“Marisa Miller is a married mother of two who never imagined she’d find herself relying on the kindness of others to feed her family.”
I first “met” Marisa when a mutual friend of ours “introduced” us on Twitter. I had written a sarcastic piece about Gwyneth Paltrow and this mutual friend thought she would enjoy it. As it goes with “Twitter friends,” I quickly realized we had some more things in common as we began inserting our commentary on each other’s lives – as Twitter friends are wont to do.
It seemed that every trial I had gone through, Marisa had gone through – magnified by a thousand. I wrote of a second trimester miscarriage – she spoke of a tragic stillbirth. I mentioned the fear of not making it to the hospital in time to deliver my baby – she relayed an anecdote about delivering her child, by herself, on her bedroom floor. Before I began living so much of my life on the Internet, I always thought you had to meet someone in person to really get a sense of their soul. Not Marisa. She was a badass. I knew it immediately and not only felt strangely connected to her – but stood in awe from afar of her strength.
Well, it happened again as I was reading through CNN last night, glass of wine in hand – unwinding after a long day of writing and parenting. I glanced at the headline How To Feed Your Family From A Food Bank, and saw Marisa’s byline. Could it be the Marisa I knew? A quick peek at her Twitter stream proved that it was. I went back to the story and devoured it.
The first time you wait in line at a food pantry, you tell yourself that you don’t belong there and it won’t be forever because you’re not like “those” people. You act timid and unsure and give up the extra pack of strawberries because you think that lady with the dirty clothes and her kids must need it more. Three years later you become a Terminator, take all the cauliflower you can and start coaching the new volunteers on organization and food safety.
What I knew of Marisa was that she was a chef and food blogger – much like most of the people I’ve surrounded myself with most of my adult life. The thing about being in the service industry is that no matter how hard things get, you always eat well. For this reason – no matter how hard it got after the birth of my first child- I still never knew hunger. When we had our second child and things became impossible financially – we moved so we could be closer to my family. I am lucky to have that kind of support, and moved my whole life to an unfamiliar city simply for the assurance that my kids would never have to know hunger, either.
When we first started going I took my children thinking I was giving them a life lesson. We tried a new pantry and two of my 8-year-old’s classmates were there. I think the other mom and I were both mortified, but I was proud of us for doing what we need to do to feed our families. I hadn’t considered the stigma of being a “food bank kid” though, so I go by myself on the weekend now.
I so relate to feeling like these things only happen to “other people.” I qualified for WIC long ago – after the birth of my first child. Something inside of me stopped me from applying for it, at the eventual expense of most of my savings. That extra money every month was sorely needed – and would have helped save me from the incredible debt I find myself in now. Although I’ve never subscribed to the belief that many Americans have that WIC is a “handout” – there is a part of me that is so brainwashed, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for the help that I desperately needed. I have a daily reminder of this in the form of my credit cards calling to pester me about balances it will take me decades to pay back.
If the numbers one in four are remotely accurate, then you know these people. They teach your children, put out your fires, deliver your mail. Many of us have had salary freezes and were able to afford the same food in 2010 but three years later, our income has stayed the same while the cost of bread has doubled.
The image of Jabba the Hutt’s crew sitting on a couch playing X-Box, stuffing their faces with lobster, waiting for a handout is wrong. We are not all lazy, unmotivated or unintelligent. We are people with families trying to make it all work. Just like you.
If you are going through a rough time – you should read this article. There are so many good tips in here about how to make your groceries stretch and how to find the best places for food donation. If you aren’t going through a rough financial time – you should count your blessings and read this article anyway – to really grasp that anyone can find herself in a position where she is struggling to feed her family. To manage to walk through it with the grace and courage that Marisa does it with is the challenge.
Learn more ways to help the hungry people around you at CNN Impact Your World