One in eight Americans are currently using food stamps to eat. Let me repeat that figure, one in eight Americans are using food stamp benefits, with one in four kids receiving these benefits. This was the story that caught my attention this morning as I read the NY Times. To be honest I am not even surprised at that figure, I could have told you that months ago based off my line of work. I talk with the folks at our local food pantry on a regular basis and they have told me that weekly they are swamped with new faces. Faces of folks who use to bring in food or cash who are now on the receiving line.
Those of us in the direct aid business have noticed the new faces of those seeking help, in many cases the folks we now see look a lot like us. Poverty is a funny thing, we can wax poetically about helping “those” people…yet it’s funny when we start to realize that those people are a lot like us. It can become rather uncomfortable.
Think about it, if one in 8 Americans is dealing with food insecurity to the point of seeking assistance, that means there is a good chance that right now as you read this, there is someone in your inner circle struggling to survive. Oh they may still live in their middle class house and still have the Subaru/Volvo (insert car of choice) and have all the trappings of middle class success. But they may be cutting back on eating so the kids can eat, they are the ones I notice in the store who no longer have full carts and often look pained at the checkout line.
I talk a lot about money and my own mistakes with money so much that I think that there are those in my personal circle who think I am really bad off. Nah, I am in debt but I haven’t faced food insecurity since I was a kid. I may owe Visa, MasterCard and Discover card but thankfully we have not fought over a can of beans. I don’t even say this to be funny it’s just that the way I was raised and the work I do allow me to realize that while being in debt sucks, there is a wide road between being in debt and working to get out of it versus not being able to literally put the food on the table. It’s a distinction I remind the Spousal Unit of often when he gets down about our situation. Yes, I need to be out of debt but it’s a lot worse to be in debt and hungry.
I decided to write this today because the story stayed in my mind as our family went out to breakfast today, I generally prefer to save money by eating in but hey I am human and was simply tired. I thought about how fortunate I felt that I could make that choice. I started to think what could I do other than my professional work to help someone? If I knew someone personally I could help, I would and I will. I ask you dear reader that as we start this season of consumption, perhaps you can look around and see who in your circle needs help. Maybe you can buy one less gift and instead do something for someone else.
In this country of supposed wealth the fact that so many of our fellow citizens are struggling with basic needs such as food is wrong. We need to do something, what are your thoughts? Clearly what we need are jobs so that folks can get back to work yet that clearly is not happening at a rate fast enough to help folks, so instead we need to help our fellow-man/woman/child.