I Work on the Breadline
September 27, 2013 in Health
I WORK ON THE BREADLINE
The picture that comes to mind for most people when they think of the great depression is the picture of the breadline. Black and white pictures of men standing in line around the block to get a loaf of bread to take home to their family. It was a time of great hunger, that some did not survive. It has been estimated that close to seven million people died of starvation or illness due to malnutrition.
Today, in this greatest depression, that some have called a recession, and that some have even said ended four years ago, the breadlines still dispense bread. They are not as easy to see these days as they were in the thirties, because they have moved inside. Today there are 47 million Americans using food stamps. That is 1 out of every six Americans. Joblessness, under employment and rising inflation on food, and energy have sent these poor Americans into the welfare dragnet. The social stigma of food stamps is almost completely gone now that the program uses debit cards called EBT cards.
I work as a cashier at a nationally known discount store. I sell clothing, cleaning products, house wares and food. The people I sell to are people of all colors, races, ages and sex, but most of them have one thing in common; EBT cards. I would say about half of every transaction I do is paid for with an EBT card. Sometimes people will use three different methods of payment. They will use whatever is left on their EBT card, then use whatever is left on their debit card, and then scrape their purse to find the remaining balance, and sometimes they still don’t have enough.
Another common trait of the people I serve besides the poverty is the poor health. The food I sell is not healthy, by any stretch. I sell potato chips, candy bars, bread, canned food, ice cream, soda, packaged meat, cigarettes and alcohol. I noticed quickly that a common ingredient of most of the foods is sugar and grains. Sugar and grains are easy to grow and produce cheaply and are used as fillers in processed food to cut cost and mask the taste of other questionable ingredients. Grains work in conjunction with sugars to inflame the body and compromise the immune system. Grains and sugars also have no nutritional value besides calories, so on top of inflaming the body; they do not provide the sustenance the body needs to survive. As the functions of the body require these nutrients the diet lacks, the body sucks these minerals from the bones, teeth and brain. Bone loss, and tooth decay and decreased brain function are the unfortunate symptoms of malnutrition. The poorest of the customers I serve are also the sickest. I have witnessed toothless mouths in the young and old. Mental retardation is also a common trait among many of them. I have even witnessed one unfortunate woman whose skin was a pale green color. These people are dying a slow starvation and they don’t even know it.
I am working on the breadline because I too am struggling to feed my family. I work a full time job that offers no overtime. I also work side jobs on the weekends. And now I work a third job in the evenings as a cashier. I have two small children that my wife stays home with to nurse and educate. My wife and one child suffer from health issues related to allergies and intolerances to grains and sugars as well as nutrient deficiencies. This means we basically can only eat meats and vegetables that cost much more than grains and sugars and have to spend close to a hundred dollars a month in nutrient supplements. To help pay for my family’s needs I sometimes eat junk so they can have the good stuff. My coworkers are not doing any better than I am and most of them have EBT cards too.
The food stamp program isn’t funded from heaven or a benevolent rich government. It’s funded by the money taken from my paychecks in taxes. Thirty percent of my income is taken in taxes, and another twenty is taken on other local, state and federal taxes. Having that money back would double my bottom line. And so as I ring up each item and watch a customer in bad health swipe their EBT card I think of how I just paid for one of those ho-ho’s. I don’t believe in government handouts, because they foster dependency, the entitlement mentality, they crush a man’s entrepreneurial spirit, and of course it is theft. But as I push down the urge to ask the customer to thank me personally for the ho-ho’s I realize that a part of that sale went into my paycheck, and without EBT sales this store probably wouldn’t be open and I wouldn’t have the job. It is then that I realize that I am in the breadline too, and I think of the irony of the starving feeding the starving in the modern day breadline.