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.