White Trash Getting Food in the Ghetto
3 minute read
There is one scene in the movie, Kill Bill, where the main character lays in a bed with her young daughter watching cartoons. Nothing else matters. Everything thing that mother did was for this moment- to watch cartoons with her precious daughter. Her daughter is safe, they are safe, and they are watching cartoons. I feel that, minus all the samurai action that led to that moment.
My fiance’s mother was quite upset when she found out that I was pregnant. I think she may have even said “oh shit.” Mothers of irresponsible sons sometimes have pretty good foresight. I was 20 and ready to live happily ever after. What did she know? She knew. I didn’t.
I didn’t foresee how far I could let my ego go. I didn’t foresee that as I let my ego go to survive the best I could, how much further others could push it down. Like the siblings that said “You have more in life than you deserve. I won’t help you. You are like a beggar in the streets. You are wasting your time (with school).” Years later, I am very proud, as I should be, but I shouldn’t forget where I was.
All government assistance requires tons of paperwork. They want to know everything about you. I’m surprised they don’t have you check a box about your bowel movements, may as well. You have to give them your bank statements, pay stubs, rent receipts, custody information, the electric bill, car note, how much cash you have to the penny, references, child care information, and loads of forms. Everything has to be updated frequently. When they say it’s time to update, you have a strict deadline and if you make any changes to your life in any way, shape, or form without telling them within a week, you could lose everything and have to start the process from scratch.
I had to go to see my caseworker every so often to turn in paperwork. I judged myself walking in. I judged others. I judged others judging me. I shouldn’t be here. They shouldn’t be here. Who is driving that fancy car in the parking lot? Her purse is too nice for her to be sitting in this room.
You took a number, sat down, and stared at the walls for hours under the bright fluorescent lights. This was before everyone had cell phones. There were various pamphlets and posters on the walls about getting help and being healthy. A cop sat in the corner making sure nothing shady happened. You didn’t make eye contact with those around you. It didn’t feel safe.
The government gives you barely enough to survive and if you go over their threshold of survival- they cut you off or make it harder. It’s a broken system that keeps most people stuck rather than helping them get better. For example, as I was trying to better myself, my benefits decreased to an unsurvivable level. My caseworker point blank told me to have another baby to get more help. There are people that take that advice; I’m not one of them.
Instead, I researched and found other ways to survive: food pantries and church ministries. I still had to provide everything but my bowel movements to these places, but they helped. I had lists of where I could go to my pick up and when. I kept the lists on the fridge so that I wouldn’t miss my dates. They kept tabs on people so everyone had their fair share. You had a certain day of the week assigned to you and could only go once a month.
I picked up expired bread, donated canned foods, bruised and even blackened vegetables from areas of town that some people are afraid to even drive through. One and only one time did I see another young white woman at one of these ghetto food pantries. I like to think she was going to nursing school too. That’s when I lost my food stamps; the government classified my student loans as income and cut me off. But I didn’t give up or give in and that’s the moral of this story.