This week has been a data week. You know those weeks where you get back a fat pack of juicy qualitative data and each pass through responses brings waves of excitement because There’s Something There! and waves of heartbreak because There’s Something There.
It’s a secondary data analysis of a convenience sample, so let’s not get carried away. No one is being published, staking out a career or winning a Ph.d with this work. It’s just an un-random batch of teenagers talking to me about how they feel about giving and accepting help. It’s breaking my heart.
First, the trauma responses. There’s a significant set of kiddos who wouldn’t take home food for the weekend because they would feel greedy, or other people need it more. Next, the cynics who wouldn’t take food to someone who was hungry because they’re busy working, or there’s no guarantee the recipient doesn’t really need it, or the food is only being offered because someone needs to get rid of it. Then, the stigma. Someone sees me, I’m not keeping my secret, and the ones who can’t bear to use first-person language and imagine themselves needing food. Then, the reason for the stigma. Those people are poor.
Those people. Those people who are not me.
This paycheck, this quarter, this lifetime. Households of equal income are more likely to experience food insecurity when some extra conditions are in play, such as maternal depression, domestic violence, too few adults supporting the household, or severe mental illness. If your parents are divorced and your custodial parent is too depressed to get out of bed and go grocery shopping, you will experience food insecurity. Extra income or extra adults can shield some families from the experience of food insecurity, but having insufficient material resources isn’t the cause.
How do you communicate with adolescents so they know, we see you and you’re beautiful and we want to see you back on Monday?