Education is messy. Like any system, nothing in our public schools is simple. While it’s really easy to point the blame at teachers, school boards, and the government, the problems run deeper than that. Yesterday, it came to light that a school in Pennsylvania had enacted a controversial practice of trying to recoup the money families hadn’t paid towards their children’s hot lunches. A firestorm of comments broke out across social media. A handful of people* defended the district’s idea, but the general public seemed to be outraged.
But like all things in life, things aren’t always how they seem. When I did a search on Twitter at 6:30 PM, only one person actually tweeted at the school district. Their Facebook page didn’t reveal much either. People opined all over the news yet none of them suggested the one thing that might actually fix the problem: speak up to the school. Continue reading “Outside the Echo Chamber”
My heart started to hammer as I unloaded my grocery cart items onto the conveyer belt and I started to mentally run the numbers. We might not make it under our $200 grocery budget for the month. How could this be? What was different? Did I buy too much fresh produce? Should I put something back? For a short month, this budget dilemma seemed unexpected and unexplainable. Rice, eggs, apples, cereal, almond milk, black beans, Roma tomatoes, the list goes on. After eyeing everything in the cart, I realized that any extra trips to the store in the next week would, in fact, push us over our budget. Then, as I watched the family in front of me quietly swipe their SNAP card through the card reader and then thought about my own impending bill, another thought popped into my head: So what?
Something really inexplicable has been happening as of late. More and more people are talking about being poor. Gwyneth Paltrow and her SNAP Challenge. Tim Ferriss* and his calls to practice poverty. Even bloggers, like yours truly, get so married to their budgets that busting them seems like end-of-days music should start playing in the background as spreadsheets are filled.
I have no qualms about this kind of conversation. I’m on board with simplifying. In fact, I admire people who can eschew life’s excesses and really drill down their consumption to the bare minimum. In many ways, that is exactly what the impetus behind this blog is: more purposeful living. But make no mistake about it. There’s privilege in being able to pretend.
Continue reading “The Privilege of Pretending”
Last week, Yahoo Food ran a Refinery 29 piece entitled “What It’s Like to Feed a Family For Less Than $20 a Day”. It was widely read, and if the 3,510 commenters are any indication, it was also widely misunderstood.
In a lot of ways, I blame Refinery 29 and Yahoo. Their sexy headline was nothing more than clickbait and troll fodder. The actual essence of the article was about the flawed Farm Bill and the fact that the current government assistance programs make it much easier to track down sugar-laden processed foods than fresh, let alone organic, produce. It was intended to be about the power and the voice that young people have to demand healthier options with their votes and with their dollars. Instead, it became a soapbox from which people could declare their moral, financial, and nutritional superiority while espousing judgments at their best, xenophobia at their worst.
So how exactly did thousands of commenters miss the mark? Continue reading “SNAP, Food Insecurity, and Really Angry Commenters”