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Blogger on Poverty Becomes a Celebrity
Melissa Monroe's (aka Jack Monroe) story has a familiar ring for many across the globe in economic hard times. Her story takes place in England. It begins in 2011-12 with a sudden slide into serious poverty, which is when she also began her online diary. In England, over $100 billion of dollars in welfare and social programs have been cut. Of the some 400 food banks there that over 500,000 rely on now, a year ago, over a million relied on them.
Melissa dropped out of high school at age 16, but was always able to find steady work until reaching the apex of income, working as a emergency dispatcher earning $44K a year, which is over the average income in Britain. Then, in Nov. 2011, she found herself unemployed, like many across the globe. However, her unemployment was a mistake-she had become pregnant and when she returned from maternity leave, the employer only offered her a night-time shift. Despite arguing that it was totally impracticable with a baby, the employer did nothing, so she was forced to quit unable to find or afford daycare.
Now unemployed, the spiral all fall into is one of making ends meet, selling things you value, becoming depressed in face of a tough job competition market, mounting bills. Like many, she was personally embarrassed and told no one for eight months. Shame does wondrous things. In the back of her mind, like all unemployed, the flicker of hope that one of her 300 applications filed using her cell phone or Internet would come through. None did. Then, the fear that the child services might take her son away. So, she began to blog about her blight with some emotional flurry and dire.
The online blog diary, called, " A Girl Called Jack", simply chronicled her reality on the bread line gradually got the attention of many. Maybe it was because she was a young woman with child and unemployed from a middle class family-no horror story in her background, just life events. For six months, she went to bed hungry and for most 2012, she had only $12-13 available for food per WEEK.
Her blog was followed by 31,000 on Twitter. Eventually, The Guardian, a newspaper, hired her to write a column featuring recipes that cost less than $2. It was like an austerity cookbook. As part of the book deal, she won a $40,000 contract. The newspaper promoted her as, "the modern face of poverty". The opposition political party there, the Labour Party, now use her as a poster child for high energy prices. A charity, Oxfam, paid for her trip to Tanzania on one of their projects, and a grocery chain, Sainsbury, has her on a TV commercial. Melissa has turned another lucrative deal from Tesco, another grocery chain. She earns about $2600 for her Sainsbury work. When the BBC reported, her welfare benefits stopped. Although her book contract is for $40K, she has been paid only $16K so far. She now earns about $325 a week from her online blog.
Melissa's story is universal for many in today's world. While she is now out of the woods for the time being, will she have to reinvent herself again once the attraction of the blog ends?