Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dismal Holidays Forcasted

Two million people are expected to lose their extended unemployment benefits this holiday season. People talk about not having trees, being able to afford gifts for their children and their lack of holiday spirit. I wrote about my food pantry experience yesterday as a way to deal with my own pain/frustration but to also increase awareness of the situation as well. To put a real and personal face on the matter, so to speak. I created another blog where I try to deal with my "living under reduced circumstances" issues but sometimes there is overlap and I figured I'd go ahead and post about my experiences here.

I went to yet another food pantry recommended to me yesterday and again admitted that I do not qualify for emergency food assistance based on the Federal guidelines. This time, the pantry was far more generous than the last one I visited and provided me with food although I will not be able to become a client. We received more food yesterday than we have had in literally months. When I shop at the store, it is always $20.00 or less because I can't afford to fill my cart or vehicles with gas ($5.00 or $10.00 fill-ups are the norm).

I was told to take as much bread as I wanted - good, decent, fancy bread not the generic stuff. I was led to a table of "cast-offs," items that clients did not want to take and left behind. I was also told I could take whatever was there. I almost cleaned the table off taking every can of vegetable that was there. I got two bags of potatoes and three bags of apples, sweet potatoes, lettuce, watermelon and pineapple, eggs, milk and a huge block of cheese along with meat. I took everything that was offered and it is probably enough to last through the whole month!

Here is where I struggle - I have enough to keep a roof over our heads but not enough to provide good, healthy, adequate food for my kids. People out there are receiving food stamps and able to visit a food pantry like this, twice monthly. No one in our country should have to go hungry. I always believed that the greatest nation in the world would provide for its own but am learning that is not the case.

Receiving this bounty increased my mood and spirits 10-fold along with that of my sons. People have to have food to get out there to look for work, to continue parenting and to simply remain hopeful enough to face the next day. I only see the situation getting worse, not better. I know of people who have been out of work now two years. They are surviving either because their spouse still has a job or they are receiving support of some kind from family.

It is especially difficult for single and only parents struggling on their own with no one to emotionally or physically lean on. It can happen to you. You can be a well-educated, professional, middle-class citizen and have your world topple over and fall on your face. I'm not finding a whole lot of assistance out there or those with kind, helping hands stretched out with compassion. Criticism and blame continue to be lashed out at the unemployed. Having been there now I can add that to simply tell someone to go out and find a job and take whatever is offered is not sound or positive advice. I've made the rounds of fast food places, restaurants (waitress/server), grocery stores and the like and have been told I'm overqualified. Then when I apply for jobs in my field, I am competing with better qualified folks. I'm caught in the middle. A male friend my age, lost his fancy advertising/art director job and was a bartender all summer. He also took training to become a nanny but so far has met with resistance because he is a male and hasn't been hired. I am actually considering the bartender training as a last resort myself.

In the future, I'm going to try and keep issues like this separate on my other blog but felt I needed to finish what I started. This is my experience and my opinions. No one needs to agree or feel sorry for me or my situation. But I do hope it in some way it softens the criticism others may have against people struggling right now, including the two million people worried about feeding their families during the holidays. I've gotten a break this year - others won't be as fortunate.


  1. When my husband passed away, I was able to get help for my disabled children with social security. They were given money for having their father passed away. Great, I thought, I will be able to survive with them living in my home, and I can still work at my job as a teacher's assistant at the local high school.
    My children were also receiving medicaid, and when medicaid found out that my children received this social security support, they change my ability to pay from $0 to over $700 a month. Yes, that is correct. $700 a month. This isn't a deductible or anything, this is $700 a month to be paid so they could have insurance. So, now what do I do???? Do I pay the $700 a month for insurance or do I pay rent?
    How do I pay my utilities? So, I made the decision to not pay their insurance, and we live on what they and I make to get us through the month.
    When their father was living, he made over $40,000 a year, and still we got insurance, and didn't have to pay. Now, that he is dead, they determined that my children are making more than $760.00 a month each, and need to pay. Not only did I lose my husband, I lost his income, and now I have to pay!!!!
    When I go for help, we don't qualify. I am not asking for the world, just a little to help us get by, but always told no. It makes me angry and depressed.
    I know this is happening to others, and I am not the only one. I believed it will get worse before it gets better.
    Thanks for listening to me. Don't feel like you are crying or fussing too much. What you are saying is happening to a lot of us as well.
    Take care, and I will do the same.

  2. Jeanne - I am more than happy to listen to you. It almost killed me to put us all on medicaid which is called AllKids in our state, but in the end I had to do it for the health benefits. It is the only benefit we qualify for. I too, am not asking for someone to rescue me - I just want decent food for my boys. I'm willing to exist on pork and beans but my boys need more. I am not trying to create a pity party out of this - it helps me to relate what is going on. And like you I am forced to decide between paying rent and what bills I can leaving nothing to little left for food. I mean this is all pretty crazy. To have a roof over our heads but then no food to eat, no available assistance and to be criticized for not being able to make it on top of it all. I always wish you and your kids well and the best, especially now at the holidays. We are making the best of things in difficult times and I don't believe anyone should be put down for that. Let me know how things are going as the holidays draw nearer. Like you said, just a little (be it some financial support or understanding) can go a long way. Receiving a decent loaf of bread made my day yesterday!

  3. I had to go on food stamps--it was humiliating, but at least I had something to eat. It is so hard to go from upper middle class to poverty. It effects the whole person, body, soul and emotions. It has been a long time since I've smiled, but........I've been in worse shape so I should be grateful. I am glad you found a way to feed your kids.

  4. ARB and Seventies Girl - I have given this a lot of contemplation and thought but right now would prefer to keep my personal and blog lives separate. I hope you can respect that and I am very grateful for the comments and support you provide me via your responses to my posts. Thank you both!

    Judy - I am so appreciative that you commented and I hope you receive this message. I know you have been in my shoes and many times when moments are tough I think about you and the peanut butter and pop corn. Part of the reason I have struggled as much as I have has been because of facing losses due to death/divorce followed by a financial plunge. It is almost too much to bear - grief and then trying to navigate a system you don't know how to get along in and are ill prepared to function in. The initial humiliation gives way to resolve simply because you have to do what you have to do. In a way, I wish I could qualify for food stamps (LINK card) because at least I could then choose the food we eat. To be "given" dented cans of outdated food is another cross to bear. I hope to "talk" to you again soon during this season and I'm thinking of you with good thoughts.

  5. I don't want you to think I was going to email you unsolicited advice or chastise you in any way. I was hoping to find a way to send you a small package, but I understand that you don't want that kind of contact from your readers. I understand. Hope you make the holidays as stress free as you can for you and your boys!
    Seventies Girl