A longtime former colleague recently called me while crying. Fortunately, it was tears of joy emanating from the former features reporter. After struggling to make ends meet after losing her job at the start of the pandemic, she is now working in education.
For months, the plucky single mother was struggling to provide for her prepubescent son and daughter. “I was getting to the breaking point,” she said. “It just kept getting worse and worse, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to us.”
According to a recent survey from Parents Together Action (parentstogetheraction.com), it’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers to suffer from serious financial troubles these days. Forty-five percent of the survey’s respondents said they are having so much trouble feeding their families that they have skipped meals so their children can eat.
That percentage is staggering, but it shouldn’t be very shocking considering the combination of rising prices due to inflation and the end of last year’s monthly Child Tax Credit payments has hurt families.
Raising children is incredibly expensive in a world where food, rent, utilities and taxes are rising dramatically. If I thought about what it would cost, I never would have had four children since there’s no way I can afford it. I remember how difficult it was for my parents as a sibling-less child. My father worked in construction, which was and is boom or bust.
I’ll never forget at age 10 waiting for my father while he was in line for unemployment. I remember reading the novel “Jaws” while he was taking care of his paperwork and wondering “how long will this take?” and “when will my dad work again?”
We needed help, and my uncle, who owned a meat-packing plant, would stop by every Friday evening with steaks and tubes of meat. Since we didn’t have a meat slicer, my father cut the lunch meat with a knife. I still wince at the thought of the unsightly bologna sandwiches that were absolutely untradeable during elementary school lunch hour.
The meat bulged from the sandwich like little inflated tubes of who knows what? I remember my mother patching up clothes and making sure every light was turned off when we left any of the rooms in our modest three-bedroom house.
My children, who have an aversion to leftovers, possess no concept of hard times. But it takes me back to when I overheard my mother and father talking about how they would somehow get through the month. “If I cut down on a few things, we’ll be able to make ends meet,” I heard my mother say.
I remember when inflation rose dramatically in 1981 like it was yesterday. I can still see the dejected look in my mother’s eyes. “I miss what it was like years ago when it was cheap times,” my mother said with a forlorn chuckle.
We needed help, and my uncle provided it. Within a short time, the pendulum swung in the other direction, and we were fine. But in times like these, we need to reach out and help the less fortunate. It’s easy to become so caught up in our day-to-day lives that those unconnected to us are peripheral. However, with inflation spiking like it hasn’t in 41 years, there are those who desperately need an assist.
According to the aforementioned survey, 45% of parents have turned to food banks, which can always use help. “Families are facing a perfect storm of challenges as prices rise and Congress continues to delay extending the monthly Child Tax Credit payments that kept millions of families afloat last year,” said Justin Ruben, co-director of Parents Together Action.
“Ending these lifesaving payments drove up hunger and forced parents to make impossible choices to try to keep their families fed and housed. It’s long past time Congress acts to extend monthly child checks now before more kids suffer.”
There are a number of wonderful food banks in Spokane, such as Second Harvest (2-harvest.org) and Serve Spokane (servespokane.org). Please consider donating your time, money or food – or all of the above.
If we can’t help others, what’s the point of our existence?