By Susan Brockway
In my quest to find out what people are eating and cooking, I interviewed 2 single mothers on my weekly visit to the grocery store. I found 2 very interesting contrasts.
The first mother spends about $75 in cash for a family of 4 for 10 days, and is not a food stamp recipient because of her income level. They eat a lot of hamburger helper, many times without the burger, grilled cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. When I asked her what kind of fruits and vegetables she and her children ate, she identified bananas and canned peaches. They do not eat eggs or breakfast meats because of cost, and instead eat 3-4 bags of sugary cereal. I asked her about beverages and she identified soda, 1 gallon of milk and fruit drinks. 2 of the 3 children are enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs.
The second mother has three children and is a food stamp recipient. She spends approximately $125 a week including her food stamps and cash on food. She buys very little with processed sugar said she watches portion control; adding 2 snacks each day of fresh fruits and grains. She said she is able to make things stretch. Both women talked about the lack of money available because of fuel costs and the need to drive more than 10 miles each day for jobs that pay more than minimum wage but hardly add a cushion in their budgets. Both pay some child care costs that are supplied by relatives. I had a great talk with them both and was saddened by the choices they are forced to make because of the available resources.
I posed a question to both, and their answers were almost identical: I asked them if they could buy anything they wanted regardless of cost; what would it be. Their answer was milk, meat and something so that their children could have better breakfasts each day. I gave them both coupons for Tyson products and pointed out some great protein buys for them.
When I left, I sat in my car for several minutes and was even more saddened. Each day there are people making hard choices about nutrition, and they often seem to be making ones we find fault with. But given their resources and living costs, I had no answers or additional words of hope.
They are working hard to make ends meet, and the ends never seem to come together.
So here is my question to all of you; What if we all chose one family to work with, just one, and saw it through. We could share recipes, our garden bounty and knowledge. What if we listened to their stories and struggles and became agents of change for just one family? Would it make a difference? I decided the answer was yes.
I am befriending one family and providing some help. I, in turn, am being blessed more than I will ever receive in return. I was given a new recipe for a vegetable dish from a family’s great grandmother that one mother cannot afford to prepare. While I was in human service field in an earlier career, I learned a lesson that’s still true: many doors are closed to people who are now classified as the working poor. What are you willing to do……are you willing to be an agent of change? Let me hear from you.