How WIC Saved Us
I’m going to keep this (relatively) short and to the point.
No ranting. No giving you my opinion of the GOP or politicians in general. I’m not going to be political about this because there really isn’t a point, and there are millions of others out there saturating the Internets with their opinions, anaylysis, anger, bias, and what have you.
I’m not going to give you politics. Instead I’ll give you something personal and leave you with a plea for tangible, effective action.
When I separated from the USAF in Nov 2006, I was seven months pregnant with Brennan, who you know is my oldest, my boy genius. Having been a military cop in service, all of the jobs I had applied to in early 2006 in preparation of my discharge were security or law enforcement related: Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, and positions at various security firms in the Maryland, DC, and Virginia. My plan was to go to college and work full-time, doing bartending and security until I graduated with a degree in Communications and Journalism.
I had to terminate my applications and job search in June 2006 when I found out I was expecting. I started trying to scramble to come up with a back up plan when Brennan’s father refused to “be a part of something he didn’t agree with” because I refused to get the abortion he wanted. He shut me out completely, as did many members of my squadron, so while I had a few friends remain by my side I was basically alone to fend for myself. Going back home to my mom and stepdad’s in NJ wasn’t an option either. So I scrambled, tried some things that didn’t work out, some smart, some completely stupid (i.e. an engagement to a complete idiot I shouldn’t have trusted) and upon discharge I was practically homeless, staying with friends but not having anything permanent in place for when I had Brennan.
Finding a job at seven months pregnant was impossible in the civilian sector. I was too far along. No one was going to hire me only to see me go on maternity leave two months later-I was told as much during interview after interview, phone call after phone call.
After serving four and a-half years, I was entitled to unemployment for at least nine months, but once it was discovered that I was pregnant I was denied because it meant I couldn’t really look for work, which was a requirement. I had to appeal and it took exactly 71 days before the decision was reversed and I was afforded $592/month. My first check came two days after I had Brennan- February 24, 2007. I didn’t even have a bank account anymore and had to cash it at a check cashing place.
During those 71 days, those last months of pregnancy, I had no money. NONE. My friends did what they could to help. I also had no prenatal care. My disability and compensation claim with the VA had just been filed and wouldn’t be processed until March of 2008, so I had no way of even getting healthcare services through that system, and at the time, they didn’t cover prenatal care anyway from what I had been told. I applied to medicaid and for other social services, but the application and approval process took nearly 60 days, despite my being in what they considered an “emergency” situation. The only application that processed fairly quickly was my WIC application.
I had no health care. No money. No job. Barely had a place to stay-a friend’s couch. But I had WIC. My WIC experience had some negatives to it, which I’ll discuss at another time, but I can tell you right now, were it not for WIC I wouldn’t have had anything to eat during those months right before Brennan arrived.
Thanks to the WIC program I could use vouchers to buy bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cereal, juice, beans, and fruit from the one farmer’s market in Prince George’s county, Maryland that I could take the bus too. (I had a car, but didn’t drive much, because gas=money I didn’t have)
That was the ONLY food I ate. If I found a dollar in change, which happened I think two or three times, I splurged and bought a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s off the dollar menu. Twice, a friend took me to grab a bite to eat, but that was it. My WIC vouchers were how I ate the one (small) meal I had every one of those 71 days I waited for an appeal on my unemployment case. Yes, I had ONE meal a day. At eight and nine months pregnant. That was it. The fact that Brennan was and is healthy is pretty much a miracle if you ask me.
WIC is considered “non essential” during a government shutdown, meaning applications aren’t processed, case managers don’t work, families can’t stop by WIC offices to pick up their monthly vouchers for formula, milk, and food. Any breastfeeding support a woman is receiving via her WIC office stops. Families who rely on WIC to help them purchase specialized and expensive formula to feed their infants with health problems? Same thing. Do you know how many school aged children rely on WIC for breakfast? With SNAP benefits being decimated last week, imagine being a parent already struggling to put food on the table and now facing the reality that two very crucial resources you depend on have been gambled away, gutted, halted.
Whatever your political leanings are I urge and beg you to flood your food banks and organizations that partner with WIC offices with donations of food, baby formula, and baby food. Diapers even. Grocery store gift cards. A monetary donation, which help food banks even more sometimes than donations of physical goods. Whatever you can. Hunger is a real problem in this country and we need to take it more seriously than we do.
Politicians can play their games, claim victories for their childish and stubborn agendas, and we can’t do shit about it but gnash our teeth, word vomit our frustrations, theories, and opinions on social networks, and vote… two years from now. That’s it. This shutdown is out of our hands, our control, and beyond anything that WE the people can tangibly do to fix…. but we can do what Congress isn’t right now and serve ourselves, serve each other. WE can be for the people and by the people. We CAN do something, have some control in this situation-and that’s by ensuring our neighbor, our coworker’s kid, our elderly, our servicemembers, our disabled, OUR people, are fed.
We can do that….can’t we?
WIC saved me and mine during a very horrifying and unsettling time in my life. Help me do for others what it did for me. Donate to an organization or food bank. Please.