• Hunger-Free Pennsylvania

My Story: Sunday Morning Groceries- Making Ends Meet


Sunday morning is my typical grocery shopping day. The time of day, on this day of the week, makes for a quick in and out. But this Sunday was unlike others. The store was busier and the crowds were bigger. It turned out to be the day before the computer system that runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, commonly called “food stamps,” shut down erroneously in 17 states, including Pennsylvania. When I finally got to the register, there were two young ladies in front of me. Always friendly, I chatted a bit and learned both were in their mid-30s. I was looking at their purchases --- not prying, just curious, because each was pushing three full buggies of groceries. I’ve been an anti-hunger advocate for years. I understand the SNAP system and the shopping cycles. I know these women were trying to make ends meet, and whatever they bought today would have to last until the next trip to the store weeks from now. Feeding people isn’t all we care about in our food banks. Nutrition is essential. So it struck a chord when I saw the one woman had more than a dozen boxes of frozen waffles, Crystal Light individual drink mix boxes and three cases of bottled water. I would learn later why she purchased what she did. So as these two women were finishing, I put my groceries on the conveyer. One of young boys was scanning my food choices, just as I had scanned his family’s, and noticed my yogurt. He asked me about the taste and texture, and whether I liked it. I said more than me, my own little boy, 13, loves it. His mother was hoping her son liked it, too, since it’s a healthy snack to eat. All of us mingled at checkout, as this is among the grocery stores where shoppers bag their own food, but minded our own business, for the most part. On my left, the woman with the waffles and Crystal Light began talking with someone else she knew, explaining how she is going to school and working, at the same time. It was then that I really noticed her scrubs. Whether they were for work or school, it didn’t matter; you know life was hectic. And that’s when the waffles and drink mix made sense. It may not be the most nutritious meal, but for someone trying to finish school while holding down a steady job (Maybe she has kids? Maybe she supports a family?), well, it made sense. It would be fast and filling for someone on the run. On my right, the woman with little boy, maybe 9 or 10, but old enough to contemplate the value of yogurt, was talking to her son about his use of his X-Box, which he said he got as a gift, and which he intended to use as soon as he got home. So he said. His mom had different ideas. He shouldn’t assume he’ll play. He should ask to play. She pays the electric bill, and it takes electricity to power an X-Box. Whether for my benefit or her son’s, she continued, explaining she worked four jobs to keep him from having to live in “the projects,” that he should be more respectful of her, and that the only thing in the house that “he owned” was the government food they got because of him. She may have been 35 years old. She looked 60. A hard life will do that. As I drove home, I thought about what just happened, what I had been part of --- and I came to realize that as bad as things seem, they could be worse. These women, working hard to make ends meet, would be left out in the cold without food assistance --- programs that right now are under attack or have been cut severely over the years at both state and federal levels. I wonder if these ladies knew about the risks facing the programs upon which they relied. I really hope so. Just as much as I hoped that lawmakers would take notice of the people behind the programs they hope to cut. By: Sheila Christopher, Hunger-Free PA Executive Director

#snap #supplementalnutritionassistanceprogram #sheilachristopher

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