Let Them Eat…Whatever’s In These Dented Cans From The Back Of My Pantry
Don’t you just love food palaces? Round these parts in Philly, we have several new Wegmans stores to choose from, and of course Whole Foods. A new Whole Foods opened not far from where I live that includes a little bar – you can have a beer or glass of wine and a little something to eat if you find the experience of shopping for your whole foods wholly exhausting and need to partake of serious refreshment. The big chain grocery stores have even stepped up their games to stay in competition. In downtown Philly, there is Di Bruno Brothers, a gourmand’s shopping paradise, not to mention Reading Terminal Market, the Italian Market, and who knows how many other little gourmet shops throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding environs.
When you’re pushing a cart around at, say, Wegmans – or any other food palace – loading up the goodies, and finally wheeling your way to the checkout, you probably aren’t thinking to yourself, “where do those employees shop for their food?” At least one Wegmans employee in this area, it turns out, shops at a local food bank.
The food bank in question, The Lord’s Pantry in Downingtown, has won honors and praise for its operation. Unlike many pantries that just hand people a bag of food, people who come to the Lord’s Pantry can come in, look around, shop and choose what they need and want. It is a place with dignity. And they help people figure out what other benefits and assistance they might be eligible for, and how to apply for it. Here’s some frightening data from the article:
In 2006, the Lord’s Pantry served just 1,200 people; in 2009, 15,336. Last month, an all-time high of 60 families showed up on a single day. To be eligible, a family of four can earn up to $33,075 a year, individuals $16,245.
It should be noted that the food pantry is located in a upscale community where the median income is $82,979.
The day after this article appeared in my paper, another ran explaining how anger against the poor was on the rise, and how the percentage of people who think the poor have become “too dependent” on government assistance has increased from 69% to 72% in the last few years. This has happened, mind you, at the same time that my state legislature is cutting aid to the poorest elderly and disabled.
A previously undisclosed detail of Pennsylvania’s brutal budget deal calls for slashing the state’s already modest $27 to $42 monthly SSI supplement by 20 percent to 25 percent. Individuals will lose $5 a month, couples $10.
How much does it cost to take paratransit to a grocery store, to buy the groceries you can’t afford? Why, $10. Please remember these cuts are being proposed for people who are getting about $600 a month. I invite you to make out your monthly budget with that figure. No, wait, make that $590. Because we do not want you becoming too dependent upon government assistance.
I know in these past few weeks that everyone has been emptying their pocketbooks for the disaster in Haiti and surely the need is great there. It is great to see the outpouring of support and sympathy. Hopefully we can channel a little of that love and sympathy for the needy right next door – sometimes literally – too, and stop blaming them for their need. A lot of those people using The Lord’s Pantry in Downingtown used to donate to it not so long ago.
I like to give to Philabundance. I like that their vision of hunger relief includes fresh produce and dignity, not dented expired mystery cans from the back of someone’s pantry. I am grateful I have some extra to share.
And yet even the have-nots recognize that others may be worse off.
“If we’re having a good month, I don’t come,” Borden says. “I leave it for someone else who needs it.”
If only the “haves” in the state legislature had half as much empathy and sense.