I admit it. It's true. I lie to the people running the food pantry.
But before you get out your pitchforks and righteous indignation, before you diatribe about me "abusing the system" or taking advantage, please let me explain.
I'm not lying about needing the food. I'm not lying about my family size to get more in the bags. I'm not hiding income so that it appears I'm destitute.
My lie concerns the little check boxes at the bottom of the form I fill out each time:
Reason for need (check one):
- Temporary loss of employment.
If you notice, all of these are pretty much "reasons why you aren't working." Maybe that's just the impression I get, but there is no check box for "barely making it even though we're working."
See, that's the problem. My husband has a job -- a good job considering the economy and our location. I take on small jobs as I can find them to work from home, or where I'm able to take my youngest with me. And yet when it comes down to all of our bills -- utilities, rent, insurance, gasoline, medication, clothes and those unpredictable mishaps that seem to plague low income families -- we just don't have enough left over to feed us all. We are working -- but we're just barely making it. All of our bills have set amounts that must be paid for us to keep our other necessities. How much we spend on food any given week is the only thing I can control.
And by control, I mean take what's left over after paying towards everything else and using it to feed my family of four for a week. Sometimes it's $50. That's a pretty good week. Sometimes it's only $20, and the kids complain of boring beans and rice again. Some weeks, it's even less. Some weeks, I feed my children and my spouse, and find an excuse not to be hungry because there's nothing left. Those weeks suck your will to live. And it's this reason that I solemnly drive to the food pantry each month, wait in line, and lie on my paperwork to get food for my family.
We are working, we just don't always have the money to eat.
So which box do I check? "Temporary loss of employment" -- because that's the only one I feel like I can stretch enough to cover the truth. We are in poverty due to a broken system and lack of employment that pays enough for us to thrive. And we can only hope it's temporary.
Trisha is writing under a pseudonym.
Trisha's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.
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