America’s Dirty Secret

My post on Hunger elicited quite a few comments across the networks. Many who work in the education and social work see it every day. Those of us in sales and marketing don't run across it in our usual day-to-day activities. I want to share what some of the people said to me. I've omitted names and changed some locations at their request. Warning – this is a longer than usual post.

A teacher in an inner city school writes:

Just a little note about what you've written.

In our little elementary school there are about 270 children—about 60% white, 38% black, 2% "other". Ninety-percent of our children qualify for free breakfast and lunch which allows our school to offer free meals to all of our kids.

Our children worry when we have a day off during the school week or a holiday break because school is the only place they know where they get 2 decent meals each day. Most of our families are on some type of assistance, but we have a lot of "working poor" too who struggle to make ends meet.

We try to help them as much as we can, but the federal guidelines prohibit us from giving kids any food to take home–they have to eat it in the cafeteria and the leftovers have to be thrown out. There are no "seconds"  so we make sure every child takes all that is allowed and if they can't eat it, they can offer it to anyone at their table.

It's a sad situation, and it's one that is happening in too many schools in too many cities these days. Our kids have learned to look out for each other and to share when they can. Hopefully they'll keep that value as they get older and not  become adults who can turn their backs on those less fortunate and never offer to help.

Thanks for writing about a dirty secret the U.S. doesn't want to admit is happening!

A minister's wife who also works for a big box discount store sees two side of the story:

Bob, Just a note mainly cause I need to vent and your 'hungry' note just seemed to encourage me a little. I sometimes work at the register and I see people coming through all the time who are on the food stamp and WIC programs. 

Food stamp recipients often have the most expensive brands…most convenient brands…..and the fullest carts. The majority of the guys are covered with tattoos and the girls, too, sometimes. I see ladies with rings on every finger, acrylic nails and then they slide a food stamp card to pay for groceries. One girl was paying with a WIC voucher and made the statement that she was thankful for WIC. I told her my son and daughter in law (who both work) made too much money to be eligible for WIC.  She said "Oh, I don't work that is how I get it."  

Our children would have to be in some dire straights to go for government help because we have taught them they have to work for a living.  I think everyone should have to work for a living.  I heard one person say that when they applied for a job they had to take a drug test and they wished that everyone who received government assistance would have to do the same.

Right now everyone's insurance is going up. Ours has doubled. One made the statement, to me, that she was telling her husband to quit his full time job and just work part time and they would be eligible for Well Kids. My point is that someone has to pay for all these 'assistance' programs' and it is people who work everyday that are doing the paying over and over.

The ones who are getting all the government assistance are the ones getting all the benefits. Some get free glasses. Some get free dental work. Well, I said free, but that isn't quite true since some of us are paying for that as well as paying our own insurance premiums so that our family can have medical and dental attention. Right now I have the choice to accept or reject insurance benefits. If I reject insurance and would need medical attention I could be denied. But, the person on government assistance….that I don't have any choice but to help pay, can go to the head of the line. 

I think there are too many people on gov't assistance that could be working. I know for a fact, that like you said there are children and elderly going hungry. I see older people buying large amounts of cat food and I can't help but wonder if they really have cats or is that what they eat. 

My husband and I have lived in this community and pastored the church here for about many years. Since we have been here, we have established a food pantry and a clothes closet for the needy. We feed between 150 and 200 people each Wednesday night free of charge and I feel like there are several hungry children who come to church because they know they will get a meal. 

In the last 6 months we have found it impossible to help all the people who come by in need of groceries and so we have united with a near by church to supply groceries and volunteers to help separate, store and then give out the groceries. There are definitely needy people out there ..especially children and elderly.

One Sunday evening a lady came in the church with saying that she had a bad ear infection and her doctor had called in a prescription and she didn't have the money to get it with. I too her to the pharmacy and paid for her medicine and wished her well. The next morning the same lady came to the service area at the store. She had just come from the nail salon and beauty shop. If she couldn't afford medicine, how could she afford those luxuries.

Some people wouldn't need government hand outs if they would prioritize there spending……..groceries and health care before tattoos, entertainment, and new technology toys. 

Lastly, a social worker weighs in with a viewpoint:

This is an excellent article that should be read by everyone, not just social workers. We need to be constantly reminded about how much we have (sometimes at the expense of others) and how little so many others have. And we all need to work diligently, in as many ways we can, to try to ensure that everyone has enough to eat. Bold, systemic changes have to be made in governments everywhere. Those changes will be glacial in coming and probably not in our life time. Nonetheless, that should not be an excuse to do nothing. We can work to change hearts and minds, and that work should be unceasing. We can work to feed our neighbor now. 
 
Thank you for lifting up a concern that needs to be part of our daily life.

So, what do we do – assuming you think we should do something? We can volunteer at a food bank, we can help support them financially when possible, and we can organize food drives and do a dozen other things in our community.

And, I think we should be doing those things. But, what if we wanted to make an even bigger change? What is we didn't want change to be as glacial as the social worker feels it might be? What can we do to make an immediate and substantial impact? Let's discuss it if you're interested in doing more.

Just think what kind of progress a thousand of us could make by doing something small. And, then we could each tell ten more people and ten more and nobody would have to do a lot or give a lot. But, thousands of us could make a sizable dent in feeding the hungry.

I'm starting by lining up some fellow tribe members who will take action. Want to join us?

4 thoughts on “America’s Dirty Secret”

  1. I’m in. One of the reasons why I’m starting my own business is that I believe helping small businesses is the best way to help the economy in general. The goal is to make the world a better place. Let’s start our own revolution, Bob. 🙂

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