My Run in with Poverty
By Sarah Hainesworth
Everyone has a choice as far as the direction they want their life to go in. I chose to be independent. Most college students live at home or on campus and don’t work or work about two days a week; not this one. I moved out of my parent’s house at 19 and never looked back. I’m a rent payer now. I’m the typical broke college student.
The best way to describe my first apartment is a luxury income based home. You could only make $28,000 a year (which was far from what I was making) to live there. This was in Howard County and there aren’t many rental properties there that aren’t nice. The apartment complex was set up like a hotel. There was a controlled entry door, a trash chute, a computer room, a lounge, a party room, walk in closets…you name it and they had it…all for the low low price of $673 a month.
I loved this place but didn’t appreciate the 45-minute commute to school so when my year lease ended I moved to Anne Arundel County. The commute wasn’t the only reason I moved. The responsibility of living on my own was overwhelming. I had bills on top of bills all in my name; first middle and last. The biggest problem was my car insurance because I had been in two accidents.
Aside from spending all my money on bills, I needed money to live off of which I didn’t have. All my friends that lived at home were going to clubs all the time and always going out to eat. I was lucky if some guy came over and ordered pizza! There was no room for Subway, Sushi, and even Sabarro in my budget! I look at the bright side of everything because I had to teach myself how to cook since I wasn’t dining out all the time. When I first moved all I could make was spaghetti and I got tired of that really fast. My fallback meals were Easy Mac, Chow Mein, and Ooodles of Noodles, which all started to taste like cardboard after a while. (If you can’t tell I’m addicted to pasta!)
And here we are at the topic of the essay – food. I was broke but I always managed to pay all my bills and end up with an empty fridge. Bills have no leeway whatsoever, if I owe 316 in car insurance that’s what’s due no matter what. There is no set amount you have to spend at the grocery store. I could spend 1 dollar on food or 100 depending on what my money was looking like. It was embarrassing. I had friends over and would get everything for them (if I even had anything to offer). My real poverty was not being able to afford to eat, I guess that’s why food stamps are becoming more and more popular. I could never go the food stamp route because I was too proud for that. I would rather pay two dollars in coins for a pack of spaghetti noodles and a jar of sauce than to use that EBT card and have the person behind me develop an opinion of just how broke I am.
The easiest solution would have been to break my lease at any time and just move back in with my parents but why? I am now 20 years old, why move back when I will move out again eventually? I am an adult; not my parents responsibility. I just have to work it out on my own. I’m too stubborn to fail and I felt like I would be failing at life to move back home. Yes 30 year olds do it everyday and some people older than me have never moved out but now that I’m in the game my only choice is to win.
My poverty eventually brought me to the Howard County food bank. I found out about the food bank because there was a memo posted on the bulletin board of the mailroom in my complex. It was down the street from my apartment and all they needed was a recent paycheck and id and bam all the canned goods, frozen meat, cereal, milk, pasta, and other starches I could eat in a month. No one understood why I was there. I wasn’t homeless and my favorite assumption…kids! Nope I still can’t afford food without having made that mistake.
When I moved out of Howard County I technically couldn’t go to the H.O.C.O food bank anymore; now I had to find one in Anne Arundel County. I stumbled across a food pantry in AA County without even looking for it.
I was reading The Gazette and saw an ad for a food pantry at a local church. I made the drive one Friday afternoon when my fridge looked as if Hurricane Katrina rolled through. I was greeted by two middle-aged women, one asked me to have a seat and that’s when the interrogation began. They needed my address, phone number, asked if I was married, and of course asked if I have kids (picture me cringing at the sound of this question). Next, they told me how great I would fit in with all the young adults in their congregation and continued to tell me how “beautiful” I am. They gave me a sheet with the times of all their services and bible studies. I was waiting to hear if there was even the tiniest bit of diversity at the church but of course they never mentioned that.
You might not see it the way I do but to me, I went looking for food and instead got a heaping spoonful of religion shoved down my throat. Yum! Maybe this was a sign from God that I shouldn’t have been listening to Pretty Ricky en route to the church.
But wait, it gets worse! I waited to inspect the box of food they gave me until I got home (didn’t want to look like a scavenger). Upon opening this box, I discovered that each and every item of food had a sticker with the churches name and address on it.
How thoughtful! Not only do I need handouts but now all my guests can see that it came right from Fill in the Blank Church of Christ! Way to make me feel good about myself.
I tried to take those stickers off using everything; my nails, a knife, but nothing could falter those degrading little labels. They were practically super glued to all those packages! Are you trying to force your religion on me? Do I really need to see the name of your church every time I put together some tuna or crack open a can of fruit?
Not being able to do something as simple as pay for a meal to put on my table was really an eye opener. I am living in poverty but this is only temporary, this is only for now. I am too determined to never live like this again.
Eventually I gave up on the impossible battle of the stickers vs. Sarah. If you have anything to say feel free to help me peel them off. Maybe I shouldn’t be so ashamed of my circumstances.