Hunger and Stuff

One of the members of the Northside Social Workers (NoSoWo) Subversive Committee sent me this link … $25 Challenge.  A group of food bank folks and allies in Illinois took a challenge to survive on a food budget of $25 per person for an entire week.  That's the average amount of food stamps folks receive in Illinois.  It is very eye opening.  I'm not so far out of grad school that I can't remember eating pretty cheaply, but I've usually had Mom and Dad to bail me out. 

I may have written about this before, but once upon a time I was a social service person in a rural Kentucky county.  That's where I learned about real poverty.  Not have a home with running water source type of poverty.  One woman who befriended me taught me a lot of about food stamps — back then, they used stamps.  She would trudge back and forth between the two grocery stores in town to round up enough cash to puchase diapers and other non-food items.  Like soap.  And deodorant.  One time, I ran to the store for her because the baby was sick.  She insisted I use her stamps.  I had been to this store dozens of times, paying with cash or check.  This time, my experience was completely different.  The teenage cashier was noticeably rude to me and impatient when I fumbled with the stamps.  She rolled her eyes, she whispered to the bagger about my purchase of pop (ginger ale – the older kids had upset stomachs).  It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.  When I talked with Karen about it, she just shrugged it off which spoke volumes about the universality of the experience. 

I have since always said that, as part of our training and education,  social service folks — like MOI — should be dropped in a foreign city with food stamps and forced to do our shopping for a week.  Most of the women I knew in Kentucky never bought tampons or maxipads — they were a luxury.  Soap was more important.  So they used rags.  My volunteeers would just set aside all the unsellable clothing that would make good menstrual cloths. 

That made for some interesting chats when I met with women's groups.  The tampon and pad donations began flowing in every week.  Pun fully intended.  People just don't know. And the sad thing is that they really prefer not to know because then they have to go buy tampons.

Something I don't know — how gay sensitive are the local food banks?  Do poor queer people feel comfortable disclosing their true household composition in order to get the necessary amount of food?  I'm going to look into that.  I know THE food bank is cool, but I wonder about the little pantries tucked here and there. 

Can you imagine — $25 and no tampons? 


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  • a different perspective: i use the cloth ones myself. it may take a little more gumption, but it certainly saves money and the “environment” – it's so popular these days and all – all while, perhaps, providing another interesting experience in life.
    there are some women who feel very empowered by the experience, or that might not be the best word, but if you search some of the sites that sell them, you'll see some interesting customer quotes.
    these products are often full of chemicals. in the case of tampons, that always creeped me out and i never even tried them because of that. to replace them, there are products called 'cups,' very cool things. but again with the gumption.

  • I've used cloth rags for menstruation. I went through a lot of angst after I was diagnosed with endometriosis and had all these big picture questions about women's health and fertility and all that. Then I got tired of the extra effort and switched back to traditional, albeit organic, tampons and pads. I could never quite try the cup.
    However, I have to say that every month I think about my female friends from Kentucky and feel so grateful that I have all of these choices, as well as the means to purchase organic tampons.
    I'm going to talk with the foodback folks about that …

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