For some reason, plenty of Americans seem to think shaming someone who’s receiving government benefits is totally acceptable. So when one Oregon woman reportedly witnessed a cashier shaming a fellow shopper receiving WIC benefits at a local grocery store, her daughter put the cashier on blast in a Facebook post.
WIC benefits, which are short for the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children, help provide assistance to new mothers and families. They’re not technically the same as food stamps, but many lump them together. As the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service explains, people who receive WIC benefits can include low-income women who are pregnant or postpartum, as well as children up to 5 years old. According to the USDA, WIC foods can include things like infant cereal, fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, canned fish, whole-wheat bread, and other healthy foods.
But Amanda Arnlund shared on Facebook that a cashier reportedly shamed a woman for using WIC benefits in an incident on May 18. Arnlund wrote that her mom, Jacki Carroll, saw a woman in line at Albertsons grocery store in Gresham, Ore., using WIC coupons. The WIC benefits didn’t cover all of her groceries, which Arnlund wrote included fruits and vegetables. But according to Arnlund, her mom offered to help pay the remaining $12 for the woman — and the cashier reportedly stopped Carroll from doing so.
“She got her free stuff from WIC already, she doesn’t need anybody else paying her way,” Arnlund claims the cashier said to her mom, referring to the other customer. Arnlund also writes that when her mom tried to reason with the cashier, she responded, “Well, that’s what ‘they’ do, they keep on having kids and getting handouts.”
Arnlund noted in the Facebook post that the cashier appeared to be Caucasian, while the customer using WIC benefits appeared to be African-American. Arnlund added that she wasn’t sure if the cashier meant “they” to mean other beneficiaries of food assistance programs, or whether she meant the term to have a racial connotation.
Carroll also spoke to Oregon’s KATU about the situation. Carroll told the news station that she contacted the Albertsons manager and hopes the other customer will be given an apology, and potentially a store credit too.
“Everybody needs to help one another,” Carroll told KATU. “No, I don’t have to give you money because you don’t have any, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about showing dignity and respect. If I don’t have any money to give you, that doesn’t mean I have to belittle you or say anything nasty.”
As for the grocery store’s part, Albertsons provided a statement to KATU apologizing for the incident. “At Albertsons, we have a policy and a culture of treating our customers, and each other, with courtesy, dignity and respect. It’s at the core of who we are as a company and member of this community,” the statement reads. “We sincerely apologize that, in this incident, it appears we did not deliver the customer service that we pride ourselves on.”
It should go without saying that all customers should feel comfortable when getting their groceries, regardless of how they’re paying or their financial status. And while it sounds like this customer had an unfortunate experience, Arnlund’s Facebook post is sparking conversation, which could lead to positive change in her community. Plus, Arnlund is using her upcoming birthday as a chance to raise money for the National WIC Association, which could help other families in the future too.
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