4.29.2013

Beans and Rice, Not So Nice

I am cranky. I have a headache and I feel slightly dizzy. I can hear my stomach growling. I am tired. 

And it's all by choice. 

Why? Because 46.2 million people in the United States in who are in poverty experience this on a daily basis.  They "Live Below the Line" not by choice but because of situations and circumstance.  

Could you live off of $1.50 a day? And that $1.50 doesn't always just cover food, but it sometimes has to be portioned for shelter, clothing, and other essentials. 47 million Americans, half of them children, rely on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) each month. Seven days of below the line eating represents just 34% of the $33.34 per person per week that SNAP recipients receive. 

My pantry has five different types of chips, four different kinds of cereal, dried fruit, applesauce, multiple boxes of mac-n-cheese, and...well, food. Lots of food. My refrigerator is fully stocked with soy milk, skim milk, cheese, yogurt, lunch meats, and fresh vegetables. On my kitchen counter is a bowl of regular oranges and a bowl of "cuties." 

And while my children may upon occasion say "there's nothing to eat" the truth is we may just be temporarily out of which ever snack food they are craving, and I give no second thoughts to running to the grocery store and picking up the requested item as soon as I'm able. 

But there are just over 12,000 students in my children's school district who are officially homeless. They don't have a pantry full of food, or the option of having someone run to the grocery store just because they make some noise. 

They go to school cranky. They have headaches and feel slightly dizzy. They can hear their stomach growl. They are tired. 

And it isn't by choice.

Dinner Day 1: beans and rice
It is because their meal was a bowl of rice and beans. Maybe less than a cup. For some, breakfast and lunch were provided by their school. For their younger siblings at home, maybe breakfast was half a banana. A small cup of milk. And lunch. Perhaps some ramen soup. 

Because poverty for a family of four in America is living off of $23,550 a year.

Because poverty in America isn't other. It's the child sitting next to your child in school. It's the woman pushing her grocery cart down the aisle, counting pennies and coupons. It's your neighbor, the person who works at the library, it's the person who sits next to you in church. 

Poverty is $1.50 a day, every day. 

We have the power to change this. Not just by going hungry for a week. That's really the easy part. Because next Monday I can go back to my regular diet. Next Monday I'll live above the line. But what's harder is remaining engaged to change this after the week is up. Because being an active advocate means more than posting a blog about the bowl of lentils you ate, it means picking up the phone and asking elected officials to do something about it. 

It means telling our elected officials that the nearly 1 in 4 children in the U.S. (22.4 percent, 16.6 million children) who are at risk of going to be hungry tonight is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE and they can do something to change that. And we need to keep demanding that they do until they do, then we need to demand them to continue to do more. 

I do this through my work with RESULTS as a grassroots poverty expansion associate helping others organize to speak to elected officials, write letters to the editor, make others in their community aware of the issues. You can do this by responding to action alerts and joining others in their efforts. 

The point is, when the week is over don't let it just be a week that was, make sure that it is a week that won't ever be for anyone else either. 



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