Archives for: February 2015
My family has hit some hard times lately. My primary source of income for years has been SSI, but I've also gotten child support and SNAP benefits (food stamps) for all 4 of us. I haven’t gotten child support in a while because my ex, Ben, has been unemployed, but there’s always been an expectation that he’d repay me when he got back on his feet. Last year, when Leah graduated from high school, we stopped getting SNAP benefits for her, but it was OK because she was out of the house anyway.
Everything changed this fall. SNAP benefits dropped again when Hannah finished high school. Ben got cancer, and is declining rapidly. He won’t be “getting back on his feet” and he’ll never repay me what he owes in back child support. Leah was planning to spend another year in Israel, coming home for Jack’s Bar Mitzvah and going right back. Now she’s home to stay. She is in school full time and working about 6 hours a week, but she still doesn't qualify for SNAP benefits. She has begun to buy some groceries for the family with her own money.
Leah was a big help in locating Food Not Bombs, an organization that distributes free food that stores were going to throw away. I also contacted the local food pantry and started getting food from them twice a month. I no longer need to “borrow” money from my Mom to buy food. I've “borrowed” thousand of dollars from her, with the hope of repaying her when Ben repaid me, but now we both know I’ll never be able to pay that back. She’s OK with this, in that she isn't about to let us starve, but she also can’t really afford to keep doing it.
It’s empowering to realize that I have other resources; that I don’t have to keep “borrowing” money to feed my family. I have a bit of financial independence. But it’s also hard to lose control of the grocery choices. I always walk out of Food Not Bombs or the local food pantry with several bags of groceries, but I have limited choice in what those groceries are.
Right now, I’m well stocked on lentils, but I didn't have the option to bring home split peas or black beans instead- either of which would be more useful right now. I have freezers filled with gluten-free breads, even though I’d rather feed my family sprouted wheat or spelt bread instead. Food Not Bombs does have those occasionally, but the gluten-free breads are more prevalent. I currently have a lot of greens in my fridge, but most of them are on the cusp of spoiling. I’m encouraged to eat a lot of salads this week so they don’t go to waste, and that’s good. There have been weeks when I've been completely out of greens and ate a lot more grains instead. Grain foods keep better- I have uncooked rice in the pantry and breads in the freezer. And I seem to be inundated with fruit while I often have barely enough vegetables.
I've definitely allowed Blood Type Diet compliance to slide. I used to be very careful to not serve chicken to the Bs. Jack never had any obvious reactions to it, but I felt it was better for him to avoid it. Ben got sick to his stomach when he ate chicken, so that was incentive to keep it away from him! But now that Ben is too sick to visit, that incentive is gone. I've also stopped keeping Jack away from tomato sauce. It’s something we have in abundance, both homemade from “Food not Bombs” tomatoes, as well as canned sauce from the food pantry. When I make pizza for the kids’ dinner, I make individual pizzas. I used to make the ones for Jack without any tomato sauce, but I've given up on that. He doesn't eat enough fruits or vegetables anyway, and he prefers pizza with sauce.
I’m not in a position to turn down free peanut butter from the food pantry, and the kids will eat it. Leah likes it in smoothies and in hot beverages, and will sometimes prepare that for her siblings as well. It might even make sense to encourage the kids to have peanut butter on toasted gluten-free bagels, instead of the cream cheese I have to purchase.
It all just feels like the opposite of how I used to feed my kids. I no longer have the luxury to select spelt bread over gluten-free bread, because the gluten-free bread has a few questionable ingredients near the bottom. None of them are in 100% perfect health, and I wish I could encourage them to clean up their diets to see if that would help. But I honestly can’t afford to.
I’m doing what I can to keep my own diet as pure as possible, since it directly affects my energy and pain levels. I can avoid the “questionable” breads, and keep my overall grain intake down. I’m eating larger quantities of lentils than SWAMI suggests I should, and I’m not being as strict about avoiding additives such as sodium benzoate in bottled lemon juice or soy protein added to canned tuna. I simply can’t afford to always buy fresh lemons when they’re so much more expensive than the bottles, nor can I afford to turn down free cans of tuna from the food pantry.
I’m not about to actually go hungry, nor was that ever a risk. But I can’t afford to be as careful with our food choices as we used to be and as I’d like to be.