Thursday, August 18, 2011

Addressing Assumptions

So I recently emailed a question to "SimpleMom" Tsh Oxenreider which has generated a lot of awesome discussion on her site.  You're welcome to chime in with your thoughts here, but it'd be more useful to more people over there.  The gist of the question is "do I give a food pantry items that I wouldn't feed to my own family?"

In reading through the comments though, it amused me the assumptions people made about me (to some extent...on the very rare occasion, people were just mean).  I didn't feel the need to respond to each comment, but if anyone cares enough to have come over here to check out who this "Melissa" person is, I wanted to clear a few things up.

First off, my children are definitely _not_ "bubble" children.  We try (as the budget allows) to eat organic, but mostly I try to just cook from scratch with whole ingredients.  It didn't even occur to me when I posed the question that it would veer off (for some) into 'Melissa must be an all-organic, all fair-trade, all free-range, all hormone-free helicopter parent' kind of thing.  Right now our priorities are whole grains (except even I can't stomach whole-grain pasta most of the time), and minimization of food dyes, artificial sweeteners, MSG, and less so things like nitrites (nitrates?) and other preservatives.  After that comes a preference for organic.  Only after that would come fair trade/free range (sadly...I understand the issues there to a limited extent, we're just not quite there in our baby steps to becoming better stewards, etc.).  That's just where we are in our process.  Someday I'd love to be all of those things (except a helicopter parent), but we're far from there.

Secondly, it really amused me the number of times it was mentioned that I have clearly never experienced poverty for myself if this is my question.  That amuses me immensely because I _HAVE_ experienced poverty, not personally, but I've definitely seen it for myself, first-hand (and not even as a visitor - I lived there for over a year) - just not necessarily in America.  The poverty (not starvation, mind you, just poverty) that I've seen has been in developing countries and war-ravaged countries.  I think poverty looks VERY different here than it does in places like Iraq and Nigeria.  And that was/is a large part of my dilemma.

In Iraq, I could absolutely have given a sack of rice with no worries to a poor person.  They would have known exactly what to do with it and would have appreciated it immensely.  In America, those in poverty don't necessarily _want_ plain rice (or any other random shelf-stable ingredient).  They want Hamburger Helper and boxed rice with other stuff that can be microwaved easily.  They want pop-top cans.

We send a 5-gallon bucket of pasta, rice, peanut butter, flour, and oil to Haiti and a family can eat for a month.  I have those same ingredients in my pantry and my babysitters' mom worries that we can't afford groceries because my cupboards are "bare."

I absolutely don't understand poverty in America.  I've never truly experienced it first-hand, and what I imagine I would want were my family in that situation are NOT the things that are listed as "needs" for the crisis food pantry at my church.  Maybe because their emphasis is on homeless rather than just poor?  I don't know.

If this question had easy answers, I would have figured it out for myself!