BlogHers Act Canada: Why Child Poverty is Not My Issue

This may be surprising to some of you. For those that don't know me I'm sure many of you assume that it's not my issue because I don't have children. You'd be wrong. Well, I mean you are right in that I do not have children but you'd be wrong for that being the reason.

I was one of those poor children. I grew up legally poor. My family lived below the poverty line so to many it would seem that I should be embracing this issue wholeheartedly. I am not. In fact it creates the opposite reaction. I want to groan and roll my eyes. This is not a reflection of those that wish to make it their issue. This is based on my experience as a child with "well-meaning" people who passed judgment on my family because we were poor.

I grew up in a rural area. Money came into our home via mostly seasonal work supplemented by employment insurance (of course it was called unemployment insurance back then). We were never on welfare although we probably might have qualified for some programs. My sisters, both teen mothers, at various times received help from welfare. I remember a sister having to use the local foodbank. But I never lacked for anything really. Sure, I didn't have as much as other people but I wasn't lacking in essentials. There was a roof over my head. There was food on the table. There were clothes on my back. There were shoes on my feet.

My family, we were good at being poor. We never had money therefore didn't know what we were missing really. We lived simply. We had freezers that were filled when money was coming in and raided when it wasn't. Meat was bought on sale and frozen. Fruit was picked during its prime and frozen for mid-winter treats. Potatoes were bought in 10lb bags and were a staple of our diet. Laundry soap, toilet paper, and other household items were bought on sale and stored under beds and in closets. I remember my family going through the grocery store with a calculator to make sure we would have enough money when we got to the register. We made our own jams and pickles (still do!). We had a garden. We dried our clothes on a clothes line. Clothes were bought on sale or secondhand or they were hand-me-downs from extended family. There were no computers. Video game consoles came into our family years after everyone else bought them and stayed years after everyone else had given up on them. We didn't have cable. Our car was held together by rust and dirt but got us from Point A to Point B (well...most of the time). I started working when I was 12 and that money was used toward things that I felt I needed/wanted but didn't want to ask my parents for.

But there was no denying it. We were poor. And it was visible. I never dressed the way the other kids did. I didn't have the same number of cds and electronics and toys that other kids did. When asked what I wanted for presents I generally asked for books and either items of clothing I needed or something I lusted after. I was never a carefree child. I was serious and quiet and was exposed to things as a kid that most other children my age were not.

Poverty made me a target. Kids used it to attack me. Parents didn't like having me at their house (obviously not all parents). I received many a thinly veiled statement of contempt directed toward my parents for being poor. Parents said to their children that they should be nice to me because I was poor (usually in a stage whisper). Many a comment was made about how my parents should do this or that because it would really make our lives better.

Bite me.

Child poverty is not my issue because I've personally experienced too many well-meaning middle-class people look down their noses at me and my family because we were poor. It's as simple as that. When I hear "child poverty" as an issue people want to tackle it makes me cringe and it makes me want to run far in other direction. Because I'm *not* going to become one of those people who tried to "help" me. I'm not saying that the bloggers who are suggesting child poverty are these people. I'm saying my experience has made me very, very wary of such initiatives.

I'm willing to be convinced but child poverty needs to be defined. What do you MEAN when you say you want child poverty to be your issue? What do you want to change exactly? How are you going to change things? Because poverty isn't about money. It's about so much more than that. Tell me what you mean by tackling child poverty and maybe I'll be behind it. Maybe I won't.

What would I like to see? Honestly, I'd like to see healthy foods made more affordable than processed crap. I'd like to see families of all income levels able to eat healthfully. I'd like to see legislation where stores have to discount 3x as much fresh and healthy good quality food as they do processed preserved crap. I'd like to see healthy eating be affordable because right now the cheapest foods in the grocery store are the ones with the most unpronounceable ingredients and "discount" grocery stores are full of that crap. It doesn't sound quite as magnanimous as "child poverty" but it touches it. As it does health care. As it does education. It's simple. It's definable. It helps all Canadians.

Links: Bloghers Act, BlogHers Act Canadian Edition, Mama Karma: Let's Act

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