When New Bedford’s Needy Got Surplus Food and Not EBT Cards
When I was just a whippersnapper back in the early 1960s, my dad got into a horrific car accident while returning home from his out-of-town, overnight factory job.
I was probably about three or four years old, and my brother was four or five. My mother raised us and didn't work outside of the house.
Dad spent months in traction and was unable to work. There were no visiting nurse programs or daycare centers back then, so Mom struggled to care for all of us. That meant asking for government assistance.
There were no welfare programs, but there was government housing. We moved to Brickenwood, which is where we stayed until Dad was healthy enough to return to work.
That's where I was when John Kennedy was shot and the lights went out up and down the East Coast.
There also were no food stamps or EBT cards in the early 1960s. There was government-issued USDA surplus food.
Every week, my mother would leave us with a neighbor and walk to the surplus food distribution center on Acushnet Avenue, not far from the Capitol Theater, and return with our allotment of nutritious and delicious food.
This consisted of silver cans of "meat" with "USDA" stamped in bold black letters on the front of the can. There were also powdered eggs, powdered milk, silver cans of peanut butter (actually pretty good), and a long rectangular wedge of orange cheese that wasn't half bad either. I seem to recall something resembling SPAM and lard.
I'm sure there were other things that time and age have caused to slip my mind.
I can still see Mom carrying that box of surplus food down the hill and into the kitchen. I wonder now how she did it. That box must have been heavy – not to mention the load that was placed upon her shoulders at the time.
Does anyone else remember receiving government-issued USDA surplus food back in the day?