Stewardship of Life

SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge–Day 29

Food Stamp Fatigue Edition

One more day and the SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge will be history. Well, it will be history for those lucky folks for whom this is only an educational challenge and not a daily reality and way of life. Among my blogging friends who have participated in the June Food Stamp Challenge the conversational tone has ranged from energetic and creative to ranting and grumbling. Most of us have found ourselves focusing on food way too much, and some of our family members have been at least mildly resentful of the limits placed on the fridge and pantry for the month of June.

I do think that all of the participants whose blog entries I have read at least recognize our location of privilege. Even on a SNAP budget we have far, far more than most of the world’s population has in terms of a food budget and access to a variety of healthy food and clean, plentiful water. When I have told people about what the SNAP budget is (at least as far as the national average goes) several have commented that they could live quite well on that amount. Some of them live well on significantly less. That fact is a humbling one for me. How dare I complain about having more than $200 a month to spend on food (for two people) when the average person in this world only earns $7880 a year (click here for more information). Even this figure is misleading, because according to the World Resources Institute, the world’s rural poor live on around 77 cents a day or $255.50 a year. That makes me seem very wealthy, even though currently as a single parent of two children (who receives no child support) I live month-to-month and sometimes struggle to pay the bills. I am blessed. I am beyond fortunate.

This morning I was talking with our parish nurse about the difficulties families face and the enormous need that people in social service vocations see and deal with each day. There is a high level of burnout and emotional fatigue that comes with working in these jobs, and one of the things she sees is a disturbing desensitization and depersonalization that appears necessary to survive. She talked about a former pastor’s spouse who worked with SNAP clients. The woman had finally quit because it disturbed her to see the lack of respect with which these clients were treated and the thick hides and cynicism that seemed necessary for many of the employees to survive in the difficult environment. Even though the conversation we had troubled me a great deal, I can understand how this might happen. Conversely, I can understand how those trapped in chronic poverty come to behave in certain ways that are expected and that “work” to meet needs, regardless of how unhealthy these patterns may be.

I’d be willing to bet that some readers are pretty tired of hearing about our paltry pantries and food stamp rants. If so, take heart, tomorrow is the last entry. That said, I do hope that our efforts have at least made you consider the co-mingled subjects of poverty and hunger in a little different light. I hope we will all endeavor to see our neighbor as a person worthy of respect and relationship.

Remember, we may not have a clue what our neighbor is facing. Perhaps the young couple that looks so normal is only a few dollars away from living in their car which is only one payment away from being repossessed. That genteel elderly woman may be making the difficult choice between medicine and food or even paying her electric bill. The business professional down the street, who is now into “consulting,” may be wearing Gucci loafers and a Hermes tie, but he may also be about to lose his car, his house, and his family after being let go from his job 18 months ago. These people may not have an EBT card in their wallet (yet), but need is there nonetheless. The best way to avoid fatigue is to seek to see the person and not the stereotype or the condition. Maybe we all need to grab our cardigan sweaters, step out the front door, and start humming “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

State of the Pantry

Breakfast was oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts. Lunch was black bean and tomato cornbread and cherries with a cookie for dessert. Snack was an apple. Supper was leftover chicken enchilada casserole and veggies. Let’s hear it for leftovers! Yahoo! The dear daughter ate the two leftover hamburgers and drank a lot of tea. She’ll probably eat the rest of the enchiladas for late night snack.

Websites of the Day

I mentioned a couple of these websites in the text above, but do take time to visit these four sites. If you don’t feel rich after reading these reports/articles, well, all I can say is that you should.

Click here to visit the World Resources Institute website and read “Global Average Income of the Rural Poor.”

The Boston Globe world news website reports on “Average Income Worldwide” in 2007. Click here to visit the site.

Click here to visit the UC Atlas of Global Inequality and read about “Income Inequality.”

Finally, be sure to visit The Physics Factbook, edited by Glenn Elert and written by his students. Click here to read about “Income of the Average Person on Earth.”

Photo Credits: Sharron Lucas, Rikynti Marwein, Aoife city womanchile, and Filipe Moreira through a Creative Commons License. Thanks!