Viola Davis talks about the childhood hunger problem in the U.S. at Variety’s annual Power of Women luncheon. (x)
And it never goes away. It never, never goes away.
I grew up with immense food uncertainty. I did all these things, and I did most of them with two much smaller sisters. I resented them for getting to eat before I did when I was nine and they were two and three, because I was old enough to understand hunger, and they weren’t. I hated my mother for years because we never had anything to eat, and it took until well into my adulthood to realize that she had hated herself, too.
I start asking people what they want to do about dinner starting around nine in the morning when at a convention or other vacation spot. I need to know. Even if the plan is just “oh, food court” or “oh, we have those leftovers,” I need someone who is not me, someone who is less wrecked over their relationship with food, to promise me that I am still allowed to eat.
It never goes away.
Childhood hunger is never satiated.
I have never been in straits quite that dire, but…there was an odd stretch of my childhood when we had very limited food. My mother was very depressed and working unspeakably long hours. Sometimes when she came home, it was easier just to let her sleep than to nag her about food. When I had exhausted cooking everything I knew how to cook (it wasn’t much) I wouldn’t eat. (I imagine she didn’t either.) We had very little money for groceries anyway. There was food in the pantry, since it was my grandmother’s house, and she’d stocked it, but it was like twenty bottles of bulk bbq sauce and expired cans of crushed tomato and stuff. I didn’t know how to turn that into food. Possibly there was no way. Some nights—this was back when you could get tacos for 39 cents at Taco Bell—we would take a dollar and eat and then she would go back to sleep.
The nadir of this came during one summer, when I didn’t have school lunches to fall back on, and so I would frequently go a day or two without eating. I didn’t really feel like I was being starved, because it was a thing I was choosing to do, to help out. I think I believed on some level that if I bothered my mother, she would find a way to fix it, I just didn’t want to bother her because she was so tired.
We got food stamps a little while after that, and it was…I can’t really explain what that was like. We couldn’t believe we were being allowed to have this much food and that it was okay. Mom cried a bit, I think. That whole summer was like we were in this weird little bubble and it wasn’t as good as other people’s bubbles, but it was suddenly so much better in there.
Anyway, TL;DR, anybody who says food stamps are for lazy people, you can unfollow me now and kindly fuck yourself on the way out.
As someone who’s had to rely on food banks many times in the very recent past, I can only say how grateful I am that this is only happening to me now, as an adult, instead of having to have somehow wrapped my head around it as a child. Not really knowing where your food is going to come from, or having to choose between food and debt, or food and bills, or yourself and the cat, is pure, unadulterated shite.
Don’t act like it’s not an important thing. If, at any point, you find yourself looking at people like me or the folks who have shared their stories above and thinking it’s “probably not that bad”, I can safely and assuredly say that I hope you get your pubes uncomfortably caught in the leg hole of your underwear every time you leave your house for the rest of your life.
Yes, being food poor is considerably worse than that, and that’s why, no, I wouldn’t wish that kind of suffering on you for the crime of simple ignorance.