6.22.2013

My Government Checks


Over the majority of the past two years our family has been on the WIC program.  Not necessarily because we qualify, but through Foster Care.  When we originally found out that we could sign up I wasn’t sure that I wanted to, with the stereotypes that I’ve heard some people place on families using the WIC program I was hesitant to join if we didn’t really need it.  

“They are abusing the system.”

“My taxes are buying their groceries.” 

In the end, adding an additional two children to our household changed our grocery bill enough that I was happy to accept this program offered to us.  Then my WIC shopping experiences started, and let me just say beforehand- these are feelings and things that only I have experienced; I’m speaking for myself.

The ANXIETY that you have the first time you walk through the store, taking out your book making sure that the items you buy are exactly correct.  Checking each oz., gallon and quart size to double-check that you have the exact size.  Even then, it took me so long to search because I wanted to discreetly keep my WIC book in my purse, not to give away to anyone that I was on government checks, like I had a dirty secret or something.

The reason you are so careful to shop is because when you head to the register the ANXIETY really kicks into gear.  All of the check items have to be purchased separately and you could have six or more transactions.  With each transaction the clerk has to make sure that the items are appropriate and whether they are familiar with the program or not could make this time take even longer!  So I don’t go on forever and ever . . . here are examples of my WIC shopping trips.

·      *The cashier saying a nice hello, and then completely changing his demeanor when his eyes see the checks.
·    *  The cashier is unfamiliar with an item shouting out very loud “WIC question, can someone help me with this WIC transaction, does anyone know this WIC food item?”
·     *The cashier comes across an item I got wrong, “This one isn’t accepted, would you like to go find another one?” I then decline, not wanting to add more time to the wait of everyone behind me who is watching and swaying and looking to other aisles for a faster route.  I just lost string cheese or cereal for the kids because I’m too worried about what others think.
·      *The cashier finds another item not working, I respond “But your WIC stickers were specifically underneath it” and somehow because the stores were mislabeling their food I lost more groceries.
·     * Don’t even get me started on the time it can take if a check is processed wrong, I’ve waited close to 25 minutes in line where they shut down the lane and let everyone go around so that my guy could figure the transaction out.  If I was trying to avoid any attention, that effort is now completely shot.

At this point I’ve used the program long enough that I know the items to purchase pretty well, and I am no longer scared to go back and get the correct item if it means that my baby or kids will get the food they need.  Sometimes I want to shout out “I do Foster Care, that’s why I have these checks!”  But I feel like if there wasn’t a stereotype to the program I wouldn’t feel the need to shout that.  And even then, I’m not too good for the program, and shouldn’t feel like I need to have an excuse to be on it.

What about the single moms?  The parents who have lost a job?  The families that are a one income household, or the families that have more children with a smaller salary, helping them qualify?  Should they have to shout out excuses for being on the program?  Definitely not, but I bet they are getting the same looks that I do sometimes. 

Yesterday as I was grocery shopping I kept running into this girl in every aisle who was taking her time.  She was pregnant, a few years younger than me and clearly a little anxious.  That’s when I saw it, I knew I wasn’t alone . . . she kept looking into her purse, and then would look up to the shelf, over and over she opened her purse and I KNEW she was checking her WIC book secretly!  Another lady who noticed and had her WIC book proudly sprawled out on her shopping cart helped this girl out, showing her the items that were acceptable.  After the other lady spoke up I knew it was safe for me to make a comment (I am clearly a chicken), and hopefully let her know she’s not alone in the store, so I told her to be careful about choosing items labeled with the WIC stickers as they aren’t always correct. 

This poor girl, bless her heart.  We checked out at the same time and I watched as her cashier checked each item and she anxiously made comments like “Oh I guess I don’t need that”, “Sorry it was my first time” and other things.  I wanted to hug her.  I wanted to encourage her that the shopping gets easier.  I didn’t need to hear her excuse to be on the program, I just wanted to love on her. 

One of the slogans for WIC is “I show my love by teaching my kids to be healthy.  And WIC encourages me along the way.”  Amazing!  It’s a great program that provides families with not only groceries but nutritional education, free health check-ups for kids and other types of support.  For whatever reason that families are using it, we don’t need to know their reason.  I’m very thankful for this state program, I spent around $64.00 on four very small cans of formula yesterday and am super appreciative of the grocery support I receive from WIC.  I promise to quit hiding my book and be proud of the program that many families need to feed their families.


3 comments:

  1. Loved your post, Sara. You are so right. There are those who abuse the system but also those who appreciate it and use it for the purpose it was intended. We are not to prejudge.

    I applaud you for speaking your mind openly about something considered so taboo. Our experiences certainly shape our attitudes and behaviors, don't they?

    21 years ago I received help from the government for 6 months while I transitioned from married life to single parenthood....and from being a stay at home mom to entering the workforce. Those 6 months helped me get on my feet and gave me the means by which to make sure that Ryan & Devin had medical care and food. I learned so much during that time, and while I wasn't thrilled about my circumstances, God worked through the situation to teach me lessons that will stay with me for a lifetime.

    Thanks again for sharing. You are a courageous soul! Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this! I am no longer on WIC but I was for 7 years. I hated it when those embarassing situations came up.
    God bless you and your family!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I admire you and Ryan for being foster parents. My wife's family had a number of foster kids while she was growing up and I know it can be challenging at times on the entire family. But I also know that foster kids need a warm and loving environment and know that you & Ryan have a lot of love to give. So, keep up the great work. Oh, and BTW, I know Ryan from our preteen leaders network. I think I met you at camp a couple of years ago.

    ReplyDelete