Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. – Jeremiah 22:3

The other day, I walked into a Whole Foods to pick up a few items, my WIC vouchers in hand. I have the luxury of thinking carefully about my food purchases. My husband and I do not want to support the torture of animals, and we do want to put money back into the hands of our local economy. We try to eat more in-season, locally, organic, fair-trade. We still, however, sit somewhat close to the poverty line, and we have had to make a few sacrifices. Less meat, more beans. Rice and pasta to tide us over. Eating what is on sale, doing without non-essentials like alcohol or snack foods.

Due to both my medical emergency and the financial strain of losing work hours, WIC was a godsend in the area of feeding the baby. I had never felt more vulnerable in my life, both physically and financially.The WIC vouchers help too (especially in more expensive stores like Whole Foods). I wandered the aisles, looking at the beautifully stocked shelves, until I found a clerk at the back of the store. “Do you participate in the WIC program?” I asked. He had never heard of it before, but his female co-worker was sure that the store did. I didn’t see any of the tell-tale blue stickers placed under the proper cereal boxes or bags of dried beans, but I took her at her word. As I queued up to pay and saw the look of confusion on the cashier’s face (male, hipster glasses) when I handed over my voucher, my stomach started to sink. As the line piled up behind me I tried to explain what the WIC program was.

The boy was interested, but he had never heard of it. He called his manager and confirmed what I already knew. Whole Foods did not participate in the program. I left my small bag of groceries at the register and walked out the door, trying to keep my smile bright. I went home and e-mailed the customer service team, who responded to me within several days. “Unfortunately,” they wrote, “we cannot participate in the WIC program” due to conflicts with “quality” in regards to specific products such as infant formula. It was short, conciliatory, dismissive. It was clear that they did not need my business, nor the business of anyone who found themselves in need of a little assistance when feeding their children.

The e-mail brought me back into those harrowing first months of my daughter’s life: due to a vicious medical emergency, she was born nearly 2 months early and I was left without the ability to breastfeed her. I was sad and shaken up by my traumatic birth experience, grieving the loss of my ability to feed my own child. I remembered the price of formula, the staggering realization that it would cost us upwards of $150 a month. Due to both my medical emergency and the financial strain of losing work hours, WIC was a godsend in the area of feeding the baby. I had never felt more vulnerable in my life, both physically and financially.

In a flash, as I deleted the e-mail from Whole Foods, I was reminded of my vulnerabilities all over again. And I did not like it.

I am not the only one who has depended on the kindness of family, strangers, and the government to get through tough times. For many others, it is the same—according to the website, the WIC program (which stands for Women, Infants, Children) serves over 9 million participants in America. Walking into a WIC clinic is like seeing a living, breathing poster for diversity: women, infants, and children from all ethnic stripes, showing up to collect their food vouchers. It is loud, messy, chaotic, and fraught with contradictions. People yelling at their children and cooing at their babies. Overworked employees and stressed-out moms. All of us doing whatever we can to take care of our own, receiving a bit of help.

A few years ago, my husband and I were young and in love, and we considered ourselves materially poor. We decided to have babies anyway. After I signed up for WIC, I sat through basic informational sessions on nutrition (Eat the Rainbow!) had my blood tested for iron deficiencies, and handed over my pay stubs to prove I was hovering near the poverty line. In return, I got vouchers that allowed me to get food from participating grocery stores: corn tortillas, beans, milk, cheese, eggs, cereal, juice. I also got a tragic and precious voucher for $12 worth of fruits and vegetables for me and my growing baby.

Every month I would get the vouchers, and every month I would go off to the grocery store. The clerks eyed me, sighing at the extra work I was making for them, snapping at me if I got the wrong item (No organics! You got the 14oz peanut butter instead of the 12oz!). Handing off those tell-tale vouchers became a lesson in embarrassment, so I anxiously tried to do everything right, to be the noble and righteous poor, just so I could collect my few bags of food.

“I don’t really need this,” I would tell myself, as I watched the other people in the grocery store size me up, or as I sat in the WIC office and saw other women struggling to keep their three children quiet. I am not really, truly poor. I have safety nets. I have a support system. And yet, here I am, taking the vouchers handed to me. Qualifying, fair and square, for a little nutritional handout.

I teach English to speakers of other languages for a (small) living, and many, if not all, of my students qualify for some type of government aid: SNAP (food stamps), cash benefits, medical, and WIC. It is a small commonality we share, the mothers and I, trying our best to feed our children. Most of my students are from the horn of Africa, countries that have been decimated by war, strife, and ever-constant hunger. I heard a long time ago that there is a pattern to those who die in a famine: first the crops and then the livestock, then it is the babies, the elderly, the children, and the mothers. Finally, only the men are left. As a result of the 2010-2011 drought in Somalia, over 260,000 people died of starvation. 10% of the children in the country were gone in the blink of an eye. In the south, one in five children died of starvation. In the quiet of the night, I let myself think of all of the mothers, so many with empty arms.

This is always the pattern. Infants, Children, Women.

Currently, Somalia is again experiencing drought. To compound matters, there has been an increased presence of militants blocking towns, causing the most vulnerable within to starve. In my own Midwestern, American city, summer is coming—which means increased levels of hunger among children who rely on free and reduced-priced school meals to get them through the day. In my own country, people who are not women, nor infants, nor children, have been shooting each other in U.S. schools at the rate of nearly once a week for the past 18 months. People who are not women, infants, or children are the ones responsible for over 80% of all violent crime, and they account for over 90% of all our lawmakers. The realities of our broken, hierarchical, violent world are laid bare when we stop to consider who are the most at risk in our world, and how we choose to perceive them.

Women, Infants, Children.

Some of us have the luxury of not understanding the vulnerabilities inherent in gender and age in our world today. Some of us can choose to be unaware of government aid programs that catch the hungry children before they slip through our fingers. Some of us, myself included, can slide up and down the poverty scale as it warrants us, choosing to live simply without ever experiencing the true crush of hunger. Some of us, myself included, would rather pretend that the world is equal and just, and that right living and right thinking will lead to right outcomes.

I wanted to write about how we all feed our babies. I wanted to write about how I do not like being reminded of how vulnerable we are, and how often I choose to look away. I wanted to write about about famines and government cheese, my neighborhood and community, all of us so hungry for a better world. I wanted to write about a God whose eye is always on the most vulnerable in the community, who longs for his church to be the shelter in a violent, hungry storm. I wanted to write about the orphan and the widow, about how so much precious blood is being wasted, how the most vulnerable are still oppressed everywhere we look.

I wanted to tell you a story about Women, Infants, and Children, but it turned out to be the story of all of us.

img via U.S. Department of Agriculture


41 Comments

  1. I completely understand your experience. I’ve been there too. I have chronic health issues that make it impossible for me to work. When I had a baby we discovered I was unable to breastfeed so I had to go to WIC for formula. My husband always went with us and we were told “Isn’t it nice that he’s so involved.” That made me sad. He’s a good dad that takes his job seriously. He’s not a frill. We need him. One time in the waiting room I watched a woman actively neglect her two year old daughter. I prayed for that family and cried on the way home. We did not abuse the system, we followed the guidelines and needed help, but we were treated badly at grocery stores and I felt ashamed. By God’s grace my husbands job improved to the point where we no longer needed assistance, but we stopped using WIC before then. Too much time, too much embarrassment, and too much heartache. God used the program to help us when we needed it. Praise God we don’t need it anymore.

  2. It’s unfair (borderline insane) to blame Whole Foods. Yes, they don’t accept WIC vouchers; yes, that’s hard on low-income people who want to eat organically.

    Yet. . .

    This is not Whole Foods’ fault. WIC does not cover in any way, shape, or form, organic foods. There’s program-specific “quality concerns” which prevent Whole Foods from taking the vouchers.

    Take it up with the government. Write an article about how this rule is hurting your family. But don’t, for goodness sake, take up with Whole Foods.

    I have especially low sympathy since the author makes clear she was already fully aware that organic food is not allowed on WIC tickets.

    What does this article accomplish beyond complaining dressed up in a religious coat? There is an addressable, attackable target who is specifically blocking her family from eating organic (the WIC program) yet she complains about Whole Foods.

    1. Who blamed Whole Foods? And for what?

      She told her experience. She didn’t blame WF for anything.

      As for “what does this article accomplish” – that’s up to the reader. For you, it incited frustration with the author. For me, and I pray many others, this article accomplished a heart-wrenching, necessary re-evaluation of our broken world, a fervent plea for its Maker to come to the rescue of the helpless, and a conversation with my husband about what we can do.

    2. Not all the food at Whole Foods is organic in the first place. But their non-organic produce, short of what’s available in season at local farms, is of far higher quality than what you can get at a typical supermarket. And they have rating and evaluation systems for many of their products ranking how sustainably they were produced. And they have items that are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else. Maybe she headed there for those reasons.

      It was a good article. I’m sorry if you think discussion of how certain populations are more vulnerable than others to poverty, but that’s not the author’s fault.

  3. So, basically, someone who is poor and willingly chose to have children and take those sacrifices is complaining about not being able to shop at Whole Foods. *I* can’t shop at Whole Foods and I’m not WIC.

    Also, bring up Somalia for extra spirituality.

    (Oh, and by the way, it’s not Whole Foods stopping that. They don’t have a choice in the matter. You wanna complain, take it to government.)

  4. Before blaming Whole Foods, I would suggest trying to do a story from the other side- see if you can get some store managers that do take WIC to talk to you about what a pain it can be dealing with the WIC program- it’s not the people using the vouchers that are a problem. IT’s the program itself and the burden it puts on the grocer. My husband was a regional manager for a chain of low cost grocery stores for ten years. We’ve been on WIC before so he wasn’t without sympathy or understanding for the customers. But as a grocery store manager, he hated the WIC program.

    He found the WIC staff rude and difficult to deal with. He found the rules they had for what formula they had to stock and how it had to be stocked burdensome, costly, and inefficient. It does not matter what formula customers in our area prefer, he had to stock some formula that nobody here ever buys so it just go thrown out when it expired. But since they were in the WIC program, they had no choice. His boss agreed about the waste and inefficiencies and arbitrary bureacratic nonsense the WIC program brought to their lives- there were times they hired somebody *only* to handle the formula and work with the local WIC witch.

    The only reason the stores participated in the program is because if they didn’t, customers on WIC would shop at other stores, so the money they lost on WIC would be made up by their customer’s other purchases. But Whole Foods is not in that same situation- their customers will still come to WF to buy their specialized items that other stores don’t carry- so when you ask them to participate in WIC, you are actually demanding that the store lose money. If you want stores like WF to participate in WIC, WIC’s formula requirements need to be changed drastically, and that’s a government/corporate crony problem, not a WF problem.

    1. There is no reason for Whole Foods to throw out food or formula. They could donate to their local food bank and take it at a tax break under losses. I call BS on that one.
      Our local FB runs in tandem with our women’s shelter to access items that these displaced women need.
      Store loss margin on items due to spoilage or expired items is a tax deduction.

      I won’t shop WF as they believe that women shouldn’t have choices.

  5. First, thank you for sharing your story and for reminding us of what people experience in this world.

    Second, I do hope you ignored the comments from #2-4. All completely disingenuous, unhelpful, judgmental and condescending. They are an embarrassment and the black sheep to mankind.

    Third, I’m sorry. My heart breaks that you and others in similar situations that are vilified for nothing. As if struggling to feed an infant wasn’t hard enough, nobody needs the glares from self righteous idiots.

    And lastly, press on. You are a hero to women, parents, children and myself.

    1. “Hello. My name is Mr. Chesterton and I am the blacksheep of mankind.”

      Indeed, it is incredibly “unhelpful,” as you say, to suggest that the author take up battle against the WIC program instead of Whole Foods (who cannot, legally, support the program).

      Indeed, it is incredibly “condescending,” as you say, to find the author’s points lacking.

      Indeed. What a insufferable wretch I am!

      Why, it is not as if I stormed into the comments and declared all those with different opinions to be “self-righteous,” “embarrassments,” and “the black sheep of mankind.” That, if we look in the dictionary, is true self-righteousness.

      Thank you for “The black sheep of mankind,” by the way. I plan to introduce myself with that phrase from now on.

  6. Well, I’m glad at least commenters chose to take up the defense of Whole Foods, and not the patriarchal systems in the world.

    1. *raises hands in a black-sheepish manner.”

      I support the Patriarchy.

      The Patriarchy, historically, brought us from tribalism to democracy.

      The Patriarchy, spiritually, through God Himself, brought us from the spiritual night of paganism to Judaism and Christianity.

      The Patriarchy, physically, brought us the technology that makes our lives easy.

  7. The medical emergency involving Ms. Mayfield’s daughter was a desperate *need* that had to be met, and — as a taxpayer — I’m glad it worked. In no way am I criticizing her for that.

    But *today,* she qualifies because “We considered ourselves materially poor. We decided to have babies anyway,” and she and her husband “slide up and down the poverty scale as it warrants us, choosing to live simply without ever experiencing the true crush of hunger.”

    Further, “’I don’t really need this’” …. I am not really, truly poor. I have safety nets. I have a support system. And yet, here I am, taking the vouchers handed to me. Qualifying, fair and square, for a little nutritional handout.”

    That “little handout” that Ms. Mayfield, with her obvious education, her intact marriage (it’s funny how little a role the husband plays in all this, but that’s another discussion) and her admitted safety net and support system took would be a lifeline to the woman who fled with her baby and the clothes on her back to a battered women’s shelter… or to the undiagnosed dyslexic woman who was passed through a wretched school until she dropped out, pregnant at 16 … or to lots of people who didn’t *choose* their lots in life.

    Now, for those who will accuse me of “judging:” since Ms. M began with a quote from the Prophets, let me add two references from the Epistles: I Timothy 5:8, and 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

    Or, more briefly: you opt into “living simply”? Leave the WIC for people who can’t opt out.

    1. Completely agree with you! Especially battered women who are fleeing for the lives with their children and most likely the clothes on their backs. These mothers are the ones that would be thankful for any help, and never complain about not being able to get WIC from Whole Foods!

      Let’s get this straight. The Author was “young and in love, and considered herself materially poor, and decided to have babies anyway.” But no worries! No worries if a medical emergency arises when deciding to have babies, which is what we as a reader are led to believe. Obviously this author has no problem getting “help” from somewhere, even the government! Bet she has never stopped to think where this government “help” comes from! PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY PAY THEIR TAXES! Then pay for her needs from their hard earned wages, even though they have no choice! To write a story about the fact she cannot use WIC at Whole Foods is unbelievable. This author has no problem with handouts. She should be thankful for what she is being given, freely, by other people’s labor….(it does not grow on a magical government tree)……than write about a grocery store’s policies! Be thankful for what you are given, not what more you can get for free. I would bet a battered mother trying to escape an abusive relationship would not be stating what this author did!

      2 Thessalonians 3

    2. In response to both Carey Martin and Tammy…

      There was another who exclusively chose to live in poverty when he didn’t need to, who took handouts, and could have gone without.

      His name was Jesus, also known as the Son of God.

      You don’t actually know the author or why she and her husband choose to live the way that they do. Yet, you seem to feel perfectly qualified to sit in judgement of them (and using a couple of scripture passages out of context does not serve as a legitimate excuse for doing something -sitting in the seat of judgment- that Jesus commanded us expressly not to do).

      Perhaps they have chosen, as did Jesus, to live and work among the poor and go without certain certainties in their lives because it looks a little bit like God to do so (especially when He calls you to that way of living). To me, it doesn’t look like God to berate a fellow believer for choosing a lifestyle of sacrificial love – to me, that looks more like the accuser.

    3. I dislike replying to myself, but as there is no way to reply to “Timothy” directly, I’ll do so anyway.

      No, I do not know the author personally. All I know is what she chose to share. If she didn’t share something important, well, she didn’t share something important. That’s a risk of writing; I supported all the conclusions I drew with quotes directly from the article.

      I agree context is important. For example, the Timothy (the epistle, not the poster) quote is part of a 13 verse passage defining to whom the church should give charity (“widows indeed”) and to whom it should not. The Thessalonians quote was part of a 9 verse passage rebuking those who would not (not could not) work and telling the church how to deal with such. Horrors! Was Paul encouraging the church to JUDGE?!? Why yes, yes he was. And so was the author, and so is “Timothy” in his rebuke of me. If there is a more misquoted verse than “Judge not,” today, I’m not aware of it.

      And finally, speaking of my lack of awareness: if “Timothy” (the poster, not the epistle) can point out to me the passages in the Gospels where Jesus took money from the Roman government or, for that matter, alms from the Temple to support his ministry, I will read them with alacrity, as I have never found them myself.

  8. I too agree that Whole Foods is not to blame in this situation because I believe this is a much bigger issue. I am a mother who understands wanting to feed your children organic & healthier food & that in turn gets costly. So therefore hopefully the WIC program can find ways to make it easier for stores to participate in organic.

    But I mainly wanted to say that never feel ashamed to get a little help (or anyone else for that matter). So maybe you’re not living on the street poor but if you qualify, could use it & work hard by all means please do!!! Please ignore rude people & keep doing what you’re doing! Wish you the best of luck! God bless you & ur family

  9. “A few years ago, my husband and I were young and in love, and we considered ourselves materially poor. We decided to have babies anyway. ”

    Let me share my story. A few years ago, my husband and I were young and in love, and we considered ourselves materially poor. We decided not to have children that we could not adequately provide for.

    I would love to have toddlers running around my apartment as I write this, but I don’t. Because I don’t believe in creating lives irresponsibly. If you don’t share that belief, that’s fine, I respect that. But you must understand that your choices have consequences. Choosing to have children means choosing to give up some luxuries, and Whole Foods and organic food is a luxury, not a necessity.

    I would also love to have the budget to shop at Whole Foods, but I don’t. I don’t complain about that or expect the government to give that to me. I am not entitled to Whole Foods. I am thankful that I have access to fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy proteins from places like Walmart and Aldi.

    “I teach English to speakers of other languages for a (small) living, and many, if not all, of my students qualify for some type of government aid: SNAP (food stamps), cash benefits, medical, and WIC. It is a small commonality we share, the mothers and I, trying our best to feed our children. Most of my students are from the horn of Africa, countries that have been decimated by war, strife, and ever-constant hunger. ”

    Let me share my story. I have taught English to speakers of other languages for a (small) living, and many, if not all, of my students qualify for some type of government aid: SNAP (food stamps), cash benefits, medical, and WIC. Some of my students are also from the horn of Africa, along with Southeast Asia and other countries that have been decimated by war, strife, and ever-constant hunger.

    And I recognize that we do not share the same economic burdens, and as someone who works with them you should recognize that neither do you. You and I had access to birth control and could have made different family planning choices. They did not. Your pregnancies were not a result of rape, some of theirs are. You and I understood the consequences of bringing a child into an impoverished situation and how that would impact their lives, because we have an education. They do not. You and I can read and write, many of them cannot. You and I can walk into a staffing agency like Randstad and qualify quickly for an office job offering above minimum wage, with promotions likely within the first few years of working there. They often struggle with the skills necessary to get a minimum wage, manual-labor job, and because of background education, mental health issues, or family responsibilities, will NEVER get promoted, never get a raise, never have the “option” to move up far enough to no longer qualify for SNAP/WIC. You don’t speak English with an accent, which research demonstrates will inhibit even fluent, educated applicants from getting a job for which they are otherwise qualified. They most likely always will.

    I understand the desire to shop for your family at Whole Foods. I go there once or twice a year as a treat, and I can only afford that because again, we made the choice to not have kids until we are more financially stable. If that’s truly your desire, no one is stopping you from taking a better paying job and paying for that, but please recognize that is what is standing between you and your gluten free crackers and raw sheeps milk cheese. Not the evil Whole Foods corporation, not the government. You.

    I also understand the desire to relate to the refugees you work with, and you can on so many levels. You do all love your children, you all share a desire for what is best for them. You can share meals together, a love of nature together. Even better, you are all sinners in need of a Savior. But please recognize that you have privileges that they do not have, and in many ways you are not the same.

    I apologize if this comment has come across as hateful or judgmental, the intent is more loving correction than anything else, but perhaps it is the commonalities in our stories and the differences in our attitudes that struck a chord with me.

    1. I always find it so uplifting when children are referred to as “consequences” and those who work among the refugee community are deemed “irresponsible.” Add to that the obvious grace that had been showered on the author’s honest struggles with her own predicament and it just adds up to a fantastic comment section.

      Thank you all for your ability to see the big picture and not be distracted by trivial things like nuance or compassion.

    2. Hannah,

      Do you realize that by saying “Thank you for your ability to see the big picture and not be distracted by trivial things like nuance or compassion” you’re really saying. . .

      “Thank you for a clearheaded, logical deconstruction of the author’s nonsense.”

    3. Hannah,

      It certainly isn’t my intent to judge the author for choosing to have children, or choosing to accept handouts.

      I don’t know where in my comment I implied that working among the refugee community is “irresponsible” since I made it clear that is something that I myself do.

      In the interest of accuracy, it was my intent to communicate that the choice to have children has consequences (specifically, losing certain privileges like shopping at Whole Foods, getting a mani-pedi, or not having your clothes covered in bodily fluids),.

      However, are you seriously suggesting that (a western educated woman) having children was not a choice? That no actions were involved on her part?

      I personally believe that the entitlement attitude presented, and the false-identification with/appropriation of an oppressed community, are pretty big-picture issues.

    4. “Because the world is black and white and humanity is at its best when it is cold and calculatingly rational.” –Ayn Rand’s cousin

    5. Lauren,

      I’m sorry that I posted in direct reply to you. I meant to post it as a general response to the entire comment section.

      I do think it is intensely problematic to view children as a “consequence” or the sole responsibility of one couple. However a life arrives in this world–even through “irresponsibility”–we share as caretakers of God’s image bearers. I am my brother’s keeper and if, even through his own actions he finds himself in a difficult situation, it is my responsibility to help.

      Also I didn’t find the author to be shirking responsibility to the community–in fact, her work with refugees in an underpaid position is what contributes to her family’s needing help. She works for the good of the community so I don’t see why the community can’t work for her good.

      Again, I apologize for posting in direct response to you. It was meant as a general observation.

    6. Hannah, thanks for the clarification.

      The “it takes a village” mentality is great, but parents have the ultimate responsibility for providing for their children. We can’t all always do that perfectly, and she’s getting some assistance. Great. Good for her, good for the system.

      The bemoaning that this specific type of assistance cannot be used to buy luxury items that middle class culture idolizes is what rings hollow, to those who have no choice but to subsist on SNAP/WIC and scrape by shopping at more affordable places, or to those who barely don’t qualify for SNAP/WIC and scrape by with the money they earn at more affordable places, or to those who have made the painful decision to not have children in obedience to the command to be good stewards of God’s creation.

      Again, I personally don’t view her children as “consequences”, but I do view a consequence of the choice to have children being foregoing luxury items, like shopping at Whole Foods.

      As someone who works with refugees, I also find the attempt to identify with their situation wildly offensive, as it’s not nearly the same situation and they were given no choice. Also as someone who works with refugees, I don’t view myself as more “saintly” than anyone else, or more “deserving” of handouts, compassion, or organic cookies because I choose to do so. Yes I teach English, and I make irresponsible choices too. We all need grace, but I don’t think that working with refugees (or any other nonprofit work for that matter) should come with a sense of entitlement.

    7. I suppose I didn’t read the piece that way. The author seemed to be using her Whole Foods encounter as a literary metaphor for the larger obliviousness to the needs of women, infants, and children. Just like the clerks at WF didn’t even know about a program that would assist women, infants, and children (or why they would need it), we often are just as unaware of the plight of those who are suffering around the world. I read it as “we all are WF” in our relationships to women, infants, and children who are suffering through drought, famine, pestilence, and war.

  10. Wow. I’m honestly surprised and perplexed by the gross comments that result from writing an honest reflection of the most vulnerable among us. These comments reveal the many idols we U.S. Christians have made out of a middle-class life.

  11. It seems that the author does not see Whole Foods as a privilege, but an ethical responsibility, “My husband and I do not want to support the torture of animals, and we do want to put money back into the hands of our local economy.” Which brings up a related question — if people are oppressed, should they then eat food produced by the others who are oppressed? Should the poor eat food gathered by trafficked laborers?

    1. No Krispin, the only food fitting for the poor is unwholesome, processed foods. Didn’t you know?

      Only the good (read: not on food assistance) people should buy organics and ethically responsible edibles.

  12. As someone who lives on a working farm where we try to grow food and raise animals in ethical ways, pay a living wage to our workers, and care for our animals, I think Krispin’s comment is quite astute. Good food should never be a luxury that only rich people can afford. We should strive to make it available to every person. There has been a push lately for food stamps to be allowed at farmer’s markets. This is a wonderful step. There are still great strides to be made but good, locally grown, organic food isn’t a privilege for someone who has a better paying job. It’s something everyone should have access to. Why should we criticize someone who wants to have that kind of access to food, just because she doesn’t make as much money at her job? I see her trying to use her luxury of choice to make ethical choices about food. Those of us who don’t have to be on WIC or food stamps often don’t understand the shame, embarrassment, and difficulty associated with relying on these programs. I saw the author giving a glimpse from her position of what that must feel like. The whole gist of the article was that her experience at Whole Foods confirmed to her that Women, Infants, and Children are the most vulnerable in society and that many of us aren’t aware of that vulnerability because we haven’t experienced it. Also, having a job that pays better doesn’t make someone more equipped to be a better parent. It just means they’ll have less of a hassle getting medical care, buying food, and seeking education.

  13. Wow, Danielle. Clearly, this piece hit a gigantic nerve. Maybe there are lots of complicated reasons for that – I would guess so. I can afford to shop at Whole foods, and very occasionally I do. But actually, I prefer not to, for a long list of reasons. It feels exclusive, even maybe borderline condescending in its statement — both intentional and covert – that life is so.much.better if you have only the best. Also? I find the over-the-top pricing to be sorta scary, to tell you the truth. It feels self-indulgent and maybe even wasteful.

    I’m with Hannah in reading this piece as a metaphorical one about our inability to see what we don’t want to see, to not know what we don’t want to know. And for that, I thank you – as I so often do – for pulling me back into the real world, the one where women and children suffer in all kinds of ways and not nearly enough is done to alleviate that suffering. You are a prophet, my dear, and prophets are not particularly popular. Please take heart that many of us appreciate your voice, your honest admission of struggle, and your call to be more thoughtful about lots of the mindless decision-making we do in this life. i am grateful for your voice.

  14. The author deserves to be lauded for her concern for the oppressed. But I think there’s a serious stewardship and ethical problem with an educated family more than able to provide for themselves (and others with their charitable giving) intentionally not providing for themselves under the banner of living among and with the poor. Having material wealth is not a sin. Being a poor steward of material wealth and any other gift from God is a sin.

  15. It’s interesting the government programs that the middle class thinks people do or do not deserve. For example, aid for first time home buyers.

  16. I would like for an article to be written about the fraud committed by people being sold on the idea that organic food is somehow better for you than conventionally grown crops. In reality organically grown crops take more land to grow the food it takes to grow crops vs conventionally grown crops. If we grew everything without the benefit of GMO or the chemicals we use then we could not feed the world. In 2050 we will have 9 billion people. We will have to use every bit of technology we have and then what will be developed to meet that challenge. The countries in Europe and Africa which outlaw such methods will have to leave their false doctrines that conventional agriculture is bad if they want to eat.

    I understand that the author feels as though she has been discriminated against because she cannot shop in Whole Foods but I think it is outrageous that she has been sold the lie that organic is better and more responsible than other food.

  17. First, I want to thank the author for sharing her experience. Then I want to ask those of us who are commenting to consider this thread in the article: Those of us who are politically engaged, who care about the least of these, have been assured that even when food stamps are cut, even when the worst kinds of processed foods are handed out with the USDA stamp on them in our name, we are assured that Women, Infants, and Children still have a safety net program available to them. It is clear from this woman’s description that WIC is the product of as much meddling as any corporate handout program. Why are the vouchers this exact? Because they lead to the purchase of items from specific companies. Why are they only good at certain places? Because those places can buy in quantity and make a profit on those vouchers.

    In short, don’t trust that the women, infants, and children in your community are being taken care of, ask questions and demand your elected representatives respect the agency of people on the margins.

  18. To every American who has castigated the OP as a moocher… none of you have taken out Federally guaranteed loans for college, or a government-insured mortgage, or benefited from government agricultural subsidies, or from the Persian Gulf oil that is protected by our navy, or from a nuclear power plant that the government insures against accidents, right?

    It’s funny how the entitlements of the middle class don’t get denounced as welfare. Actually, it’s not funny.

  19. Laughing pretty hard. Bourgeois white girl seeks hard-working Americans to subsidize shopping trip to Whole Foods. We call these mooches “rent-seekers.” If I weren’t laughing so hard, I’d be pretty damn angry at a government that lets you steal from the rest of us. Toss in some self-righteous Oprah-style hand-wringing and stir for hilarity!

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