April 18, 2012

Fresh. Daily.

Based on my blog title if the next word is not Bread, then something else of sustenance.

I've been thinking about hunger/nutrition/food a lot lately. I've heard a lot of noise about cutting the SNAP program. SNAP is an acronym for Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program. Most of us know SNAP as Food Stamps.

It really bothers me when folks are indignant about feeding each other. A friend of mine once said "food should be like air, it should just be something that is there".

I couldn't agree more with that sentiment. As a nation, we have crossed the place of everyone for themselves. That ship sailed. It's not a world of foraging, hunting or gathering. From an anthropological standpoint, we simply are no longer there. Society has changed the way we organize our days.

Our world is a place of localized gathering. We go to stores in an orderly fashion with a list and agenda. We are no longer the wild creatures seeking food, but rather the food is brought to us in exchange not for brawn or strength, but for paper symbols of currency. For most of us, that is.

While Darwin may have suggested survival of the fittest, often times, our less fit are children. Writing experts tell us frequently to write what we know. I cannot purport to know hunger. I can purport to know and have lived with charity.

When I was 12, my parents separated. For the next several years, while they tried to untangle two lives tangled, and figure out finances of two households, not one... I was the recipient of free school lunches. I never thought that would be my life, and looking back it seems almost surreal. I grew up in a comfortable home, with all the amenities.  My life was so comfortable, that at one point, as I handed in my lunch ticket, the classmate who helped in the lunchroom looked at me and with the zero tact of a junior high aged kid said, "you get free lunches? I thought you were rich." I didn't know what to say. What I mostly remember is skipping lunches as often as I could. Trying to make it from the time I left for school, until I got home so I didn't have to endure the humiliation of that free lunch ticket.

For three years, I carried that card. I can remember family members buying us new clothes for the holidays, having no idea that we were on "government aid". I can only imagine the thoughts of those around me, as I hear it echoed so often today. "The kids have brand new [cell phones/video games] and yet they suck off the government." Those words sting. I travel back to my time of getting free lunches in my own new clothes. I didn't know then what folks must have been thinking, but I hear it today and it breaks my 12 year old heart. I felt so stupid as it was, getting free lunches. To think I was reviled and hated because it was a way to make sure I had something to eat in the middle of the day... I still shake my head.

I was a lucky one. My time was temporary. It ended. I wonder about those who see no end. Those whose parents work two or three jobs wondering why they never get ahead. I wonder what it must be like.

And in a tiny slice of my brain, I remember. I know what it was like.

That is why food should be like air. It just should "be there".


  1. The sad part is there are so many in need while at the same time there are those that do get aid while at the same time their kids have cell phones with data packages on them so they can update their FB status at a moments notice.

    I dated a woman for almost a year who had 2 daughters who were 12 and 14. She wouldn't take a job that paid beneath the wage she used to make before she quit a good job making $50,000 a year. She got on the food stamp program while having shared custody with her ex...2 weeks at his house 2 weeks at hers.
    When we went to the grocery store I quietly refused to add anything to her cart and I got my own to contribute to the WHOLE house not just myself. She looked at me like I was a jerk. I told her there shouldn't be one nickel there that isn't only for the kids and she scoffed at me and acted like I was crazy. Didn't matter I refused anyway.
    It's one thing to need help it's another thing to respect it and there are many out there unfortunately who think it's "free". It's the kids that pay for the poor choices of the adults and I have no idea how you fix it but I would think a reasonable person would say to their kids it's tough out there I'm sure you'd love that new cellphone/laptop/ ..the list goes on..but the first and most important part is your health..you won't die without that other item..you will if we can't eat.
    My ex's story isn't unique in the slightest unfortunately and those that desperately need it unfortunately get lost in the shuffle with those that see it as a chance to subsidize their own lifestyle. Government doesn't have the resources to track boyfriends or girlfriends contributing out of pocket to household income. The answer of how to fix it is somewhere in the middle .

    1. Chris, thank you for weighing in. The sad thing "in my eyes" is that enough stories like yours circulate that leave the impression that folks scam for food.

      It hurts those who aren't because perception is 99% of the law, which is why there isn't a lot of hesitation to trim the SNAP program. What I would rather is instead of cuts is responsible management. This is where our government errs. We have great ideas to give folks a boost, put them in place, then walk away and let the bureaucracy deal with it. Which they don't. So suddenly, folks with less than wonderful intentions swoop in with a scam.

      They, along with the lazy administrators are the reason the folks who really need it are treated like pariahs.


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