There are stages to being poor, sort of like Dante’s levels of hell.
It goes all the way from people living in refrigerator boxes in alley ways to people who have what look to be decent homes and cars and still struggle to make the ends come together.
Poverty isn’t just one thing. It isn’t just not having food. Food is seemingly the most basic thing and the one that gets people riled up the most, but there are a lot of things poor people do without.
The first year I lived in Arkansas we ate deer meat and chicken all winter. Deer meat because my uncle killed one and gave us the meat and chicken because Mom could buy gigantic packs of it for cheap. I’ve eaten squirrel, duck and rabbit. And while I wasn’t real happy about it, it was that or not eating that day.
When I was older, she made huge batches of Chili mac that we’d eat on for DAYS. I still can’t eat that stuff. My father and his family lived off of Hamburger Helper when he was a kid and he hates it.
And believe it or not, I didn’t eat a lot of prepackaged food growing up. Because we lived in an agricultural area with a long growing and harvest season, we were able to get our hands on a lot of fresh produce.
Urban poverty is different from rural poverty though and this insistence that all poor people are the same and have the same situations and have the same priorities and — most importantly — can’t make those decisions for themselves is patronizing and assholish, on both sides.
There’s a whole lot of “I understand poverty better than you!” coming from people who can’t possibly understand poverty because they’ve never been there. But trust us, we’re here. On your Interwebz. Being all poor and shit. Ask us about it sometime.