Thursday, May 17, 2007

$21 a Week, Part Deux

In case you were wondering (and of course you were!), my trip to the grocery this evening was $47 and included mostly staples such as pasta (79¢ a pound) and mayonnaise (which for me is a staple).

However, I paid close attention to my "luxury" items: small bags of baby carrots to toss in my lunch box, oat bran bread (on sale) and frozen fake chicken patties.

Technically, I didn't need to go grocery shopping. Unlike those living on the edge (or in the clutches) of poverty, I still had food in the house. In fact, I could most likely not go to the grocery for a month and still have food to eat. Granted, it wouldn't be my first choice of food, and my mom would blanch if she knew I was eating a container of chocolate fudge frosting for dinner (or freeze-dried soup to which you add water and stir), but it would be edible. I am grateful for my bounty and do not take it for granted.

Now, let's see how many other lawmakers will put their money where their mouth is and try to live on a "living minimum wage" (if you believe that, read Nickel and Dimed).

I'm sure there are a few Republicans who will say that everyone can pick themselves up by their bootstraps — after all, Clarence Thomas lived in rural poverty and grew up to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice. And that may be the case.

But all it takes is a streak of bad mazel: to get sick enough to not be able to work and find yourself without a paycheck or a place to live, to have petrol/housing/food/daycare prices escalate faster than the cost of living increases at your job (and no one outside the upper echelons of the Smithsonian has managed that in this region), to be accused of a crime you didn't commit but after 36 hours of interrogation you sign anything the police give you if only they'll give you a glass of water and let you sleep, to have to sneak out of your house with a sleeping child and a shivering dog because the man asleep on the recliner threatened to kill you if you left.

At some point you find your bootstraps and get to walking. But until then, wouldn't it be nice if the assistance you received actually fed you properly.

1 comment:

Vicky said...

But a family of 4, like the one quoted in the article, would get $84 a week. Not that that's going to buy steaks, but it's a lot better than bread and water. And families with children get WIC supplements for milk and other needs.

No one should go hungry, absolutely. But we can't just throw money at this problem. Children born to unwed parents have a much greater chance of living in poverty. High school drop out as well. We need to combine societal safety nets with societal pressure to make good decisions and personal responsibility -- like not having children out of wedlock, getting an education, and saving for a rainy day instead of buying $200 sneakers and plasma tvs.

An interesting piece about how you can eat healthy on such a low budget: