my first day of school with Jr., age 2
For over a year I barely ate. My daughter’s father and I split when she was a year and a half. It was a difficult departure that included leaving our belongings, and taking no financial support from him. When the divorce was finalized he quit his high paying job making the court imposed child support irrelevant. I lived with my parents for eighteen months, then left Alaska and returned to school. In three years my degree was complete–a double major of Philosophy and Literature, with an honors degree and thesis.
Jr was two when I started classes. Having managed to afford the move, to win funding for college, to start with my daughter beside me, I was happy. I couldn’t afford to study full time, raise my daughter and also work so I applied for scholarships and grants continuously. Both my college and her preschool, as a result, were funded. The income for everything else would ebb and flow depending on the time of year but she got two meals through her preschool. I ate on my own in the day, with her at nights and on weekends.
Towards the end of my second year my funding was cut thanks to a reduction in state spending. We were living in Arizona. I knew we’d leave for Alaska and commercial fishing at the end of May, but it was March. At the start of each semester I’d purchase food staples that could last just in case. We started eating them. I’d give Rachel the canned goods with grains or pasta, while I ate just the rice or noodles.
It was something I didn’t talk about but for those three years my toddler and I lived below the poverty line in a house with a breeze through the living room (there were gaps in the wall). Towards the end of that second month of rice and noodles my best friend who lived in Seattle somehow realized I had no money. That same week a letter arrived with a $50 gift card for the grocery store. The simplicity of the gift was overwhelming, and still today, more than ten years later, makes my hands shake to think about.
At four, Rachel had never complained about her food, even with a bowl of only black olives and spaghetti noodles in front of her. So I’d assumed she hadn’t noticed. When we went to the grocery store together with the gift card I realized she had. She spent the twenty minutes in the grocery cart as I pushed naming all the things we could buy. For her it was mostly the fruit.
The United States government has shut down. I am uninterested in the federal politics behind it.
Many Head Start programs are almost immediately losing funding. WIC pregnancy and nutrition support for mothers and children will not be processed. Veteran benefits will not be processed. In some states, state processes will be able to temporarily over-step the federal aspects of a short term shut down.
Please consider sending grocery store gift cards to any families you know that may be affected. Please consider giving cash scholarships to any school food programs in your area. Please consider increasing your food bank donations. Real people need your simple gift.
To read more on the shut down:
A list of what is affected: http://wtvr.com/2013/09/30/government-shutdown-whats-closed-whats-open/
BBC coverage of the government shut down: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24343698
Coverage on how the shut down will affect everyday US Americans: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2437658/How-government-shutdown-affect-ordinary-Americans.html
To locate a food bank near you: http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx
To donate to a local school, call one near you, or the area school district, to ask how.
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