Whitney’s Story
“I had planned to work until I wasn’t able to anymore. I thought that after working hard all my life, I’d be living the good life now.”

Whitney, Mississippi

I thought that after working hard all my life, I’d be living the good life now. So it doesn’t make me feel good that at the age of 65, I have to start eating the things that mess with my health, because all of a sudden, I have no work. Just like that, Congress cut the funding for my job at a teaching farm. I haven’t been able to find work since. There just aren’t enough jobs for seniors.

I had planned to work until I wasn’t able to anymore, so losing that job really did somethin’ to me. My blood pressure went way up and I stopped sleepin’ at night. It’s hard times now, living only on $968 a month in Social Security. I’m a breast cancer survivor, but I don’t have money to go to the doctor or have a mammogram like I should. I don’t have money to change my glasses out. Sometimes I go into overdraft to pay my monthly bills. But then I get charged $36 by the bank, and I have $36 less for food. I can’t give up my car, because I have to drive 16 miles south to Cleveland to buy food because the stores here don’t have fresh vegetables worth buying. What they do have looks rotten, ready for composting. We used to have good groceries here in Shelby, then the schools got integrated and the white people closed down their stores and moved out of town.

I can’t afford to buy enough food or to cook healthy. I’m not the only one havin’ a hard time here. A group of us are talking about what can we do to eat healthier and have less hunger. We’re trying to bring stores back to Shelby and to get more people to grow their own vegetables. I only have a small piece of land for a garden, so I can’t grow all the vegetables I should eat. I get a lot of my food from the food pantry, so I’m cooking what I get from there, not the foods I want to eat. But I don’t know how I’d survive without the food pantry. It’d be hard.

I grew up at a time when only white children were allowed to ride the bus to school. We ate what we could find wild, like possums or ‘coons, or what the white lady Miss Paine snuck us. I had more food as a poor child living on a plantation than I do now.