You know, when we, that is my two boys and I, had to go on Hartz IV, I wasn’t worried about the money. I’ve never had much money, I figured, it would be fiiiiiine.
And then, too, when the lockdown was announced, the not-so-light German lockdown, announced in December – I still wasn’t worried.
I thought that the money I saved NEVER going out ever would make up for the money we needed to feed ourselves! I almost looked forward to the thought of getting organized and resourceful, and using all my 1940s austerity housewife skills, plus employing the skint housewife superpower of preferring Aldi to Rewe, to get us through the lockdown.
I literally thought it would be, well, if not easy, at least – doable.
But you know what? I was wrong.
And just like the dad in Dirty Dancing, when I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong.
The Hartz-IV-money – the Sätze as we put it in German – it’s not enough to live off, basically! The German government thinks you can feed a kid under 6 on €2,92 a day. SPOILER ALERT: YOU CAN’T. My three year old, who is not exactly fat you guys, he drinks that in milk a day! Now, the thing is, because my oldest is a teenager, he doesn’t even get free meals at school. This is partially why I was so chilled out about the lockdown – I usually hunt about the flat or root around my bag and give him three, four, or if he is lucky, five euros to buy himself a hot dog or Streuselschnecke. AND YET STILL I FIND IT HARD TO MAKE OUR FOOD BUDGET LAST.
I am not someone who wants our food to be totally delicious and divine every day of the week.
I secretly don’t actually think organic food is even worth it. Like, sure, if I were a millionaire mum, instead of a Hartz-IV mama, yeah, I reckon I’d go Bio. But I am not some health nut.
I am actually quite good at cooking, even if I do say so myself, and fairly good at planning a weekly meal plan, and working out how I can use up yesterday’s leftovers to make a relatively nutritious, fairly tasty, and filling meal for today.
But you know what? It’s just not enough money!
I am now forty years old, and as I get older, I kind of relate to the Karen woman more and more. Not the racist side, but the whiny, bitchy, complain to the manager side. And the thing is? Imagine the most Karen-y voice possible: THIS IS JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
Even poor people should be able to feed their kids in lockdown. Even poor people should be able to feed their kids healthy snacks and relatively healthy meals. They should be able to buy, I dunno, berries for their toddlers once a week. This should be possible!
So, I channelled my inner Karen – I am half-white, you guys – and started a petition. I mean, I basically complained to the manager, right? I am a Karen now – and this is Karen-socialism!
The link to the petition is here.
Full disclosure: there was some criticism of having asked for food vouchers, as people felt this was, like, suggesting Hartz-IV parents couldn’t be trusted to decide how to spend their own money. And I will say, that even though I agree with the worry that poor people might find that vouchers stigmatize them as being untrustworthy in some way, THERE IS JUST SO MUCH FOOD TO BUY IN LOCKDOWN. So that was the reason I suggested food vouchers – well, that, and also because I was slightly inspired by the situation in the UK (in the UK, the parents of children who receive free school meals have been provided with food vouchers during lockdown).
Germans are quick to sneer at the UK as a social dystopia – but I think people don’t realize that food is a lot, LOT more expensive than it was ten years ago, whilst Hartz-IV has barely increased at all. I don’t think poor people should be forced to choose between their children’s nutritional health and protecting their children from Corona. So please, everyone: channel your inner (non-racist) Karen and sign my petition!