Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unexpected Hunger: The Sinking Middle Class

Please take a moment to read the following, sent to us by one of our neighbors in need. She signed it "Anonymous" - but we would like to reach out to her and let her know that we can help. Through our Food Connection hotline (1-800-984-3663), we are able to provide emergency food and refer them to other agencies that provide support beyond food to families just like hers. She is not alone, and we hope that by sharing her story, we will be able to collectively shed some of the perceived stigma attached to not having enough money to make ends meet.
Please do a blog post on the sinking middle class, of which I am a member. I have heard much of what is described as 'food insecurity' and not being able to afford not just any food but good healthy food. This is us- many times I don't eat the meat of whatever I make for dinner so my sons and husband can have enough, or there will be enough to add to another meal. Pop tarts are cheaper than fresh apples or other fruits for breakfast, but a young kid will eat this. There are other drinks cheaper than milk. 
I feel guilty but I am afraid to even try to get help- that they will say "you have a mortgage, you have a car, you shouldn't be here, your problems aren't real" , but they are. I am constantly rationing my own food and have even sunken to grabbing a box of cereal out of a food donation bin when we ran out-when asked where it came from I lied and said I had forgotten it in the trunk of the car from a previous shopping trip. I wish we could buy more produce and fresh food. 
Although my husband is still working- because of recent auto and dental emergencies we are strapped. Again, I feel if I try to go get help on my own (husband would probably be angry if he knew I did it) I will be looked at badly or put through the humiliating wringer of having to fill out lots of paperwork or be treated like I don't really deserve or need the help. I don't even want my younger son to have schoolmates come over for play dates because I feel like I should offer the visiting kid stuff and then there won't be enough for my own, which is awful. 
The thinking for people like me is just what I fear - that they will say "you have a computer to even send this, you must be all right. You're just making this up, you don't really need help". For one, I only have to pay 10 bucks a month for the internet I have. I don't spend on clothes or other luxuries. My car is almost ten years old. Sure, we are not the worst off of the worst, but the recession and family emergencies have taken their toll. I used to donate to food banks, and now it is me who is hungry, who recognizes myself in these descriptions of food insecurity, who finds myself noticing people coming and going from restaurants and noticing what anyone at all is eating at any time because of my own hunger. I have to stop myself from pigging out at any event when there is free food, or stealing food out of the teacher's room at my kid's school when they have stuff lying out there, or even sneaking eating food in the grocery from the deli or bakery area. 

I know I should be glad that we can even still afford to get cheap food, like pasta and pop tarts, but I wish I could get real healthy food for my family that they liked, and that there would be enough- and that I could go get help and not be made to feel ashamed or like I don't deserve the help. What makes being middle class hungry so horrible besides the experience itself, is having to hide and deny it, because others think you are doing ok, and the fear of the others who are ok trying to rope you into donating or even making food for the school or parties when you don't have enough for your own family- so you find yourself avoiding people.  
Well thanks for providing a place to vent. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this. With knowledge comes understanding and compassion, and we need that in bunches right now!