Social Question

stanleybmanly's avatar

Is it essential that poverty be degrading?

Asked by stanleybmanly (20268points) 2 months ago from iPhone

I just returned from the Safeway where my notorious line karma ambushed me again. Our local safeway is always understaffed at the checker lines, and the late afternoons are truly miserable. Today I got in there a little after 3, grabbed some stuff and entered the shortest of 3 lines with only 3 shoppers ahead of me. The checker had just begun working on the load of groceries belonging to an exhausted looking woman as more customers piled up behind me in the line. The woman being checked reached into her purse and retrieved a stack of WIC vouchers and immediately a collective moan went up from the line. The woman’s expression never changed as her face flushed cherry red. The checker, a kid in her 20s stopped, put both her hands on her hips, turned to face the line and gave us a scowl that would melt concrete. I don’t know about the others, but she shamed me, and the line behaved thereafter. Not so much as a murmur as the checker methodically checked off the items individually on the tickets one by one, ringing them up then ran each ticket through the imprinting register, then inserting the ticket in the register proper. Those in the back actually abandoned the line, and newcomers joined up only to recognize the drill then flee. I stood there trying to avoid looking at the poor humiliated woman at the focus of resentment and wondered just why anyone would be required to undergo such a thing.

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80 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

6 years ago I was in line at Safeway and my credit card delined and had to cancel $300 worth of groceries. I thought that I paid it off, but instead it would take three days to clear my payment. I was embarrassed.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Oh my word. When I was a food stamp recipient they were obvious vouchers. If I shopped after work, still dressed up from teaching, I would get the NASTIEST looks from people. Poor people don’t dress professionally. Poor people aren’t clean and well groomed. I had to be scamming the system.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

BTW…good on the checker! Give her a hug for me!

JLeslie's avatar

So, the young checker stood up for the woman? Good for her! I don’t know what WIC vouchers are, but why aren’t there cards that can be swiped instead? We have the technology.

I can tell you having worked retail, it’s really a nice thing that checker did, because it’s probably annoying for her to deal with all those vouchers, but it’s not the woman’s fault.

I’m guessing most people in line aren’t judging the woman necessarily, they just don’t want to be in a line that’s going to take a long time, but for the woman I’m sure she feels badly about slowing down the line and also probably feels like she is being ridiculed or judged. Totally understandable if she does.

In that moment is the time to show compassion. Ugh.

Grocery stores really should have one line. At every military commissary I’ve ever shopped at there is one line. Publix they can suspend a transaction if you need a price check, which is really good, but it wouldn’t help in this sort of situation.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

WIC (Women with Infant Children) allows people to buy about 15 very specific grocery items. Baby formula, peanut butter, milk, cheese…I forget what all. But it all has to be tediously recorded by the checker, by hand, on a specific form, and it takes forever. That’s probably what they were groaning about.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Food “stamps” now come on an EBT card. It’s much, MUCH less obvious. Don’t know why WIC is still in the stone age.

stanleybmanly's avatar

That’s exactly what they (we) were groaning about, and I swear if I had to use those things, it would only be in the absolute dead of the weeist hours of the dead of night.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It’s pretty turrible when they whip those WIC vouchers out. OH GOD NO!!!

stanleybmanly's avatar

Yes and for those utilizing them it must be like wearing a huge sign.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yeah. It is.

hmmmmmm's avatar

Yes. It is essential that poverty be degrading. Capitalism requires poverty, and there should be a shame component. The mass of people who struggle with paying bills and feeding their family need to be seen as being responsible for this. We’re supposed to fear and loathe the poor, and count our blessings that we are not as bad off as them. It keeps us from seeing that we are them, and that this whole arrangement works for those that benefit from our labor.

My wife grew up very poor and didn’t eat lunch at school because they would make such a big deal if you were getting free lunch. She was on eligible for free lunch but feared the fuss and being labeled, so she went through school starving.

Good for that cashier, but shit – fuck those people. I can’t count the number of times that someone in front of me in line didn’t have enough money and tried to start putting stuff back. Years ago, I started handing money to the person to help cover it, but have had mixed results…understandably. I don’t want to insult the person, and there is very little way around doing so. In a culture built on myths of self-sufficiency, to have to accept help is degrading.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I am not sure how other students would have the faintest clue who gets free lunches. Who would tell them?

hmmmmmm's avatar

^ The school cafeteria workers would make a big deal out of it, and they were supposed to announce it. I’ve met other people that had similar experiences and pretended not to be hungry throughout school just to get through the day without “outing” themselves.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

That is utterly absurd. That is a lawsuit right there.
My kids qualified for free lunches. Never was an issue, much less a point of humiliation.

hmmmmmm's avatar

^ That’s good. Boston suburbs are often very wealthy with very few people who are poor. This town was/is wealthy, but she grew up in a poor family, living with her grandparents, and a single mom that was hardly around.

While we didn’t have money and my mother would get food stamps, my mother was there. And she would always send me to school with a PB&J.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Well, if any adult broadcast that a poor kid got free lunches in order to humiliate them they’d be sued in a heartbeat so I call bullshit.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

In my experience EVERYONE within a school district is pro kid and protective, from the bus drivers to the lunch ladies. They will defend those children with their lives.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Dutchess_lll: “so I call bullshit.”

Didn’t expect to get pushback on this. Too tired to fight with right-wing shit right now. And yes, even in my fucking town, I knew every single kid who got free lunch. Why? Because of the cafeteria. Also, fuck off.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

How did you know? Who told you? And why would they even tell you?

JLeslie's avatar

^^The children with free lunch didn’t pay with cash while the other kids did.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Lunches are paid weeks / months in advance by the parents. $15, $30 at a time. They haven’t sent kids to school with daily lunch money since the 60s.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, when I was a kid in high school in the 80’s we were still paying.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Dutchess_lll: “Lunches are paid weeks / months in advance by the parents. $15, $30 at a time. They haven’t senr kids to school with daily lunch money since the 60s.”

My wife and I are 47 years old. Having “pre-paid accounts” didn’t exist in either of our towns as of 1992. We went through our entire k-12 with having to bring cash and pay for lunch.

I know information isn’t necessarily your thing. But have you not heard about the stigma of free lunch before? Do a Google search, and you’ll see that it’s still an issue in may districts, and there is tons of work to fix this. A search takes 10 seconds.

I have 3 kids. There have been pre-paid accounts in the district since at least 2009 here, so I can’t imagine it would be a huge issue right now in my town.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I never paid daily and I was.a kid in HS in the 70s.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Dutchess_lll: “I never paid daily and I was.a kid in HS in the 70s.”

I call bullshit. /s

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Oh sure @hmmmmmm. I’ve heard of the made up Facebook stigma of free lunch. Who hasn’t?

hmmmmmm's avatar

^ What the shit are you talking about?

hmmmmmm's avatar

Towns are addressing it because it is an issue. Just do a search.

hmmmmmm's avatar

Waiting for a response once you read up on this issue that you have never heard of. Click the links if you can’t type in the search terms.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Dutchess_lllHere is an interesting article on the recent (2013) moves away from cash for school lunches.

“For decades, it was one of the iconic images of childhood: the youngster dispatched to school with lunch money squirreled tightly in his or her pocket or backpack. But perhaps for not much longer: As inevitably as slide rules once gave way to calculators, school cafeterias are embracing technological change.

In recent months, the city of Chicago became one of the largest school districts to sign up for electronic payments. Beginning next year students in the Windy City won’t have to remember their lunch money — just a PIN or an ID card that’s linked to an online account, where parents can choose to automatically refill low balances, set spending controls, and review what food their offspring purchased that same day. Chicago joins public schools in New York City; Fairfax County, Va.; Denver; and San Antonio, and others in the latest electronic trend.”

Apprently school debt is still an issue, however:

“It happens across the country: 76% of America’s school districts have kids with school lunch debt, according to the School Nutrition Association. The horror stories keep coming. In 2015, a Colorado cafeteria worker says she was fired for personally paying for a first grader’s meal. Last year, a Pennsylvania lunch lady quit in protest after being forced to take food away from a student who was $25 in debt.

Policies vary, but many schools serve an “alternate meal,” like a cheese sandwich, once a student’s debt hits $15.

hmmmmmm's avatar

And more

“When students in Warwick, R.I., line up in the cafeteria next week, they’ll have no shortage of lunch options. Do they want a chicken Parmesan melt? Hummus and fresh vegetables with tortilla crisps? Pizza? Sweet potato tots? A burger? Something from the deli bar? Or, in the popular all-day-breakfast category, pancakes with a cheese omelet and a side of bacon?

But for some, making a decision won’t be necessary. Starting Monday, any student with unpaid lunch debt will be automatically given a sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich instead of hot food, the city’s school district announced Sunday. Officials told the Providence Journal that the policy is necessary because the district is owed tens of thousands of dollars in lunch money, on top of contending with a budget deficit in the millions.

But critics argue that since children have no control over their parents’ finances, they shouldn’t be penalized or potentially subjected to public humiliation because of their inability to pay.”

jca2's avatar

He’s right, @Dutchess_lll. It was an issue in my district last year.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it was Auggie who used to talk about going through the embarrassment of it as a child.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Ok.
Schools are crazy with the food any more. They offer 2 breakfasts and insane amounts of choices. They let them eat in the class room. Some of the kids, that’s all they do is eat.
People drop in in the afternoon, disrupting the class, to offer fruits or candy or chips. It’s insane.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I also never ate lunch in High School. I can’t even tell you where the cafeteria was.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Dutchess_III – It seems you may have lost the plot here. After calling lunch stigma “bullshit”, you are now….wait, what are you doing? You appear to be describing your school district as being overrun with food.

While I’m not sure how applicable this is elsewhere, I can assure you that this is not the case in many Boston suburbs. For starters, kids are not allowed to eat in the classroom, candy is completely banned (even for special events/parties), and breakfast/snacks are not free.

Here’s what things cost in my town (my kids just finished 4th, 7th, and 11th grades):

lementary and middle school:
– breakfast: $1.75
– lunch: $3.00
– milk: $85
– snacks/icecream: $1.50

high school:
– breakfast: $1.75
– lunch: $3.25 – $3.75
– snacks: $1.50

So, I’m not sure what all of this “schools are crazy with the food any more” talk is about, and why I’m hearing about the fact that you never ate lunch in high school.

Are you aware that there is such a thing as free-lunch stigma now, and that schools across the country have been struggling to deal with this issue for years? Or do you still call bullshit?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Actually, I’m referring to 5 different districts that I teach in. They ALL do that.
My kids got free lunch.

janbb's avatar

@Dutchess_lll Can you accept that there are more things in Heaven and earth that are not based on your personal experience? You seem to only regard as true that which is particular to you and just dig in further when other facts are pointed out.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

And I still call such a stigma as bullshit. My kids got free lunch. There was no way for anyone but the office people to know. Noone ever said 1 single word to them.

janbb's avatar

^^ Q.E.D.

hmmmmmm's avatar

This is unreal.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I know. You would prefer to think the poor kids have to wear an arm band. Much more interesting than the fact that virtually no one knows, or cares, who in the hell gets free lunch!

JLeslie's avatar

^^I didn’t think anyone cared when I was in school, BUT it seems a lot of the children who had free lunch felt badly about it even if no one ever says anything mean to them. They knew they didn’t have the money. Maybe also some kids have been mean, but it’s not even necessary for someone to say something to feel insecure or for it to effect one’s self esteem.

Some people without college degrees feel badly about it, even if no one says anything negative. They feel regret or embarrassment if everyone around them has degrees, even if those people with degrees don’t care at all one way or the other if the person has a degree.

By any chance did a lot of the kids have free lunch when your kids went to school? Are you sure about how they felt about it?

Patty_Melt's avatar

We had punch cards. The free lunch kids had a different color card. The paying kids were paid for in the office by their parents.
The free lunch kids had to turn in their cards at the end of the month to keep track of how many meals they actually ate.
I did not know for a long time I was a free lunch kid. I found out when I wanted a second milk. I didn’t know there was a difference. It wasn’t that I thought my parents paid, I just didn’t think about it at all. Nobody treated me different.

When I became a mom it was a whole different story. Stigma over not being able to take my daughter to birthday parties because I couldn’t afford to send her with big, electronic presents, that sort of thing.

Cupcake's avatar

We had punch cards for those with free/reduced price lunch. Everyone knew who they (we) were.

Eventually in high school the punch cards were eliminated and our ID badges were scanned. If you didn’t have free/reduced price lunch, you never needed your ID. Again, everyone knew who got free/reduced price lunch. (It was most of the school, so we didn’t have quite the stigma, but I didn’t buy lunch the year that we qualified… so obviously there was stigma).

Dutchess_lll's avatar

I don’t think my kids even knew they got free lunches. It was something I arranged with the school. You just had to show you qualify for food stamps and you got free lunches.

JLeslie's avatar

I looked up stats and it’s something like 30 million children get free or reduced price school lunch.

The Republicans are kidding themselves at this point. We already have a tremendous amount of social systems, and they aren’t going anywhere. Getting on board about the realities and working out a better system would be better than just saying no and being against everything Democrats say. Democrats also need to be willing to compromise and talk about the realities.

The people in real power know the real deal and they dole out lies to fire up their supporters. They leave out pertinent information, twist statistics to fit their message, and the biggest winners are the people already with money.

canidmajor's avatar

Well, guys, you know what they say:” As goes Kansas, so goes the World!”

janbb's avatar

@canidmajor And I remember the phrase as, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

seawulf575's avatar

The only time I ever gave someone using food stamps an evil eye was when I got in line behind some guy that bought a couple bags worth of food and used food stamps to pay for it. Then he paid for his beer by pulling out a wad of bills about two inches thick…probably a couple grand. He had to peel back many layers before he got to a $20. THAT annoyed me.

ucme's avatar

We all lead busy lives & are, for the most part, tied to strict schedules.
It’s quite common therefore & in certain circumstances understandable that we’re upset to face delay particularly with what we deem as an unnecessary hold up.
In this case however, it’s not okay to have this mother feel intimidated & more stressed than she already was. People need to stop being self centred & crass in their actions, takes only a moment to think hey, you know what, she’s doing nothing wrong, i’m cool.

Patty_Melt's avatar

WIC is meant to be healthy food to start a baby’s life with good nutrition. A woman using it is a woman trying to raise a healthy child in spite of less than ideal circumstances.
I think shaming women for that is beastly. Surely her efforts are worth five minutes off someone’s day.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Right. But what they were probably protesting is NOT that she used WIC, that the government says the clerk has to write every purchase down by hand on some form. Takes forever. Poor woman.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree, they are just annoyed with the time it takes, but it’s not her fault, they could have risen to the occasion and let her know it’s ok, or said nothing.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yeah. So the asshole government needs to make it so WIC recipients don’t require an asshole, humiliating protocol for the a new single mom to have to deal with.
Wait. Where are the fathers?

Patty_Melt's avatar

WIC is not exclusive to single moms

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Well. WIC stands for Women with Infant Children. So. Anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

Men can’t get it?

jca2's avatar

The WIC vouchers go toward the nutrition for the infant and the nutrition for a pregnant mother.

WIC is based on household income.

If there’s a man in the house, his income is counted into the household total. As for getting food items, the pregnant mom needs nutrition and the baby or child needs nutrition, but no, a man is not counted as needing nutrition. He’s on his own and can get food through another program or work.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 I guess I meant if a man is the single parent he could use it for the baby. I know that’s a rare situation, but it happens once in a blue moon.

If the mom is unwed, but the paternity of the father is known, would the government count his child support payment as income for the mother? Does it matter if he’s actually paying or not?

jca2's avatar

It doesn’t matter if the mom is unwed or married. The household income is what counts, so if the man lives there, his income is counted. Whether or not it matters if he’s paying, I’m not sure.
I’m guessing if he’s not paying, there’s no income to be counted. If a man is single, the baby gets WIC as long as the man’s income is not too high.

I wasn’t eligible for WIC because my income was too high. Someone I worked with got it because she put her son in her household even though he didn’t live there. Also her husband was here illegally and worked under another name so it wasn’t counted.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yes child support is counted toward the income, but in my experience very few men pay child support.

JLeslie's avatar

@jca2 So it encourages couples not to live together, not to marry, or to lie about living together. I see this as one of the flaws with a lot of our government programs. I don’t know how to fix it except to maybe start implementing a UBI rather than these other programs.

Statistics show married couples are more likely to build more wealth (I don’t mean wealthy) so the government giving financial incentive to not be married is counterproductive most likely.

I don’t mean there is anything wrong with wanting or being single, I only mean that if people want to be a couple they might financially do better if they stay separate, and that sort of sucks.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

It’s a sticky web indeed, even for those who aren’t playing the system.

jca2's avatar

My guess is because WIC provides the most basic of nutritional needs (eggs, milk, apple juice, formula), so the assumption (from the government) is probably if your combined income is over a certain amount for the number of people in the household, you don’t need apple juice or milk or formula, you can buy your own.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Men can apply for their child. The covered items are for consumption by pregnant women, nursing women,and infants and toddlers. That does not mean the family can’t have more members. It just means that those foods are to be consumed by the specified individuals. A man can apply, with or without a wife. It is simply understood the items are not provided for him, but by family members who need a specific diet for or their growth stage.
It is no different than if a man goes to a pharmacy to pick up prenatal vitamins for his wife.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Yeah… Women and Infant Children is just the name of the program. Anyone can use the vouchers.

jca2's avatar

Here, right from the source:

https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic

Patty_Melt's avatar

No, they have to be signed, as with a check, by the individual they are issued to.
I have seen men go to appointments with their wives. The appointments check vitals of pregnant mothers and covered children. There is a nutritionist available to make recommendations and answer questions.
For some people who are not getting medical care, this is their best resource.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@jca2…so can the men use them? I didn’t see anything in your link. Seems like I’ve shopped for WIC items for my daughter before.

jca2's avatar

I never had WIC, @Dutchess_lll so I don’t know who can use them but they don’t count the men’s needs when they calculate how much to give the family.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Well I know they don’t factor in men’s needs, just the income, but can anyone go in the recipient’s stead to get the good?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Hell! I’ll text mu daughter.

jca2's avatar

I’m not sure. In NY, they give out a card so I am imagining that anybody can take the card (like a credit card) to the store. I mean, what if the woman just delivered a baby or was sick and couldn’t get out? I would hope that someone else could pick up the stuff for her.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

No you can’t. It has to be the person whose name is on the check.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I answered that above.

jca2's avatar

In New York State, you can authorize two people to pick up your WIC vouchers or pick up groceries on your behalf. Apparently I was mistaken about it being like a credit card, which I said earlier, but here’s the link about the two other people who can pick up groceries for you:

https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/4008/

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Thanks jca2. That makes sense….what if Mom’s sick or something.
No it’s not like a credit card. It might as well be straight out of the 40s. Pen and paper. It’s embarassing and it’s a pain for the person using it. Don’t know why they can’t update it.

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