Hunger Awareness Month: “Stop judging me for shopping with WIC”

grocery checkoutLast August, we reprinted Sue Kerr’s take on bullies with buggies – the phenomenon of “register rage” when people in grocery stores judge and condescend to someone paying with food stamps for what they have in their cart. Her post took head-on a piece in The Huffington Post on “cash register resentment” and a poll on the same showing that Americans have strong feelings about what people on food stamps should and shouldn’t be purchasing with those benefits.

Billions of dollars in food stamp cuts later – thanks to Congress allowing the expiration of post-recession stimulus funds and then passing a terrible Farm bill – little has changed. Yes, Governor Corbett has made Pennsylvania one of a few states to block those cuts from going into effect. He is up for re-election, after all.

But have attitudes among the most fearful, selfish, and judgmental in our society about those in need really changed? Not according to this piece that Salon recently reprinted from Waging NonViolence. It’s an insightful account of what it’s like to shop using WIC benefits – the federal food assistance program for low-income pregnant, nursing, and post-partum women – women who are not safe, it seems, from casual and crushing judgment in our country.

Without further ado, below is the intro to Frida Berrigan’s fantastic piece. You should follow the link at the end to read on.

The girl behind the checkout counter at Shop Rite sighed deeply and pushed her manager call button. A slightly older girl shuffled over wearily.

“WIC,” the checkout girl said, turning the three letters that stand for Women, Infants and Children — the government-funded supplemental nutrition program — into a long whine.

The manager mumbled, moved her out of the way and proceeded to look over my special WIC checks.

“You can’t get that brand of tuna fish,” she admonished.

“I know,” I said. “But you are out of the store brand.”

Another long sigh and she was gone.

“Sorry everyone,” the checkout girl addressed the line forming behind me. “She’s got WIC.”

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