Gloria J. McAdam, Foodshare President and CEO
A recent Washington Post first person story about driving the family Mercedes to pick up food stamps went viral. I'm sure you probably saw it.
What struck me was not the story itself: Here at Foodshare, we hear stories like it every day from formerly middle-class people who have fallen on hard times and are in line to pick up food from the local food pantry or the Mobile Foodshare truck. Instead it was the commentary from others that followed and how so many people harshly judged this family for their choices.
What is it about American culture that makes it okay for us to look down on people with lower incomes than our own and make assumptions and judgments about it being their own fault or because of the poor choices they made?
This judgment plays out in other ways, too -- the shopper who publicly comments on the food choices of someone shopping with WIC or SNAP benefits or the food pantry volunteer who assumes because someone has nice clothes that they don't need the food.
What do we actually know about that person's life or situation? Maybe that ice cream in their shopping cart is the first dessert they've had in months and is to celebrate a child's birthday or graduation. Maybe those nice clothes are their one good outfit because they just came from an interview for a job they are desperate to have.
I don't know the answer to my question, but what I do know is that it troubles me a great deal when people feel free to judge others in this way. If we could harness the negative energy that goes into this kind of judgment into positive energy aimed at solving the systemic problems that cause hunger in the richest country in the world, we could solve the problem!
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