When Kick was about 10 months old, we were out with her at restaurant. She was fussing, and I got out one of these things to feed her. She ate, shoved it away, fussed some more, and ate again, and I noticed an elderly lady at the next table giving us the side-eye.
I know my kid is loud. I’m sorry. If she doesn’t shut up in a second I’ll take her outside for a walk around the scenic, diesel-stinking parking lot. I promise you I’ve got this.
Eventually Kick settled down and noshed, and after a few minutes the lady came over to the table and said, “Can I ask you a question?”
I braced myself and nodded.
“I had my children 60 years ago,” she said. “What are you feeding her?”
Turns out she’d never seen a pouch of baby food — portable, no mess, baby can suck the stuff right out — before and was curious. We chatted for a while about what babies ate then and now, and she looked at the ingredients: organic this, kale that, quinoa all over the place.
I thought of that instance when this came up last week:
One bill directs the state workforce agency to drug test some layoff victims applying for unemployment insurance. Another bill calls for a separate agency to implement drug screening for a variety of income support programs, including the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. And the third bill restricts two-thirds of SNAP purchases to “healthy” foods, while also banning the purchase of “crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other shellfish.”
These are some rules that are already in place, for example, with regard to bread [pdf link which is horrifying]:
- Any package not equal to 16 oz
- Healthy Life 100% whole wheat (high fiber)
- Bagel bread, bagels, pita bread
- Muffins, English Muffins
- Frozen dough, frozen bread and rolls
- Sugar-free or with Splenda, double fiber,with flaxseed, or gluten-free
With regard to cheese:
• Displayed in the dairy case • 16 ounce package only
• Reduced fat is allowed
- Cheddar (mild or medium only)
- Sharp or extra sharp cheddar, swiss, fresh mozzarella
- Shredded, sliced (except American), crumbles, cubes, sticks, and other shapes
- Cheese foods, spreads, products
- Specialty, goat cheese, smoked, herbed, flavored, cheese from deli case, imported, organic
- Reduced sodium, reduced cholesterol, lactose-free
- Kosher (unless printed on check)
With regard to baby food, and this is where I lost the plot:
• Any container not equal to 4 oz • Organic
• Squeeze pouches
• Added cereal, granola, or yogurt • Meat or poultry, rice or pasta(for example, dinner, casserole, soup or stew)
• Casseroles, creamed vegetables
• Desserts (for example, juice & fruit blends, pudding, or cobbler)
Because do you have any idea what it’s like to feed a baby?
I’m not a food Nazi with regard to the kid. I feed her organic food because on average it’s just as easy as non-organic, because I’m lucky enough to live in a place with access to food like that, that isn’t that much more expensive than other kinds of food. (Kick eats plenty of french fries and loves mac and cheese. This is my kid. There will never be a time when she turns her nose up at a potato chip.) She gets the food pouches just to ensure she’s getting regular fruit and vegetables — it’s a guarantee, as opposed to the general crapshoot that is getting a toddler to eat regular-sized-human food.
While I was learning to feed her solids, she would inhale something one day, then refuse to eat it the next. It was infuriating. I would go out and buy half a dozen jars of some turkey flavored thing because “ooh, she loves it” only to open it up and have her throw it at me. She loved oatmeal, each and every single day, oatmeal mixed with applesauce, until one day she decided she was never eating that shit again. (I refuse to have toddler food battles. That way madness lies. You get in a war of wills with a 15-month-old, you deserve the shellacking you’re going to take.)
So we wound up with lots of half-open jars. Luckily Bucky ate baby food. Until we discovered the pouches, we were playing a percentage game, figuring that if we got more food, on a daily basis, IN THE BABY than we did ON THE BABY, she would grow and her brain would develop and it would all be okay. Sometimes she ate 2 ounces, sometimes she wanted more. I stopped calculating how much all the baby food cost because it made me want to do things like wrap her up in a towel and syringe the stuff into her.
“I’ve force-fed Claire,” I said to her once, when she was being particularly reluctant to take sustenance. “You’d be a piece of cake compared to her.”
This is a kid without any known food allergies. Without any major disorders or diseases we have discovered. She is not lactose intolerant or reactant to gluten or dyes, and her likes and dislikes are ordinary. AND IT WAS STILL A COLOSSAL PAIN IN THE BALLS TO GET FOOD INTO HER.
So imagine, if you will, my coming home from one of my two jobs, and not only having to grocery shop in 6 minutes because her sitter leaves in 10, but to do the complicated math that says, “this but not that, and only this much, of this color, from this place.”
Imagine my having to contend with buying specific sizes of food that pretty much guarantee I would be wasting some of it if not most of it since most baby food jars/packages tell you the baby has to eat it RIGHT NOW OR IT WILL GROW SALMONELLA AND THE BABY WILL DIE. Imagine my taking my $200 or so a month, and blowing half of it on stuff I knew she would probably not eat, even if I couldn’t calculate particularly which foods those were at the moment.
Imagine my discovering something she WOULD eat, which some fucking busybody asshole in the legislature has decided she cannot have, because I don’t feel bad enough about myself that day apparently.
How in the CHRIST.
There are a number of unanswered questions in these bills, which are all over the country — no spending on this, because it makes us feel virtuous to say so, and no spending on that, because we would blow cash on it if we were poor and you can’t be anything like us or the earth will cave in — the most pressing of which is, why the fuck are we bothering?
Do we think parents just aren’t bugged enough about the fact that they can’t feed their babies without help? Do we genuinely think that? Because I know the imaginary welfare queens are just out buying bling with all their government checks, and the imaginary pimps are filling their grocery carts with soda and steak and charging it back to You, Mr. Hard-Working Taxpayer, but I know of no actual parent who rejoices in the need to navigate benefits to keep his child from starving.
And making those benefits harder to navigate — my local grocery store has just started putting labels right on the shelves as to what is allowed and what is not, to save people embarrassment at the checkout line — does not feed those kids. It doesn’t employ their parents or even in the cases where their parents are irresponsible fucksticks, it doesn’t teach their parents anything. It just makes the people who want to feed their babies work harder to do something that shouldn’t be hard to do at all.
The woman who approached me in the restaurant smiled at my happy, fed baby and her pouch of food. “I wish we’d had those when I had kids,” she said.