Monday, January 25, 2010

On the Parenting Post: Government Cheese

It's the cheese I remember - a congealed, yellowy-orange block in non-descript paper, with, I think, blue writing. You needed the might of Solomon to cut through it, it was so thick. All I could manage were chunks - never firm slices.

No, the slices - they were for people who could afford the good stuff. Our cheese came from the food stamp program - the government-run agency for poor families who couldn't afford to feed themselves without help.

For a short time, we were one of those families. Not because my parents were lazy or waiting around for some kind of handout, by any stretch. Rest assured, Bettye and Jimmy were hard workers. They just couldn't find any work. At the time, jobs were scarce in Long Island, N.Y., the place my parents moved after spending five years raising my brother and me in a small south New Jersey town where they had few friends and even less familial support. They thought things would be better back in Long Island; there were factory jobs there, and they had friends there, too, and my mom missed her church - needed to be closer to her lifeline. Her people.

But her people couldn't find work for her. Or for my Dad. And when their money got low, my Dad got desperate - got back his old job in New Jersey and commuted back and forth from BayShore, N.Y., to Trenton so that he'd have some cash coming in. It was a decision that nearly broke us; Daddy would leave us on Sunday night, stay in New Jersey until after work on Friday, spend two days with us, and then head back to work - a grueling schedule that was all-at-once scary (for us, seeing as the man of our new home wasn't there to protect us) and lonely (for him, seeing as he had to be without us and alone for days on end, for months and months).

And then, the factory closed. And after all of that commuting, after all of that loneliness, after all of that searching for something better, after all of that holding on, our family's only source of income was… gone. And all of a sudden, it was be proud and starve, or suck up your pride and let your babies eat.

My parents chose to let us eat.

To read the rest of my post on Families Making a Way Out of No Way, click HERE.

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  1. ::Waves EBT card (replaced those God awful Monopoly-money-like book of bills) proudly in the air::

    Denene, thank you for this. Simply, thank you. I have never once shamefully pulled out my EBT card at the store because I know who I am, the path I am on, and what it takes to get to where I want to be. I did have similar grocery store experiences where WIC is concerned though. Folks DO NOT like waiting in line, do they, lol. There are not a lot of ways to raise a child on your own, while trying to earn a degree at one of the top universities in the country full-time, or any university for that matter. Like your mom and dad, I pushed that pride aside because I knew that my baby had to eat - shoot I had to eat too! Food stamps takes care of that. I knew that we needed more income than what was left over from financial aid. CalWorks (AFDC/TANF/Welfare) took care of that. Yes, "I" am the face of the welfare mother... not the chick with the umpteen babies, sitting around waiting for the next kid to drop and next check to come in the mail. That chick is a trope!

    Thank you again for this post =).

  2. this is a these are the stories of real Americans trying to get back on their feet that get lost in the media portrayals of Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" stereotype. It takes courage to ask for help. when we think of welfare programs...that should be the takeaway. tfs!

    We are on the same page sis.
    Things have to get better for us collectively. The poverty levels are astounding!

  4. Confession...I used to love to spend nite at my great aunt's house because she made the best grilled cheese sandwiches. We could never understand why we never had that kind of cheese at our house or rainbow money - that's what my aunt called her food stamps. "Good stuff", you had the good stuff. Two loving parents who put the care of their children first. If only more parents would've done the same. Trust me, the slices ain't never been that good.

  5. Some people just don't know what it's like to struggle, do they?
    We would also choose to feed our babies,any parent who wouldn't, maybe shouldn't be a parent.

  6. There is no shame in that game! Hubby and I had to do it for a little while too and I was never ashamed. I looked at it as "help", and we desperately needed it.

  7. I must to say the cheese drives me crazy, I approach every time for eat cheese and I add in my recipes all the time. I read some days ago the cheese have many properties and vitamin. The most important thing is the potassium and calcium the cheese contain. I am sure that When i buying my house through costa rica homes for sale i will prepare a dinner for all my friends and I will add many cheese. That will be wonderful.


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