Black folks are going hungry! Who gives a damn?!
It’s astonishing that America, one of the richest countries on earth, is unwilling to help its citizens in the current COVID-19 crisis. I know — I shouldn’t be so cynical — blame it on years of constant exposure to double standards, white privilege, and institutional racism.
The current pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy has hurled millions of Americans into a new reality of food banks, food lines, and handouts — many furloughed or laid-off, at no fault of their own, without a lifeline of financial help. Their lives turned upside down and thrown into a downward spiral. They now find themselves at the door of a new-normal: food insecurity — unsure how or where they’ll get their next meal.
While mile-long food lines continue to stretch, neighborhood community fridges feed the hungry, and food banks become overwhelmed, fellow countrymen with a blind eye to the suffering of people of color, proclaim: “Make America Great Again!”
I know what it’s like to lose your job and worry about feeding your family — it’s some scary shit! During the time I was laid-off, I collected unemployment for almost a year — yikes! My maximum state benefit was $133 a week (you’ve got to be fu*ng kidding me!). This benefit felt light-years away from my previous take-home pay. All I could think about was how would I maintain my home and feed my family.
My husband and I just barely kept food on the table for our family of 6 — only by the grace of God were we able to pull it off!
Food insecurity isn’t new — it existed among populations pre-COVID, but the pandemic has placed a spotlight on the racial disparities that exist―disproportionately affecting Black communities. Those affected most by food insecurity are essential workers in low-paying jobs. These workers are only essential enough to keep the goods and services flowing for a frail economy. Yet, they’re not essential enough to get help for their struggling families — damn!
If you’ve never lost a job, it may be hard to imagine what it feels like not having enough to eat — or money to buy food. I’ve faced this reality and can give you a glimpse into how a typical day unfolds:
The constant worry of how to make ends meet consumes your thoughts, leaving no room in your mind for daily doses of positive affirmations. As much as you’d like to see the silver lining, you can’t bring yourself to accept your reality — life sucks! You check your bank account, and the sight of your dwindling bank balance sends your head spinning. You tell yourself that things will be ok — the tightness in your chest tells a different story.
Once you overcome the shock of how little money you have for survival, you make a grocery list―jotting down any food items that will stretch for several days like pasta, rice, beans, and potatoes. You head to the grocery store and start throwing food items from your list into the cart — careful to get only items that will make several meals during the week. Each meal you prepare has to last at least two days―you can’t buy any items that won’t add to that lofty goal.
As you plan your weekly menu, you add spaghetti as a mainstay — because pasta, with meat and sauce, satisfies the hungriest (you will feel guilty when you have to deny a loved one a second-helping). The large family pack of ground turkey you’d love to have for the spaghetti is crossed off the list — can’t buy―too expensive.
Instead, you opt for the frozen ground turkey roll because it’s less expensive and won’t blow your budget. Forget about the Progresso or Ragu pasta sauce you swear by―the store brand will have to do. If you haven’t blown your budget, you might have enough to get the grated cheese (who eats spaghetti without parmesan cheese sprinkled on top?).
After arriving home with your budget-friendly groceries, you take stock of what you bought and then try to pair those items with food staples stocked in your pantry. Except, the pantry shelves expose the empty spaces where rows of canned and dry goods were stacked in better times. The pantry foods you have on-hand are a mishmash — nothing blends together to make a complete meal.
With all the insanity and uncertainty you’re going through, something wonderful happens: you get creative. Making a tasty meal when you have limited resources is an ego-boost until you realize that this shitty life could go on for a while! You wonder how long your creativity will last.
Rather than wallow in self-pity, you force yourself to make those dreaded calls you’ve avoided making all day — losing a bit of your dignity with each call — asking a perfect stranger to please accept the little funds you have to keep on the lights, water, and heat. You hang up — deflated because you didn’t have enough money to buy food and pay bills.
Yes, this is the life you’re dealt, when losing a job, an income, and financial stability. I can only imagine the stress, desperation, and hopelessness folks are feeling right now. COVID-19 has proven that no one is immune to food insecurity.
While we have a long way to go to reverse the damages of racial inequities, we should have empathy for others and work to ensure everyone has access to food — including Black Americans!
This post was previously published on Equality Includes You.
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