Did you really think that I was going to write about how to cheat your way into getting more food from the food bank? Shame on you. I have to admit, I only used that title to see how many search engine hits I get for people looking to get a little more than they should have.
No, what this post is really about is the people who do cheat the food bank and those who are unfairly judged for using the food bank.
This all came up while discussing a news article with a few coworkers. In this article, they discussed a very well dressed woman who was going to her local food bank to pick up groceries for herself. Based on her attire and the fact that she owned a home in a nice area of the city, people automatically assumed that she was cheap and taking food away from those who really need it.
Then they discussed her situation. She was out of work. Yes, she owned a nice home, but she had a mortgage on it. She had considered putting her home on the market, but she was upside down in her mortgage, meaning that house prices had fallen so much that she owed more than her home was currently worth. Selling wasn’t going to get her anywhere. She was working temp jobs, trying to make ends meet and had cancelled all of her excesses. She had put out an ad to try to find someone to rent a room in her home. Most of her money went to paying her mortgage. She didn’t have much left for food when all her bills were paid.
Some people argued that she should just sell her house or sell her stuff. Easier said than done. Clearly, selling her house wasn’t going to help, and to sell your stuff, you need to have someone willing to buy it. She was doing what she could, and the food bank was designed to help all types of people in need, including this woman. We need to be careful to get all the facts before we rush to judgment. Personally, I don’t think we should be judging at all.
Having talked with employees and volunteers at local food banks, I know that there are people who take advantage. The workers I talked to said that they never turn anyone away. Some people qualify for more, such as additional food or vouchers for a local grocery store, but everyone is allowed the basics, no matter their income. And the workers admitted that it’s difficult when they know someone is trying to take advantage of the system or cheat the system. I’m not going to go into details as to their methods (mainly because I don’t want this blog entry to become a way to help others abuse a wonderful program), but it is possible and I find it disheartening.
I’m sure that many people are just desperate and worried about feeding their family, and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that must be. But lying and cheating your way into a better situation probably isn’t the way to go.