This is what a rising poverty rate looks like
NPR has a podcast called Story of the Day, and Saturday’s story,
Midnight Shopping On The Brink Of Poverty, was both heartbreaking and terrifying. It was the story of hundreds of families who are part of a growing trend of midnight shoppers.
I’ve been to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night a time or two, usually shopping for someone’s birthday. I’ve seen people pushing overflowing carts, sometimes with young children half asleep, and I’ve wondered. I mean, I could see needing to run to the store with your child in the middle of the night for medicine, a missing ingredient, personal hygiene items… but why would anyone do their full blown grocery shopping in the middle of the night?
Bill Simon, the head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. operations, answered this question in a talk last week.
And if you really think about it, the only reason somebody gets out in the middle of the night and buys baby formula is that they need it, and they’ve been waiting for it. Otherwise, we are open 24 hours — come at 5 a.m., come at 7 a.m., come at 10 a.m. But if you are there at midnight, you are there for a reason.
The story featured Tracy & Martin Young, who were at Wal-Mart in the final hours of the last day of the month food shopping for their five children. They waited for the clock to strike midnight before going to the checkout, so that there will be funds on their EBT cards to pay for the two carts full of groceries.
Tracy says their children know when the end of the month is approaching, because what they like to eat is gone and the kitchen shelves have emptied.
I grew up in a welfare home after my parents divorced. Living in a small rural town, shopping locally wasn’t economical. The bulk of the shopping for the month was done in one trip to the nearest discount grocery store about thirty miles away. I remember that last week of the month well… a week where there was little food in the house and what there was wasn’t anything anyone liked to eat. A week where you went to bed a little hungry.
For any child to live this way, is heartbreaking.
So often when we hear people railing about those who receive public assistance, we have an image of a single welfare mom or the image of a slovenly dad who is willfully unemployed… sometimes we have the image of noble parents who are actively seeking work but just can’t get hired.
Tracy & Martin don’t fit any of those categories. Not only are they both employed, Martin works TWO jobs. And despite having three jobs between them, they still qualify for food stamps. Despite three jobs and government assistance, they are still struggling to make ends meet.
That, my friends, is terrifying.
The full transcript of Bill Simon, President, CEO of Wal-Mart US speaking at Goldman Sachs Retail Conference: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. at Goldman Sachs Retail Conference