Sunday, April 13, 2014
Alien in the Delta - Book for Young Adults
(excerpt from Alien in the Delta)
I will never forget the word “Commodities.” My father would go to the county’s food-distribution site to pick up our family’s share of government commodities. That’s what it was called when I was in elementary school. It was not called food stamps. You could not hide your poverty back then, and it was out there for everyone to see. You had to stand in line to claim your portions of food. Sometimes, the line was so long that it would curve around the corner of the block. It was a reminder that you could not even feed your loved ones without the help of the government. It was embarrassing and humiliating for most people to stand in that line. The only consolation was that almost every family in town was in the same line as your family member. Even though most families received assistance, the children would make jokes and tease each other about eating commodity cheese. Once each month, my father went to pick up various items: sugar, powered milk, flour, butter, canned meat, and yes, commodity cheese. Almost every family in Arkansas received some assistance from the government in the 1950's.
My parents also received Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) money for my care. In order to receive aid, you had to live below the poverty line. During the time that I was on welfare, a social worker would visit our house every six months. The worker would spend time questioning my parents about how they had spent the money on me. The social worker would speak to me alone, away from my parents. She had a long list of questions that she asked me. The questions were mostly about how the ADC was spent on food, clothing, and shelter. I always resented being put in a position to report on my parents. The ADC checks stopped when I turned sixteen years old.