The dollar store is the only grocery store that this single mother of two from Lake Worth, Florida, can buy. These are the good days.
The bad days are when she is so penniless that she has no choice but to steal items.
“Several times I’ve had to steal food, no matter how bad it sounds, just to make sure my kids can eat,” Bell told CNN at the age of 23. “Sometimes I just can’t do anything else.”
Bell is factual and open as she talks about hunger. Because this is her reality.
And this is the reality of millions of families with children across the country in this pandemic era.
This is higher than the levels of nutritional difficulties among children at the peak of the Great Recession.
“Food security means that families do not have enough food to ensure an active and healthy lifestyle, but most importantly it means that they do not have enough resources to go out and buy more,” said Lauren Bauer, a contributor to The Hamilton Project. , CNN.
“Although food insecurity always increases when there is an economic downturn, what is shocking this time is that it disproportionately affects families with children and the children themselves.”
Many schools across the country are in session again – but remotely.
“These families are stressed, and Congress has a duty to guide those families as they continue to consider the next round of Covid-related assistance,” Bauer said.
School meals are not enough, parents say
Months after the rent and bills, Bailey said the government and local officials had not done much to provide support for families like hers.
“Food stamps aren’t enough. We’re running out of them so fast,” Bailey told CNN. “Even the meals they get from school weren’t enough to keep any food for the kids. It’s usually a bun and a piece of meat and cheese on it, maybe a box of raisins. It’s great, but it’s not enough to to keep my children full. “
Some children do not even qualify for help
For Bell, any attempt to get help was met with rejection. Children under the age of 5 who were not in school did not receive any food aid from the Pandemic-EBT program, which means that her 8-month-old and 2-year-old daughters did not qualify.
“I was turned down for the EBT program because my children were not in school, only in kindergarten,” Bell said. “I only received a WIC and the only incentive check. My unemployment application has been waiting for months. Our lives are nothing but stress.”
Both mothers say they have resorted to skipping daily meals to make sure their children are always fed. Bell, who was fired from her data entry job, has lost nearly 20 pounds in the past two months from her irregular diet.
Shoulder noodles, eggs, milk and plain pasta have become the basis of the family diet. Proteins such as beef, fish and chicken have become a luxury that no family can afford.
“We seem to be single parents on a sinking ship without lifeboats, and there’s nothing more we can do but grab something while the ship falls,” Bailey said. “It makes you feel helpless when everything you’ve tried and all the help you’re trying to get ultimately brings you nothing.”