WIC is an acronym that stands for Women, Infants, and Children. It’s a federal food subsidy program that’s managed on the state level. As a pastor in my first appointment out of seminary, my son, wife, and I qualified for WIC based on my income. It still blows my mind that I graduated from seminary with a master’s degree that took three years minimum to obtain, was appointed to a two point charge (two congregations; basically two jobs), and the starting minimum salary set by the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church was so little that I qualified for government assistance. I didn’t have the words then to name how I felt, but now I realize that the fact that my family got WIC really upset my white male privilege sensibilities. However, I filled that grocery cart with WIC food every month.
We needed that food.
The way WIC worked some 30 years ago was we’d get a voucher for specific (very specific) food items that we could exchange at the grocery store. I remember trying to figure out what to do with the cans of evaporated milk. I also remember not being much of a fan of Kix cereal. I remember the frustration and embarrassment I felt when I chose the wrong brand or size of an item, only to be rejected at the checkout line, the sometimes judgmental look of the cashier, and the growing impatience of the people behind me as I ran back to try to find the right item.
The Trump administration is floating the idea of decreasing the amount of food stamps issued (EBT cards) and replacing them with a food box delivery. There’s so much wrong with this. It feels like an attempt to hide away the poor among us even more. It further takes away an individual’s sense of control and freedom in a situation where options are already limited. It’s dehumanizing.
Instead of food boxes, how about we start talking about our economic system that shames people and keeps them in poverty? How about we increase the minimum wage to a living wage?
Boxes of food are not the answer. But sadly, they are the answer when there are no alternatives. Let’s be honest about the real alternatives.
“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it” (Dr. Martin Luther King).