(This post has been 2 weeks in the making. I have written from the heart on this one and instead of going back to proof read what I have written, I am just going to post it. If I were to go back and proof it, it would take me another hour or so and I want to get this posted without putting it off.)
I’m surprised I have anyone following me after a very, very long time of not posting. I have been sent down a rabbit hole ever since I started researching living on SNAP food benefits. I began to try to figure out what an average family would get, how they would make that stretch for 4 people and that led me to doing a lot of research.
You see, it’s not as simple as I thought. I thought that I would get the SNAP amount, the amount of people in the family, perhaps do a scenario where they were unemployed and had small children, but that wasn’t enough for me.
Little did I know that this small project would open my eyes to a problem in my community, state and country. I have found out through me son, who is a teacher, through other teachers, through grocery store managers, clerks at stores and law enforcement that there is an incredible amount of people living in poverty in my community. It is getting worse every year.
My son is in his 4th year of teaching high school, the last two years at his alma mater. He graduated in 2003 and has told me that in 11 years since his high school graduation the student population has changed a lot in that there are more and more kids that live in poverty as compared to when he was a high school student. It has increased by a great margin.
I always knew that there were people that were poor in our community, but I never realized how many people in our community live with hunger every day. I have heard stories from school bus drivers where kids have gotten onto their bus asking the bus driver if they had any food OR where the kids on the bus were worried that the bus might be late and they may miss breakfast at school. In one school district near us I heard about the football team that wasn’t performing well, because the players were hungry because of not having enough food in the home. A local woman got involved and then got her church involved in getting proper food to these athletes and starting a weekend backpack food program.
In a small community of 11,000 you would think that you would be more aware of the level of poverty and hunger, but I wasn’t. In late November and December and early January the local newspaper published articles regarding local charities. I clipped the articles and put them in an envelope. I read more and more online articles about the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s war on poverty and I came to one conclusion: in the 1960’s and early 1970’s we did a lot of work to end poverty, but the problem is back and it is worse than ever.
No matter what you think about people living in poverty, the one thing that should make you shudder is that children are hungry all the time and not getting the proper nutrition that they need to do well in school and life in general. Children don’t have a choice in their circumstances.
It’s not that I have had my head in a hole, I just didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem and how many people in our community go to bed hungry. I am presently doing more research as to the numbers of singles and couples making minimum wage that are termed the “working poor.”
I began reading books on hunger and poverty in America, watching documentaries on Netflix and from the local public library. I shared what I learned with women at my church. This led to 5 of us forming a group to research the hunger needs of women and children in our community. We made a list of local charities and have been conducting interviews.
I am learning about the Working Poor and how our local Food Pantry is not open during hours when they can access it. I am learning about food deserts and all sorts of things. I have studied the history of food stamps and have watched with sadness recently as more and more benefits have been cut.
Education is power. I am enrolled in an online class on children’s nutrition on Coursera. If you are interested in free online classes on all types of subjects google Coursera or EdX.
So I am taking this knowledge and using it. For the past 4 ½ years since being home I have wanted to do something with my life that really mattered (not that being home and taking care of family isn’t important) but I wanted to give back to some kind of organization or movement. I wasn’t able to find anything that made me want to give my time and resources to, so I have created one.
The bottom line to our research is that kids in our school district are coming to school hungry and staying hungry over the weekend. We are looking at a backpack program to send home food on the weekends. High schoolers are hungry when they go to school and although most of them qualify for free breakfast they won’t stand in line to get breakfast because there is a stigma OR it isn’t enough to get them through the morning. We are thinking about breakfast on the go where we put granola bars, a piece of fruit and some milk or juice boxes in a sack, have them come by our church parking lot and we hand them these sacks to eat prior to school OR providing a hot breakfast once a week for all high schoolers in our community.
Then there is the problem of the lack of nutrition in the school lunch program itself. This led me to studying how the school lunch program began back in the 1940’s and how it changed from providing good nutritious meals to heat and eat junky food that kids have become used to eating over the years .
This sabbatical I have been on has been the best thing I could have done. It was a God thing how it happened in that God put some women in my church that I didn’t know very well in my Sunday School class, we got a discussion going and we found out that we had the same interests in fighting hunger and ending poverty.
Also, I am back. I missed posting but I am glad that I took time off to educate myself. I will post after our group meets at the end of this month to report on their interviews with local charities. I myself will be interviewing the local school superintendent and food service director.
And as to the living on SNAP benefits, my research has led me to doing interviews with people that are doing just that and struggling. As I get more information from these people, I will report on how they are doing it or not doing it.