Ten Catastrophes for a Hungry Person

**This post is part of the June Food Stamp Challenge located over HERE.**

  1. Burnt toast. You were going to eat the last piece of bread for breakfast and the toaster got stuck and now there is no more bread so you have to scrape it and eat it anyway, or do without.
  2. Spilled milk. You think this is funny? It’s not. If this is a week’s supply and it spills, or a bug flies into it (fish it out? drink it anyway? give it to the cat/dog? argh!). Kid forgets to drink it, it’s all warm and you think it might be bad — drink it anyway or toss it?
  3. A chalky apple. Mushy strawberries. A dried-out orange. Black banana. Wormy corn on the cob. Whatever it is, if you were counting on this one piece of fruit for a meal, and it isn’t good, you have to  eat it anyway, or my, how pissed off you’ll be throwing it away (not everyone has a compost heap, or the ability to make bruised fruit into something else edible, like a compote for dessert, or banana bread).
  4. Moldy bread. See Item 1.
  5. Unexpected company. An adult friend comes by and you want to offer a glass of wine or a beer — but it’s not in the FS budget. FS don’t buy wine or beer. No money? No beer. Instead, you can offer coffee or tea, if you have it, or maybe iced tea, or maybe water. Maybe even some cookies, cheese and crackers? Nope. It’s not OK. It’s just slightly wrong, or feels that way, so you don’t offer anything, or you don’t invite them in, or you don’t answer the door. Shame: It’s a built-in part of being hungry in America.
  6. Your kids’ friends coming over. Of course you want to meet them and know what your kids are up to, especially if you’re a working parent or single parent who has to rely on a latchkey for afterschool care. But nothing strikes fear into your food budget like the sight of half a dozen teen boys trooping through the front door, eating your precious $1 apiece apples or nectarines, the ONE bag of chips you bought as a family treat, the muffins you made for breakfast (but now it’s gonna be oatmeal again).
  7. Burnt meat. Burnt dinner. Burnt anything. See Item 1.
  8. Cat or dog eats/chews on defrosting meat. (Wash it off? Eat it anyway?) Or the birthday cake you baked yourself because you couldn’t afford a bakery cake like your child begged for, but you could afford the box cake mix. A pity we don’t eat cat or dog in this country because at this moment, you could KILL it.
  9. Leftovers you had planned to take home from a work party or other gathering get thrown in the trash, or someone gives them to the dog, or takes them home. Your next three meals suddenly evaporate.
  10. Buying a meal kit or box meal thinking all the ingredients are there and this once you won’t have to cook from scratch. Discover it’s missing the one critical piece — like meat, or sugar, so that the product is inedible. Having to fake it to the kids, hide it, fix it or give in and go buy dinner from the $1 “Value Menu” because there is nothing else. Buying extra burgers to give the kids for lunch the next day. Knowing it’s a modern-day sin. Doing it anyway.
  11. Watching other people waste food. Hearing them talk about it, proving that they’ve never known a day without a full belly. Knowing they have never missed a meal. Sneaking home a couple of tea bags or cocoa mix from the office kitchen or snack bar to consume later. Looking at other people’s lunches in the fridge at work and contemplating stealing them. Contemplating stealing food. Actually stealing it.
  12. Lying about what you’re eating because it came from the food bank, a brown bag program, or a Dumpster. Lying to say you’re not hungry when someone offers to buy you lunch. Lying that you’ve had your coffee, or you don’t drink wine, or you don’t really want a bagel but thanks anyway, because you can’t repay the favor, ever, and you hate the feeling of being a charity case, even if no one really knows. Being unable to bring something to a potluck. Lying to your kids that you’re not hungry, and letting them eat. Eating their leftovers, if there are any left, after they’ve left the table, even bread crusts and cold peas or that one last bite of baby food in the jar.
  13. Being outed. People knowing how crappy your life is. People seeing how you’re not doing your job as a parent and as an adult. Everyone seeing and knowing. Shame on you. Shame.

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One Reply to “Ten Catastrophes for a Hungry Person”

  1. Julia, these scenarios are all too real for too many people. I don’t know how we’ve gotten to this point in the “land of plenty.” Well, that’s not exactly true; I some ideas about it, but I’ll save that for another time and place. Thanks for your well-written and thoughtful piece. Oh, and that last little bit in red–we should all be saying that to ourselves that we continue to allow hunger to happen in our communities.

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