No Child Should Go Hungry…

It could be the preamble to any policy prescription, making it sound both reasonable and compassionate.

No child should go hungry…let’s tax the wealthy.

No child should go hungry…let’s up the minimum wage.

No child should go hungry…let’s stop bullying because its hard to fight on an empty stomach.

No child should go hungry…let’s outlaw neuticles.

The point is not to demean or diminish the issue of child hunger – the thought of any child going hungry is sad and disturbing.

The point is — we are totally missing the point when we discuss fingerprinting for food stamp recipients.

The two real underlying issues that contribute to child hunger are the economic and moral conditions of our times. We could debate the economic issues ad nauseam and the policies that should be enacted to fight unemployment and poverty, but part and parcel of this problem is the moral component.

My Mom raised four children — I won’t say on her own, she had the support of my Dad and her extended family – but it was no picnic.  We weren’t poor by any stretch of the imagination — and my point is not comparative, but there were times that I remember well — when Mom might be between jobs, or not getting enough hours and things would be tight.  And at those times I remember the “funny colored money” that you could only buy food with.

I remember my Mom hated it, she never said anything but I could tell and in turn I felt awkward about it. I didn’t understand  then and don’t even today which things you can buy and which things you can’t and why.  I hoped that the other kids in my class wouldn’t see us checking out and if  I did see one I would do my best to avert my eyes or fade into the checkout line. Inevitably it felt like the clerk was ringing things up in slow motion, I could swear intentionally slow so I could get caught and there was always, without failure (or so it seemed), a price check. Ultimately, I would find myself wandering away from the register seemingly distracted in the hope if we did run into someone – they wouldn’t make the connection.

I, even as a 10 year old,was embarrassed that we were using food stamps.  So in that sense I understand what the Governor and other well-intentioned people are talking about when they discuss the stigma people feel accessing food stamps.

Notwithstanding that I believe that banning the use of fingerprinting as fraud prevention tool is way off base and here is why.

My Mom, even though she hated it, even though it embarrassed her – took food stamps when it was absolutely necessary — so that her children would never, ever go hungry and we didn’t. It was never for more than a few weeks at a time and as we got older it happened less and less.

That’s called being an adult, being responsible and doing what u have to do to feed your family.

Her pride and her work ethic ensured that it wouldn’t become a way of life.  And that pride and that work ethic was passed down to all of her kids who took very different paths in life.

Times change and yes, back in those days recipients weren’t finger printed but we also didn’t have benefit cards that look like every other ATM, credit or debit cards. The stigma then was counting out the “funny money” in the bright light of the checkout — not the privacy of the local assIstance office where everyone there is similarly situated.

So please excuse me if I don’t think that the stigma is too much, that public assistance should feel temporary, be temporary and not encourage a level of comfort that encourages complacency. Most importantly,  I absolutely reject the notion that a little discomfort, inconvenience or even embarrassment is ever a reason to ever let your child go hungry.

To my Mom for the guts to take help when she needed it and the perseverance to be done with it as soon as possible.  Lesson learned.

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