I have a love/hate relationship with food.
In 1992 after transitioning from a battered women’s shelter to my new place in the heart of Camden, NJ (highest murder rate per capita in the country at the time), my life of true poverty began. My housing was Section 8, I was receiving food stamps, AFDC, and assistance with heat and electric. On any given day when I stepped out onto my porch, there would be syringes and crack pipes present from the night before. I’m not kidding when I say I was poor.
My main concern was that my children had three meals a day. They were seven and two. Of course Food Stamps never went far enough and the AFDC amount was minimal, enough for items not covered by Food Stamps. I worked out a food plan by purchasing things like 45cent packs of hotdogs, 25cent boxes of mac and cheese and so on. My children ate. I gauged myself to have a full meal every three to four days. In between it was saltine crackers and peanut butter, and rahmen noodles. It didn’t take long to fight back hunger pains and eventually it was manageable, then became the norm.
At one point, I worked in a meat store that catered to inner city women buying meat packages with their Food Stamps. My payment was meat that was on the close end of expiration, but I learned how to manage that as well. I also washed, dried, folded and delivered laundry for the local head drug dealer. That task actually saved my children and I from gang member harassment, but that’s another story. All of these things enabled me to feed my children and keep them under a roof. I pride myself in that accomplishment.
To this day, eating regularly is difficult. I still suffer from the repercussions of lack of nutrition for three years, and believe me it does wreak havoc on one’s system. I can’t fathom eating saltine crackers or rahmen and my daughter can’t force herself to eat pancakes (pancake mix and powdered milk do not good pancakes make)! My son won’t eat mac and cheese to save his life. I guess all three of us have our own perceptions and memories of that time. Main point is, I would have and to this day would do anything to provide for my children. There is no deeper love than the love for a life you carried in your body and brought into the world. That bond is stronger than anything else a mother can experience.
As rough as it was, I survived it and today it’s one of those snippets that actually puts a smile on my face, because I beat the odds and came out on top.