Perception of Poverty | What Are People In Need Allowed to Have Anyway?

Perception of Poverty | What Are People In Need Allowed to Have Anyway?

I recently ran across a post on a mom forum titled “Look at this cart full of welfare!”

The person who wrote the post (as “anonymous”) went on to complain about how she was buying generic milk while the woman on “welfare” (she was behind her when she was checking out) was filling her cart with name brand and organic items.

“I glanced over and saw a girl about 20 with 2 small kids and a [expletive] load of crap. While I was grabbing the generic milk, she swung in for the expensive brand. As I looked closer, I’ve never seen so much garbage in one cart. Here I am spending my hard earned money, trying to stick to a budget. To see this nonsense is plain ridiculous…I can only imagine how long this girl will be relying on the system.”

The author even took pictures of the woman’s grocery cart and posted them online.

Any time I see this kind of judgment, I cringe.

Judging Poverty

Years back, when my family first started working with social workers to help families in need, the first thing they cautioned us against was passing judgment on the people you are helping. They may live in a nice house that is one month away from foreclosure. They might have a big screen television because it was donated to them from their local church. Maybe they’re spending the extra money on organic food because their child has a serious allergy and once a month they can afford to stock up on that kind of food. There are many factors that we will never know when we are helping others.

I think it’s odd that we assume that people in need are expected to be happy with the bare minimum. Did you know that some food pantries regularly get expired food donated from people? For some reason, people have a perception that if others are in need, then they will be happy with anything — even food that is expired and inedible.

Going back to the forum post, if this person’s “welfare check” covered the more expensive brand, and it was better for her children, why shouldn’t she get it? Who are we to judge anyway?

Real Truth About Poverty

Here’s the thing about most people’s perception of poverty–we want poverty to look like small shirtless children with dirty faces and distended bellies. However, the majority of U.S. people in need today aren’t homeless people panhandling on the street, and the kids don’t look like those we see on the commercials. Instead, we’ve moved into a new era of people in need often referred to as “the working poor.” These are single struggling moms, or families who make too much money to receive aid, but not enough money to actually support their family. These are Appalachian dads who try to get a job, but they have no transportation and live 40 miles from the closest city. It’s not always people taking advantage of the system like the referenced forum author said.

Today, will you take a moment to ask yourself: How poor is “too poor” before we reserve judgment and help?

Will you join us in helping Appalachian families in need?

3 Comments
  • Crystal
    Posted at 01:16h, 11 March Reply

    So SAD. I know here in Indiana, if you are on WIC assistance, your vouchers can only be used for a certain brand of product – you have to buy the name brand Cheerios or milk or baby food because the voucher is incredibly specific. So it’s not always a question of a person preferring expensive food.

  • AlannaB
    Posted at 04:09h, 11 March Reply

    I was behind a woman in line once who had mostly store brands in order to make the most of her food stamp card. The cashier told her “sorry, but your card will not cover our brand”. She admitted to wanting to save money…but it wasn’t her fault.

    There are many people who abuse the welfare system, which is sad, but not all of those on welfare want to be…sometimes they may not have any other choice.

  • Katrina Moody
    Posted at 19:38h, 25 July Reply

    I’ve been on the other side of those judgement calls. We purchase as much organic food as we can afford because we feel it truly makes a difference for our three kids with autism and epilepsy. In the same way there are some processed food products we absolutely WON’T get because, while they are cheap, the ingredients in them make my kids sick to their stomach.

    We’ve gotten “those” looks and even been lectured about buying food on a budget, with no thought given to why we purchase the food we do. We count our pennies same as everyone else, but we do purchase some things others would “frown” upon because we do think they’re better for our kids. If we see a drop off in seizures because we purchase more expensive food of COURSE we would do it again any time we are able to.

    By the same token, we spend money on other things we’ve been told are frivolous, like cable and internet, for reasons most folks wouldn’t think about either. I have three boys on the autistic spectrum and they LIVE their lives based on schedules and routines that include what’s on TV at certain times of the day – no matter how many times we’ve tried to break this little obsession. And internet – I work online to make what I can to offset the cost of being this amazingly well-off. 😉

    Great post!

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