It’s a long one … be forewarned …..
I’ve never been rich and I doubt I ever will be. That’s okay, I’m actually alright with that. I have however, been several levels of poor. From the ‘we will barely scrape by’ to ‘Robbing Peter to Pay Paul’ to ‘There is no Peter, there is no Paul, I’m screwed’
Recently I read an article where there is talk of USDA changing the EBT/SNAP/Food Stamp benefit. Taking up to 50% of the recipient’s benefit and replacing that with something called a Harvest Box. Which would be meat, milk, cheese, vegetables. The decision on what and who is affected would be left to the states.
Before I make a comment, I merely am going to give my own take on poor and not having enough to eat or rather lack of a choice in what I had to eat.
My low point, which some of you probably will say it wasn’t that bad, because it is true, no matter how bad you think you have it, someone else out there has it worse.
My journey into the worst ‘poor’ of my life started in 2008. Quickly following my marriage break up, I lost the car, and keeping the house was a pipe dream. I had no backup plan, no savings and at the time was writing (Making nothing) and working part time. That’s all I had to do, I was married. But that part time job wasn’t enough. Fortunately, I found a full time job at a nursing home and moved into this affordable apartment. It was five rooms over an empty store, no living room windows, steps from hell and the entire place was slanted. Seriously, all balls and cans rolled.
My take home pay was $1108 a month, plus I made another 300 being a Karaoke DJ. It was sustainable. Rent was only 650, a car payment from a ‘buy here pay here’ place, electric, insurance and phone, totaled just about 1200.00. We didn’t have cable or internet. If I set the laptop in the right spot in the kitchen, I was able to get the guest wifi from a local business. DJing paid for food and gas.
Then came my grandson. Suddenly that 200 to live on wasn’t all that much for food, diapers, formula, so forth. There were four of us to feed, gas for work. I was working all that I could and I found myself caught in a catch 22 loop. I applied for assistance, and was denied. See, my daughters had just turned 18, the baby wasn’t mine and according to guidelines I made too much money. My daughter applied and since she was technically still in school, it fell under my income, which again, I wasn’t allowed to count them. Not only denied SNAP, we were denied medical for the baby. Forget WIC, you need a doctor to sign off, no insurance, the Health Department was our doctor.
Basic food was a luxury. Now, keep in mind, at any time, I could have called any member of my family and they would have helped. But pride kicks in and you just can’t do it. You can’t let them know you don’t have food. Plus, I would bother my brother for help with the electric, I couldn’t ask him for help with food.
So I turned to the church. They helped me sign up for the Food Bank. The Food bank was a godsend. The ladies there made sure I had a can of formula and diapers each week. My grandson may not have had the same formula every week, but he was being fed. My little bit of money went for extra formula and things that the FB didn’t give that week.. Mostly, everything we ate, breakfast, lunch dinner was determined by what we received that week at the food bank.
You know what? We ate.
The way a Food bank works is you walk through stations picking one item from each. Each station was a different type of item. Sometimes they had goodies. Then there was always bread from the local store, and sometimes there was fresh meat. At the end of the line was a packed brown bag, you weren’t allowed to look inside, you had to grab one and go. Always in there were pasta, protein, veggies, cereal/pancakes, etc
I didn’t have a choice, I didn’t have the money to go to the store and get what I wanted. For over a year there were never cookies or snacks in the house. That brown food bank bag was like Christmas. Every Saturday I would open it with enthusiasm and thanks.
Had I been eligible for food benefits, I would have purchased things that I craved like real milk, fresh oranges and lunch meat. And quite honestly, I would have purchased cookies, chips, ground meat not in a can, and fish sticks, I love fish sticks, but they can be expensive.
Now, you can understand why when I got my first Amazon royalty for $33, I danced about and treated everyone to pizza.
When I hear people talk about SNAP recipients using benefits for steak and such, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t believe they’re eating steak every night. It’s a treat. Most using SNAP are making it stretch as best as they can. So what if they want a steak. Their steak was my fish sticks. On a good sale day a sirloin costs less than a box of Gordons.
When I hear of the plans for that Harvest Box, I liken it to that brown paper bag from the food bank. While the choice of what I would make and eat was limited, I was still was eating.
I firmly 100% believe that if by some far off chance they pass the Harvest Box law, those who truly need the assistance (Like I did) would gladly choose that box and small balance on a SNAP card, over nothing. People unable to afford food don’t want the help, they need it. It’s hard to ask for help and there isn’t any boasting and flashing of that EBT card. Standing in line at the food bank isn’t a social occasion, it’s a weekly sledgehammer to your self esteem and worth. A shame, at least for me, that I felt and tried to hide.
Thankfully, I was blessed and able to pull myself out of that situation, but many others aren’t as fortunate. They get hit over and over and when they find themselves two steps ahead, something knocks them back.
Trust me when I tell you there is great pride when paying for your own groceries, even if it takes your last dollar.
Whatever your opinion is on SNAP changes, that is your opinion, there is no right or wrong on an opinion.
Just remember before you judge those getting benefits, put yourself in their shoes. Not everyone getting benefits is scamming the system. Try to imagine working two jobs and still not having enough to feed your family, it’s a horrible feeling. When a dollar will and does break you. Asking and getting help is hard enough without people judging for buying Oreos.
Whatever the law is or will be, bottom line, we should not be a country where people go to bed hungry and wishing there was a single pack of Ramen left in the cupboard.