?

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6 thoughts on “H is for Hunger

  1. awesomesub says:

    Hi Ana, food stamp legislation seems to be not much different from discussions that we have here in Europe too, especially when elections come closer. From what I see here, yes, sure there will always be a few who use social welfare benefits to their advantage, and this is where government officials should step in. But I think those who misuse social welfare are the exception and some extreme thinking people generalize this and disparage a whole lot of people who simply need help instead of being shamed.

    The result are such horrible statements like the ones about steak and lobster and all sorts of prejudices you can think of. I can imagine going to some supermarket with those silly stamps, but I know I’d go there when few people could see me give those signs of poverty, instead of money. And would I feel shame if I had to hand over stamps? Yes, for sure. And I’d rather not use those stamps, if I had any other way, even if it meant we’d have less than we could.

    I don’t know how I could answer your questions, because some of what we have is because our parents made it possible, some of what we have is just luck.

    I can only agree with your conclusion to your entry and I don’t see that patronizing someone because of how much money they have is helpful. Micromanaging people out of that reason is a pretty silly idea, and it is something that hits those people most who do not deserve any additional hardship.

    Thank you for the food for thought.

    hugs

    Nina

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  2. Strange Flesh Press says:

    Oh this burns me up. Even some of my really kind friends get blinded with this ridiculous notion that we need to “stop all the welfare fraud!” It’s the clever ploy of big corporations and political power players that make the bottom feeders turn on each other so they don’t notice what’s going on up top. (Reagan’s “welfare queen fraud” outright lie started this frenzy.). Many of us are insulated from what our neighbors suffer. Even in the suburban community where I live, our jr high collects leftover food from lunches (like bananas, sealed containers) and some of the kids take it home because it will be all the food they get over the weekend. A woman I work with goes to the food bank regularly because her husband was laid off and her income isn’t enough. This is happening in an affluent suburb, so what the hell is the rest of the country experiencing?

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  3. Joelle Casteel says:

    Thanks so much for getting on your soap box here, Ana. Having lived through food insecurity after having grown up in a secure,middle class household, I think I have a unique experience or perspective. I remember, as a child, not understanding why some people were poor. As an adult, I’ve had to struggle to get help I needed at times. Recently I had a government agency demand an accounting for $18 worth of royalties; urgh I’m sure you remember how difficult it is at the beginning of a writing career, how there are times you wonder if you’ll ever make enough to even pay one bill.

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  4. laurellasky says:

    Great post Ana, I agree with all the comments. I grew up in a middle class dysfunctional family and was on my own later. I received a Pell Grant that paid for my college and some textbooks but I still had to pay rent, utilities, food etc. I drove a taxi 4 days a week, had a part time job in a department store plus an unpaid internship. I made enough to pay some of the bills but didn’t have enough for food so I received food stamps which was enough for basics but not lobster, movies or entertainment. I would have be unable to do this without help. The process for obtaining these benefits made me jump hoops and open myself to officials with things that should be private. Ok now I’ll get off my soapbox.
    Laurel

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  5. catrouble says:

    I have seen both sides of the argument…the need and the greed…I have seen people who are just lazy work the system while people who were really in need could not get help. I have seen people work to get off they system while others work to stay on. The system that people argue about involves more than just food stamps, there’s also commodities, housing, medicaid, educational programs, transportation assistance, etc. It was originally created as a short term helping hand…not a generational way of life. We need to encourage those who are able to get education and work to get off the system while we help those who are not able. As far as drug testing…I and most people I know who are employed by others have to submit to drug tests and suffer the consequences if we test dirty so I really don’t see where requiring drug testing is ‘shaming’ to anyone.

    There is no one size fits all answer but I do think the entire system needs to be overhauled. Possibly split into groups and provide long term help for those who are unable (mentally, physically) while providing interim help for those who just need a helping hand (education, training, short term injuries, etc.).

    Hugs and blessings…
    Cat

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