Why Baby Formula Is Locked Up at Grocery Store

Photo courtesy of MSNBC

In between campaign meetings, canvasses and some precious moments of free time with my partner this weekend I scraped together a few minutes to run to the grocery store to pick up a few pre-election essentials (you haven’t forgotten that there is a primary election next week, right?).  As I walked to the checkout counter with my essentials (basically that means coffee) in hand I noticed a sad sight.

Baby formula.

Not so sad in and of itself but what broke my heart was that at my local grocery store baby formula is behind lock and key in a glass security case. We have come to expect extra security on high-ticket items – security tags on TVs, leather jackets, and even CDs – but baby formula in a case typically reserved for diamonds and gold?

I suppose there is really nothing more valuable.

I remember what it was like to be hungry. In my early twenties when I was scraping by waiting tables, a couple slow nights or an unexpected expense like a trip to the doctor or a parking ticket could leave me without the money to buy food. But even then, it was only me.  I cannot begin to imagine how much worse it must be as the mother of child desperate for baby formula.

With 62,000 Rhode Islanders unemployed, a state level minimum wage of $7.75 per hour, and nearly 17 percent of Rhode Island’s children living below the federal poverty level, it shouldn’t surprise me to see baby formula locked behind glass. But it should shock and disturb each and every one of us. We have a responsibility for more than charity.

We have a responsibility to change the broken economic system we live in. Income inequality causes real and tangible harm to our neighbors.  A “jobless recovery” is not a recovery. A minimum wage that provides an annual income that will leave a mother and her children living below the federal poverty level is not acceptable.  And the stubborn refusal of some in Congress to fund SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) which provides nutrition assistance to women and children by holding up reauthorization of the Farm Bill, is just shameful.

In less than one week and again in November you will have the opportunity to vote for elected officials to represent you in School Committees, City Halls, the RI Statehouse, Congress and the White House. I beg you to ask each and every one of people who ask for your vote – what are you going to do to help the Rhode Islanders who cannot find work or feed their families? And ask yourself – what am I going to do to?

Originally posted on RightHer www.wfri.org/blog

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Kate Brock is the Executive Director of Ocean State Action. Kate serves on the boards of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, and the Women’s Health and Education Fund. She received a B.A. in political science from the University of Vermont.

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