Friday, September 13, 2013

The Food Stamp Furors


Tonight I saw someone making claims about food stamp users. They were saying that they worked at a store and, well, read for yourself:
 I work in a store. you really don't want to know about the cigs and other junk they buy. And when they come in and they have just smoked a joint or they are drunk on a daily basis. They have money for all these things. Then they take cash out of the cash side of EBT and walk across to the wine and spirits shop to buy their next drunk. Spend some time in a store watching this, and you will change your mind
I couldn't believe someone would make such ridiculous assertions. The article was about people receiving food stamps and how a politician in Tennessee wants to limit the kinds of food that they can purchase. It wasn't about any other program. However, to get cash benefits, individuals have to be working a certain amount of hours at a job. So, if we're going to tell working people what they should be able to do with their money, everyone needs to mail their checkbook to me so that I can make a list of approved (and disapproved) future purchases.

I've worked at stores and I've seen just the opposite of what this woman reported. I've seen people come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to create meals cheaper than I'd have ever thought possible. I've seen parents buy regular food for their children but purchase nothing but ramen for themselves for a month so that they'll have enough stamps left over for their kids to have a decent birthday cake. I've seen folks using food stamps to buy expensive cases of Boost and Ensure just to stay alive because they have cancer and they're out of work and those high calorie, sweetened drinks are the only thing they can tolerate while they're in chemotherapy and radiation. I've seen people bringing in competitor's advertisements for price matching so that they can get the best deal possible at the one grocery store they were able to get to. I've seen neighbors pool their hard-earned money to buy a deep freezer they can both use to store food bought in bulk.

No one is more industrious and clever than a truly poor person. If they are able to come in every day (as the person claimed) and buy stuff, it means they must be managing their money pretty damn well. I'm not on food stamps and even I have had times where I couldn't just go to the store and buy enough groceries to get through the month.

Thank God I had a financially comfortable family that wasn't willing to let me and my child starve when I had to cut back my hours at the store because my chemotherapy was making me throw up every where. I didn't even stop working during chemo, because I was too poor for that to even seem like an option.

Imagine being too sick to afford to buy enough food for your family and then, when someone else is nice enough to use their hard-earned money to feed you, you throw it all up. The humiliation and embarrassment is more than many folks will probably ever understand. If my tax dollars can save someone from having to go hungry or if it makes it possible for them to just pig out on junk food while they live out the last couple months of their terminal diagnosis, then I consider it a pretty good damn investment in society.

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