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The Stigma of Being Poor

We were poor growing up. There I said it. I qualified for reduced lunch because I was being raised by a single parent who was working three jobs to make ends meet. No child support from my dad. Even then it was only reduced lunch at 20 cents. Was I embarrassed? Sure, but the need to eat won out over the embarrassment. You would think after the “No Kid Hungry” Campaign that things have changed in this country, but no it has not. It broke my heart to read this article the other day on The Huffington Post called “That is the Poor Kids’ Line”.

We are a country of haves and havenots and yet we keep applying the stigma of being poor to everyone. Why?  I live in a predominately African American county and the number of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch is 57%. More than half our county children. There are a number of things that can contribute to this number: unemployment, low paying income, number of household residents, etc but does it make it okay to look down at folks? No.

My son doesn’t qualify for free or reduced lunch because his parents make over the threshold to qualify. Do you know how much you have to make? For a family of two you would have to make less than $30,000 a year before taxes. The exact amount is $29, 101 a year for reduced lunch. Guess how much you would have to make in order to qualify for free lunch? A family of two would have to make $11,670 a year. How can you survive on that amount? Is it feasible? Not in this area. The average 2 bedroom apartment in a low income neighborhood is $1,100 a month. That doesn’t include utilities. They charge everything from gas, electric and water nowadays.

Do you have a car to get you back and forth to work and the kids to school? Yep, well deduct your car note and car insurance. No car, public transportation is really expensive in this area. It’s based on distance. What about food? Food prices and gas prices fluctuate, so that can hurt you. What about health insurance? It’s a lot. Here’s a chart to help you get a big view picture.

Expense Monthly Amount Yearly Amount
Rent  $                   1,100.00  $                     13,200.00
Electric  $                      120.00  $                        1,440.00
Gas  $                         20.00  $                           240.00
Water  $                         25.00  $                           300.00
Car Insurance  $                      135.00  $                        1,620.00
Car Note  $                      258.00  $                        3,096.00
Before/After Care  $                      312.00  $                        3,744.00
Food  $                      200.00  $                        2,400.00
Health Insurance  $                      200.00  $                        2,400.00
 $                   2,370.00  $                     28,440.00
Yearly Calculations
Annual Salary  $                29,101.00
25% Federal Tax  $                21,825.75
Maryland Tax  $                   1,743.04 $50+4%over the excess of $2,000
Take Home Before Expenses  $                20,082.71
You need  $                28,440.00
You make  $                20,082.71

You see how you are $8,000 short a year? I didn’t include your PG County taxes or the reduced lunch at .30 a day for breakfast and .40 a day for lunch. There are 180 school days for the children so that is an additional $126.00 a school year to feed your child. Relatively cheaper than packing their lunch and feeding them breakfast at home. You’re already short over $8,000 so what about food and childcare during the summer months?

No wonder so many of our children go hungry in this country. We are making it impossible for parents to be able to work, live and provide the basics for their children. You see why my mom worked three jobs to even be able to give us lunch money? When there is more money that month what do you do? Look down on those that can’t afford it?

It’s hard out here and I pray that people will learn to be more compassionate. I don’t qualify for free and reduced lunch and it is expensive as a working parent. If I didn’t cook him a full breakfast each morning and pack his lunch it would cost me $738.00 a school year. Breakfast is $1.50 a day and lunch is $2.60. You see the expense? Thankfully I only have one child. Imagine having more than one.

That is why I’m a champion of the Maryland Meals for Achievement (MMFA) program. This program provides breakfast in every classroom each morning. No one pays to eat, regardless of family income. The only requirement is that Under state law, any school that participates in the federal School Breakfast Program and has at least 40% of its enrollment approved for free or reduced-price mealsI reached out to his Principal this year to see if this is something we can get for Brennan’s school in the Fall of next year because it gets time consuming and expensive to get breakfast on the table, him dressed and out the door in order to drop him at school and fight rush hour traffic to be at work on time. We need more programs like this. We need programs that aim to feed children.

Let’s have an attitude of gratitude and understand that it is a blessing to be able to feed your children, but we should never look down on those that can’t afford. We have to stop stigmatizing those that are less fortunate and see it is an opportunity to invoke change in our school districts and states. Look to see if your state has this program because no child in America should go hungry.




    1. Yep, and that is another topic. We shouldn’t blame children for their parents being poor. Granted there are some folks that are good with not working and having food to eat or living on the streets, but I’m sure that number is far less than those who don’t want to go bed hungry or hear the growls in their children’s belly. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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