Unfortunate grocery shopping trip…

We just returned from grocery shopping, which is just another weekend errand in this house. There’s generally no shortage of money to spend, we have loyalty dollars if there was, and although we try not to buy a bunch of frivolous junk, we don’t worry about what the total is when we shop.

All of that to say that we enjoy privilege and shopping for groceries is no big deal.

As we walked in, the security guard mumbled something unintelligible about some system being down for the entire state. Someone asked him to repeat what he said and he said, “The EBT system is down for the entire state right now.” Electronic Benefit Transfer is what that stands for and it’s food assistance for people who need it, which is way high in this city. It’s extremely unfortunate how many people need it at all, but even more unfortunate that the extra benefits from the pandemic are winding down soon. With inflation, I’m not sure how far EBT benefits can get a family.

Every 10 minutes or so, a voice would come on the speaker to announce that the system was down still and to “have a great day.” That seems really…callous and unapologetic. I get that it’s not the grocery store’s fault, but there’s nothing really great about coming to the store expecting to buy your food for the week and now you can’t. People needing EBT probably don’t have a backup credit card to buy this week’s groceries and it’s not like you can move the money on your EBT card to pay yourself back anyway. So my brain starting processing this as the crisis it likely is for some families.

Imagine this…it’s your only day off from work and you need to take a bus to the grocery store. You don’t want to shop at the more expensive grocery stores, so you bus to this one because you live in a food desert, meaning you have NO grocery store nearby. So you get on the bus, go into the city, transfer to another bus and now you’ve finally arrived at the grocery store an hour later, in 80 degree weather. The bus stops have a place to sit, but you aren’t really shaded and now you’re hot. This is also the only day that your sister is available to watch your kids so you can get this shopping done and not worry about food again for the week.

Now you are tired and hot from your bus adventure, you’ve spent an hour of your day just getting to the store, and you’re told that the entire system is down for the state. So now what? You can’t shop anywhere else because it’s down statewide. It could come back up in 10 minutes or sometime tomorrow. What’s actually wrong with the system? Is this a high priority for the state to fix? Is it just a technical issue or something bigger? How will people be notified when it is back up? Have they been able to stockpile enough food to get by until the system is up at some unknown time or until they are free to shop again on their next day off?

Now all I can think about is how often this happens? Is this a very rare issue or something that EBT families deal with often? A quick look at the news tells me that it’s actually being reported across the country. This is terrible. It won’t be reported as the crisis that it likely is for so many families. One comment on a news story says that it’s a planned 12-hour outage. That’s absolutely ridiculous. A planned outage during the day on a weekend? I sincerely hope that’s not true. Other comments suggest that it’s maybe a hacker that took the system down.

All I know is that if I depended on something like this working to buy food for my family, I would be devastated that it was down and I wouldn’t know what to do next. It makes me so sad for people who do depend on these services. The system is so broken that people end up trapped in poverty because there is no way to better their lives. You have to work multiple jobs just to survive, you get judged for needing governmental assistance, prices rise and you can’t keep up, and you see company executives getting million dollar bonuses for reaching record profits. Who helped them reach that level of profit? Average people that are maybe doing ok, but not rich people. The rich do everything they can to keep the poor down. They give each other tax breaks, raises, and opportunities that no poor person would ever be offered. In fact, it’s obviously poor people’s fault that they’re poor. They clearly made bad choices that made them poor. 🙄 Whatever. People not trapped in poverty have no idea what living in poverty is actually like. Or how hard you try to do better but just can’t without giving up one of your jobs. Minimum wage doesn’t go far either.

I just can’t with this country anymore. I spent over 1000 days away from my family just to live in country that only cares about the wealthy and celebrities. What was I doing? Clearly it wasn’t what I thought it was at the time. I guess maybe it never was and I was blinded by some stupid, silly ideal that wasn’t even real to begin with.

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