The Real Hunger Games: Eating Just Above the Poverty Line in America
I really began thinking about the cost of food yesterday after accepting the challenge to “Live Below the Line” and allowing myself only $1.50 a day in food for five days from May 7th - 11th. I immediately set out to make a meal plan to get the whole family involved and halfway through, it struck me, I will not do this to my children again if I do not have to!
The Cost of Living Just Above the Poverty Line
You see, it was in a not so distant past that keeping food in our house was a real struggle. Though we fell into the states income assistance guidelines for gross income, we came in at just $200 too much for the net income. This was a heart-breaker for us as a single income family of five, knowing good and well that after paying the mortgage, car payment and the gas and tolls for the hubs to get to work we already down to $1000 a month and we hadn’t even touched on utilities or food cost yet, let alone any other bills we had.
Each month I would juggle bills around, paying some things late, some on time, just to make sure we had some money left for food. It was a dangerous financial game, and in the end we lost everything because of it.
The Pain of Hearing Your Children Wanting Food
When we were at our worst, our pantry was pretty barren and the fridge and freezer followed suit. Beyond the meals for the week, there was little left to eat. That is when my kids started asking why there were no snacks, not even apple to munch on and had to explain to them that we didn’t have enough money. This is when I broke down and visited a food pantry that graciously allowed us rations every other week despite the fact that we technically didn’t fit within their income guidelines either.
Feeling Envious of Those Who Received Assistance
During this time I became envious of those who received food assistance from the state. They at least knew a certain amount of food was going to make it onto their table each month without sacrificing a bill to make it happen. I actually even began to resent them. For just cents less an hour on my husband’s wage, that could be us, but instead we were suffering, hungry at times, just above the poverty line.
Getting Past the Hunger
I’m happy to tell you that we don’t worry about food anymore and are not sacrificing bills to do so. It isn’t that we’ve seen a huge increase in pay, in fact we still sit just $500 dollars above the allotted net income, we just made some major lifestyle changes to find a way to live comfortably. We no longer own new cars, in fact our newest is 1993 model (but both are fully paid for) and we no longer own our own home. It took a long time snap out of it and realize that the American Dream isn’t really all that dreamy, but when we did, we found a way to live comfortably and happy and are able to enjoy much more than $1.50 worth of food a day.