Food Stamps and American Poverty

I’ve had a poem in my head around this subject for a good week-ish now. It all happened after I stopped into Local First Grocer, a local food co-op that only sources local food. I asked if they take EBT, which I have been on up until the end of this month. They said, “not yet.” I knew the cashier and I mentioned something about going off of food stamps soon, and that it was kind of embarrassing.

“No, it isn’t.”

Say what?

You see I’ve bought into the American philosophy, namely this: If I am on food stamps, I am abusing the system, I should have done better, and I should work harder to get myself out of the mess I put myself in.

Nevermind that I am a poor college student who just graduated with $40,000 in student loans. Nope. Nevermind that.

I was still just a broke ass trying to usurp our precious tax dollars. But my friend’s statement brought me up short.

Why in God’s name is this an embarrassment?

So here’s my poem war cry about the whole shitty thing.

 

I’m scraping the bottom of the penny jar
to find cash for a quick meal
swiping what they seem to think is a
“magic card”
at the grocery store so I can get lunch at work.
I feel guilty as I walk into Whole Foods.
I buy a bottle of sparkling water
because damn it, I don’t drink alcohol
and I need something to tickle my tongue.
But this is a “luxury”
and someone with this card
should never buy “that bottle.”
Yet instead I’m relegated into a group of drunks
with a far more dangerous and expensive bottle
just by virtue of the fact
that my wallet carries this card that
in Colorado, is labeled differently
to hide the fact we are poor.
Let’s not display it now.
Let’s not publicly tout the fact that
I can barely afford my monthly utilities
and this card is the only way I can buy groceries.
Nope. Let’s pretend
that this poverty doesn’t exist
that hard work is an eraser
if I just had more “initiative”
“ambition”
“drive”
well then, I can stop being accused
of stealing your tax dollars
even though you don’tΒ even know my face.
the one that stared at death stark in front of me
looks cold sadness in the face every day
willing myself to survive
to burst forth in imaginative color
against the black stage backdrop of my
surprising little life.

So many other faces
just like mine
stared at death just like mine
have “sadness” and “despair”
as angels and devils on each shoulder
portways to enlightenment
dark hallways to oblivion.
How do you not think of this
the white-hot pain of uncovering death
staring at faces hanging in nooses
trying to cope when your own children are starving.
And yet they say
work harder
it’s your fault that
the system is against you.
What happens when the system buckles
under the backbreaking
muscle tearing load?
“Buck up,” they say.
“chin up,” they say
despite the broken necks
they keep standing on
to claw their way to the top.

I’ve got to stop buying in
to this mentality that food stamps
are an embarrassment
I am an embarrassment
I should be invisible.
I refuse. This load is too much.
I will not be relegated to your ashamed oblivion.
Look at me, America.
See your masses.
See your suffering.
And dare to lift another finger
in the face of our certain death.

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159 thoughts on “Food Stamps and American Poverty

  1. This is beautiful. As a person who sees many people who do abuse the system of food stamps, it is hard for me to snap out of the judgemental state you believe to be the butt of. Thank you for this reminder that there are good and honest people like you who do need it.

    1. You’re welcome. πŸ™‚ It’s hard… I’m just trying to give a face to it. I sometimes judge people who are in the system, too. But I’m trying to keep an open mind and see all the factors going in to keeping them there.

  2. When I was a kid, food stamps were literally stamps and my mom hated having to use them. We only went to stores where other people used food stamps too so that we would blend in. My mom would trade them for other necessities that food stamps couldn’t buy, like toilet paper and cigarettes. We got giant slabs of government cheese and a care package at Thanksgiving. Looking at our family, it was obvious that we were poor and therefore, it was socially acceptable to exhibit our poverty by using food stamps. The face of poverty is changing. Now, it’s harder to tell the super-poor from the moderately poor. People who were once middle class are having to rely on government assistance in droves. People who complain about our tax dollars being wasted on “undeserving” food stamp recipients are over focused and concerned about appearances. How dare someone on food stamps have a cell phone. How dare she be dressed well and not have have dirty fingernails. How dare he wear those expensive shoes instead of muddy work boots. They don’t look poor enough, they don’t look deserving enough, they look too much like me. I suspect that most people who think food stamp recipients are abusing the system are reacting out of fear that if a “normal” looking person could be struggling to buy food, it could happen to them too. We want our poor, our addicts, our mentally ill, anyone who we don’t want to be to look the part so that we can tidily put them in a different category from us. I’ll step off the soapbox now. πŸ˜‰

    1. Karen you can stay on your soapbox all you want! This subject gets me ALL riled up, too. The face of poverty is indeed changing. I love what you write “they don’t look poor enough, they don’t look deserving enough, they look too much like me.” YES, that. I feel so much pressure due to that attitude. I love how you reframe it too that maybe they are reacting out of fear that it could be them. It is terrifying and it is all too close. I think that is why there is so much stigma against anyone we think is “different” in our society; subconsciously we know we are all connected and so very similar.

    2. Thank you. I really am glad you said this. My mother was on food stamps when I was a baby and I was told stories of how poor they were like cut the ends of footed jammies because they couldn’t afford to get more clothes at times. You are write more and more people weigh appearances, people have stereotypes.i know I did until I saw young white hipsters at the trader joes with one

      1. It is hard sometimes not to weigh appearances with what we are shown the “poor” are on TV… but progressively the wage gap widens and the poor are not who we expect. I hope that this post can help shift that for some people and help them realize appearances mean little.

    3. Your words speak volume. It is so sad how some people judge and assume. Especially when they do not know a persons story. There’s a reason for everything. The poem above and your words definitely touched me.

  3. Ye gods, but you are a WRITER. I love this poem – the words, the rhythm, the message, the co-mingled vulnerability and pride. It’s beautiful, and so are you, and so is tickling your tongue when needed so life doesn’t become all dried out for you. My favorite line (of many contenders) was:

    my
    surprising little life.

    1. Jennie, you are so lovely. Thank you for the gorgeous compliment… ugh. I am pretty sure you have made my entire week with this and then following through to get me Freshly Pressed. Huge crushing happening over here. Let’s vid chat soon my friend. So grateful to know you!!!! ❀

  4. oh my GOD the *feels* this poem gave me. So eloquently expressed….I could just break out in Jennie-bumps (what I’ve renamed chills because of her ability to give them to me all the time).

    ooooh, how I remember being poor growing up. I distinctly remember my mom’s best friend pulling up with a car load of groceries for us once. While her friend brought in the bags and set them on our counters, my mom cried and cried. I’m sure it was a mixture of humiliation that she needed the help, and gratitude that she had it. To this day, I’m compelled to always have full stocks of everything we need for fear that we’ll be without. Not that we ever were, that I was aware of, but because I need to feel secure in that way. I knew my mom never did and it was heartbreaking.

    Thank you for this, sweet friend. People need this persective.

    1. Awww! Haha I know what you mean, I get Jennie bumps quite often. πŸ˜€ she has a unique ability to do that to people. Thank you so much, that’s the highest compliment. πŸ™‚
      It’s a unique feeling truly. I remember being poor when I was younger as well… much like the past few months. We took trips to our church’s food pantry, or other people from the church would bring us food. My parents never told us we were on food stamps then, but we were. I’m not sure if it was the embarrassment that held them back, or what. Maybe that’s why my dad became so obsessed with getting money. I can see where that would go, I can totally understand what you said about keeping full stocks of everything. I have to watch myself now with a steady paycheck (finally!) for the past month… I need a lot but I need to remember to go slowly and plan, not binge. It’s hard. financial security is not easily won.
      You are so welcome Beth. Thanks for reading and thanks for your ever present support, it always means so much to me. ❀

    1. It’s hard, isn’t it? It just feels so… exhausting. Exhausting and shameful are the best words I can come up with. And just not ever damn good enough.
      I’m sorry you understand. I hope it eases for you, soon.

  5. I was on food stamps for awhile, and I was so ashamed the day I had to apply for them. I am unemployed again, fighting the same fight in a war I didn’t want to start, and reading this made me feel less alone. So thank you for that.

    1. Natalie you are very welcome. It is really shameful! I remember the first day I got my card last year, they hadn’t unlocked it yet or something and I went to the grocery store to buy food and the card would not run. The cashier was so rude to me and I took it so personally. I was so ashamed that I ran my credit card instead, which I hate doing. :/ It’s so rough.
      I’m so glad to help you feel less alone!! It’s a rough go these days, and I totally get it. Hoping you can lay down the fight soon…

  6. YES damnit because we DO feel embarrassed and ashamed and useless and beholden when it happens. I’m so glad you write this and that it’s going big πŸ™‚ You’re a rockstar, and I’m glad to know you.

    1. And there really is no reason!!! Especially here in the US when we’re saddled with the student loans we have now… the amount I have is from 2 years alone. I’m a bit afraid for our future.
      I’m so glad to know you, too, Lizzi!!! So extremely grateful for your support and so excited for future things! πŸ™‚

      1. The way things are going, only the rich will be able to afford education. We’re cycling back around into a feudal system, I think. Ack! I’m excited too. I have another poem for you – or did I send it already?

      2. You didn’t send it πŸ™‚ just checked my email and didn’t see it. I have another one, too, I think… but I need to check my journal. Not typed up yet. Internet in 3 days at my place… that will be helpful for this whole thing πŸ˜›

  7. I’m so proud of you, although “proud” feels like it comes with some sort of condescending undertone so it seems like a poor choice of words, but really, at it’s truest meaning, I am PROUD of you – Your strength, your bravery, your beauty and most definitely your writing. Congrats on the FP. Well-deserved my friend. Much love xx

    1. Deanna I MISS YOU! I just had to get that out first. I was listening to KoL yesterday and I kept thinking of you and sending love and light. Wish I could go to their sold out Red Rocks concert, but alas…
      Thank you for your sweet words my friend. And know I feel the same about you, my brave, courageous, audacious friend. Much love to you! XOXO

  8. Beautifully written. I have “friends” on FB who post the most ludicrous and insulting memes about public assistance. It makes me so angry. Especially when they also post all these Christian memes. I’m a Christian and you know what, I also live paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes making ends meet is an amazing feat. Yet somehow we’ve survived. When I know that others like yourself are struggling and that maybe your child’s going to bed hungry I feel guilty I can’t help, when my son’s belly is full. You know what gives me some peace? Is knowing at least the taxes taken out of my check (even if it’s a small part) help someone awesome like you.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I know, whenever I see those memes, I have to restrain myself from unkind words. I wish people could see the various factors affecting those of us in this situation. Thankfully, I’m coming out of it now, but I still feel only one step from the edge with the ludicrous student loan amounts I hold. It is a struggle – making ends meet is crazy hard, and I wish there was more respect for that in this country.
      I am so grateful, like you, that the taxes I contribute through my paycheck are helping others like me, or others even worse off. Like single moms who also have to pay for daycare… I don’t even know how they do it.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

      1. Laurie you are an amazing woman. I am a single mother of one with two college degrees. Loans!!! I want even speak on that. However, it is very challenging especially being unemployed for five years. You apply for jobs and either your under or over qualified. It gets hard but my Faith has gotten stronger overtime. Thank you for being honest and shedding light on this situation. I use to be ashamed but now I’m thankful.

      2. Thank you Ria! What a lovely compliment. Wow – I can’t imagine the burden that is between the cost of childcare and your loan payments! Ugh. I always hate to hear about these kinds of things because it brings it home how much the political system is very unhelpful. I’m at least glad to hear that your faith has grown stronger as a result. And I say, EFF SHAME! there is no reason, we all need help at some point, some of us more than others due to the way things are set up here. It means nothing about who you are as a person.

      3. No thank you for shedding light on this situation. I know things will get better.

  9. My family was extremely poor growing up. My parents had 8 children. We would not be alive without food stamps. If you need them, then you need them. There is no shame in not having money. The shame is that you need money to live in this country. If you think about it, that concept is actually insane. My opinion is that I would rather have thousands of people getting food that didn’t really need it than have one person be denied that did need it. But I am very much a bleeding heart.

    I have an ex friend that commented once that someone that owned a smartphone shouldn’t be allowed to have WIC or food stamps. Until she got pregnant and needed the help. Then it was fine for her to have a smartphone and WIC and food stamps. Hence, the ex friend part.

    As always, your blog really makes me think.

    1. Maurnas I’m with you. I really would rather thousands of people get food that don’t need it so the one that really needs it has opportunity for it. And honestly I know there is more than ONE person who really needs those food stamps. That number will go up as our student loan amounts increase, guaranteed.
      Some people just don’t realize how they would need something like food stamps until they get in the situation. Then they realize that it looks a whole lot different than they thought, at least here in the US. Poverty isn’t the same as the rest of the world, but it’s still poverty.

  10. Laura, great poem. From someone who grew up basically poor but could not get food stamps to being a social worker and trying to guide someone to to the resources they need in order to survive. As always, there will those who will abuse the system, but many more are needing to use the system. I empathize with you but I admire your courage to say what is on your mind, especially since I just graduated from college and am unemployed. Keep speaking the truth.

    1. Thank you, ladyruff. πŸ™‚ I have to agree; the system is abuse-able, but so many need it, and I believe so many will continue to especially with the rising student loan amounts here in the United States. Congrats on graduating your grad program! I wish you the best, and hope you find work soon. πŸ™‚ I try to stay courageous; it is hard but I have found it worth it so far.
      Thank you for the reblog, as well!! So appreciate that you stopped by.

  11. Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed, you never know what’s around the corner…. and anyway so many people live a fur coat and no knickers existence. Who is anyone else to judge?

    1. Oh believe me. I usually use the self service lanes. But the first time I did that, my card didn’t charge and the cashier had to come over anyway. Of course I was dressed to the nines in my interview clothes and didn’t look like I belonged with an EBT card… sigh.

  12. It is the media that poisons the minds of all of us with their drama. If they would report on all stories and not just of what makes them money, we all would think differently. ” Greed will destroy us from within, if we let it”.

      1. Same here, but they are in bed with politicians sort of speak, which they only make public things that wont hurt them to keep them in office. We need to see through this corruption and make our votes count, by being smarter by researching before we vote and forceing the medias hand.

      2. Indeed – I hope more and more are seeing through the corruption. What we need now I think is ACTION, not just words. We get stuck in words… we need some action.

      3. You hit the nail on the head. “Talk is cheap, true action speaks louder than words”. Right now we have too much chit chat and not enough real action.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story. So many people in our generation are facing this exact same situation: Loads of debt incurred because it was an absolute necessity, and having no job prospects upon graduation. In our parents’ generation, they got jobs working for their own parents or their parents’ friends as soon as they finished college. Today, many employers receive hundreds or even thousands of job applications for the same job (and often ridiculously for unpaid internships as well). It’s bad enough dealing with a fiscal crisis in one’s twenties. It’s even worse when people can’t or won’t understand just how hard it is to find a living-wage job after college.

    On top of that, the government makes billions of dollars annually off of student loan interest (Elizabeth Warren just wrote a book called A Fighting Chance about that very topic). And then people begrudge us for legally taking advantage of some modest assistance before getting on our feet and repaying it through taxes. The face of poverty is changing, and that’s not the fault of the poor.

    1. You are so welcome! I hope that others can see this and maybe feel inspired to change the situation somehow. I agree, so many young adults are facing this same predicament, and it’s only getting worse. I wish older generations would do just a tiny bit of research and realize that student loans have gone up 400% (FOUR HUNDRED!) since 1980… that’s when most of them were in college. And that’s huge. I can’t imagine what that will do to our economy, it almost feels like we’re on the brink of a crisis.
      Oh I need to get that Elizabeth Warren book! I ADORE her and if she runs in 2016, she has my vote. The face of poverty is indeed changing, due to the social structures causing difficulty in so many ways. I’m crossing my fingers, HARD, that this whole situation at UCSB not only shines light on the plight of women, but also on other social issues… we need that desperately.

      1. Oh thank you! Well I guess my thought is that people took the time to comment, and thought through their words, so I want to take time to reply.

  14. Thank you for sharing your heart in such a beautiful and eloquent way. I especially loved this:

    “β€œBuck up,” they say.
    β€œchin up,” they say
    despite the broken necks
    they keep standing on
    to claw their way to the top.”

    1. Thank you so much for reading. πŸ™‚ I’m partial to that line myself, I love how things just flow through you and it’s almost like you aren’t writing them but the Muse is…

  15. Ugh, all of the “you just have to work harder” stuff wears and tears on me. I remember sitting in a college class, debating with a girl who truly thought that it was okay for another classmate to not have insurance because her parents were poor, while SHE deserved it because her family was financially stable. How does that even make sense? There is a huge disparity in this country and the reality is that most people, statistically, do not climb out of poverty despite this weird belief we have that anyone can be or do anything. Yes– we have it better than a LOT of other places in the world but still… you ought not feel ashamed for needing help. EVERYONE needs help of some sort, at some point.

    1. Right? I have to agree. It’s this constant pressure, and it’s so frustrating. I still feel that; my car is an older Honda and the front end currently has bungee cords holding up some of the plastic underneath; the bungee cords aren’t necessarily needed but even without them it looks kind of ghetto (really ghetto) and I feel such an intense pressure to just buy a new car already and if I was good enough I’d have one. It’s enough to make me scream.
      I have no idea how that shit makes sense. It makes even less sense to me how people even think that way. I feel like they are out of touch with their own humanity and collective humanity; they don’t understand cause and effect. Ugh and the disparity in this country is overwhelming. If you take even one class on race and gender (I’m a Women’s and Ethnic Studies minor) you know that when people start off in one class, they are most likely to stay in that class. Social mobility is nearly nonexistent even here in America. Shame for needing help needs to be eliminated; I wish more people would read up or take classes on this stuff. And I wish that individualism didn’t mean shaming help.

  16. As a stamp recipient in Ohio, I relate. I was in a local work-for-welfare program that put me face-to-face and side-by-side with other recipients. I watched as the average shifted from a norm closer to the traditional perception to a ton of first timers who were used to working every day since high school. I’m just now working again, reducing but not eliminating my dependence. I tire of posts on Facebook that don’t understand, and once upon a time I would’ve posted the same garbage. The shame isn’t in having stamps, so long as you keep trying to get off of them. Thanks for posting this.

    1. I too tired of those posts. It’s aggravating, exhausting, and degrading. The average has indeed shifted from what I have noticed as well.
      I have to say though that the mentality of “trying to get off of them” while yes, I in some ways agree, I also have to point out the social structures that are inhibiting the ease of discontinuing use of food stamps and other federal assistance. At what point do you stop fighting the system? I don’t know… but I know the system isn’t helping us out.

  17. Poverty in America is a choice and anyone on welfare that makes a conscious decision between using their credit card or EBT card should be ashamed. Sucking off the government tit when you have a credit card in your pocket? You sound like the typical bad decision maker that landed your own self right where you deserved to be. No sympathy here.

    1. I’ve been waiting for this comment all day! Thank you. I did in fact make a conscious decision to do what I did, I completely agree. Although your mental picture is pretty degrading in my opinion, but whatever floats your boat. Interesting how you judge my decisions and have read none of my other writing, but again, whatever you would like to believe is fine by me. Your sympathy is not required, I will continue living my life anyway. I know what I am deserving of.
      Truly, thanks for getting this comment out of the way. And thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read. If everyone agreed with me this would be a boring world.

  18. This is a beautiful poem, and I’m glad I read it, even though I don’t share many of the views expressed here. Although I can agree that the cost of a college education is outrageous, it certainly isn’t the only option for young people. I believe part of the cycle we’re in now is the fault of schools and counselors teaching high school kids that a $100,000 degree is the only way to survive in the adult world, regardless of whether they can pay for it or not. Instead, those kids should be taught economics, budgeting, finance, job interview skills, etc. to hopefully avoid ending up in the system.
    But the reason I commented here: I am curious how you (and maybe some of the commenters) feel about the push for drug testing for welfare and food stamp recipients?
    Thanks for making me think today 😊

    1. Thank you for so kindly disagreeing with me. πŸ™‚ I loved your gracious approach to this and so appreciate that you took the time to read my poem anyway.
      I agree; college isn’t our only option, I took it because I determined I wanted a certain career path. I think job interviewing skills is HUGE, HUGE, HUGE! Especially now working as a supervisor, I think it really makes or breaks you and should be taught much more often. I know that I got the job I did now from my interviewing skills in many ways.
      Drug testing… Well. That’s a whole other topic. There are two sides to that coin. One is the problem of EBT cards being traded for drugs, which happens pretty commonly that I am aware of. the other is the issue of the way drug addiction is treated in our country and the heavy stigma we hold against it which prevents treatment in many ways. I think drug testing would be good, IF AND ONLY IF it were also paired with an effective, evidence based treatment for those who tested negative, with the intent of getting them to a point of testing positive so that they can eat and use EBT cards and be productive members of society.
      Thoughts?

  19. There is no need to be embarrassed at all. Sure, there are some people that cheat the system, but there are plenty of hard working people that don’t. I can’t look down on people for using food stamps when other people are writing off their meals as business expenses.

    1. Oooh I like your point. Writing off meals as business expenses… I have to not comment much on that one because it makes me pretty upset.
      Thank you for witnessing my rejection of shame πŸ™‚ So appreciate that you read this today!

  20. I love your poem! It touches the heart. Thanks for sharing it with us. I think of my parents, who have always made ugly “jokes” about food stamp recipients, and who now suggest that my wife and I apply for them. Actually, I am not eligible. I was laid off eight months ago and have been unable to find another job despite doing hundreds of applications. Two months ago, I ran out of unemployment, and Congress refuses to extend it. We recently had to humble ourselves to obtain food from the local church food bank. We got rid of one of our two cars, canceled cable TV, scrimp and save. As for student loans, I have been paying them down for 14 years now and will continue making payments until the day I die. I will never be able to pay them off. Still, we are not eligible for food stamps, as we still have some savings. Good thing, too, as we are using our savings to pay our bills. Soon, it will all be gone. Perhaps then we’ll be eligible for food stamps. When we are, I will think of your poem and remember not to be embarrassed by a situation beyond my control.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. I’m so sorry to hear about what you are going through right now and hope that either you will catch a break or be eligible for food stamps. I hope this post can help carry you through, either way. It’s definitely not something to be ashamed of; in this economy and with what we have, it’s hard to make a go of it. Know you are not alone, my friend.

  21. Thank you for this. I think too often we jump to conclusions about other people’s situation, and more often than not, food stamps are associated with people who drink, people who don’t bother to work, etc, while in reality, most of us are simply trying to get out of a different situation. Student loans suck, and I think you can hold your head high and ignore the naysayers.

    1. You’re very welcome. I agree, I wrote this to shatter people’s expectations of what the new poor look like. There are so many of us just trying to keep our heads above water. This poem is an attempt at keeping my head above all the criticism! πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by!

  22. Thanks for this. You are right. It’s a system that is not built to work for people and is causing many many people to flounder, not only in the US, but the world over. People are made to believe their poverty is their fault and feel bad, but the system really thrives off of this. We need to change that for something that really works for people. For everyone. Together.

    1. I soooo agree. I want to be a part of changing the system and the stereotypes so that people know not to be ashamed of poverty. It isn’t there fault, there is so much systemic nonsense that goes into it.

  23. Reblogged this on Martha Keim-St. Louis' blog and commented:
    this I face too. People think I am an artist, I must be rich. Hah! We live on fixed incomes and are happy for the $15 a month food stamps. We are also getting some meals delivered from our Office for the Aging.
    And I just learned I must pay huge amounts up front for pain treatment. I am always anxious. We have food, thanks.

  24. Great post- stigma is a HUGE problem with not only food stamps, but also free school lunches and other benefit programs. It’s one of the biggest burdens to accessibility of these programs.. such a shame that people feel embarrassed or judged. Glad you were able to share your insecurities! Keep up the great work!!

  25. Kudos on a thought-provoking post! I must say I have mixed thoughts on the topic. Having worked pretty much constantly from high school, through college until my present age of 41, it does, on the one hand, irritate me to see people purchasing soda and candy with EBT cards. However, I know that with the current economy, there are a lot of new aid recipients who have never drawn assistance before. I agree with you that higher education costs need reform. Don’t get me started on how tuition rises as administrator pay goes up and more and more is spent on athletics.

    As far as drug testing, I’m for it. As people say, if we have to test to keep jobs, why not have to test to keep welfare? Kentucky, where I live, is one of the first states to put such a measure into place. It will be interesting to see how it goes. My only concern is how it will affect children of drug users. However, if their parents are drugging, are they really in good hands anyway?

    Anyway, if your writing is any indication, hopefully you will not have to rely on assistance much longer!

    1. Honestly, I can see how people buy soda and candy with their EBT cards. I spent a lot of extra time planning out what to buy in order to eat a good healthy diet because that stuff can be so much more expensive, which is really a shame. So many times I just wanted to throw in the towel and eat junk.
      Ugh… tuition hikes need to stop, that whole system needs to be reformed!
      Thank you for reading and for your thoughts! Appreciate that you came by πŸ™‚

  26. You know how people are. People romanticize other people’s conditions. I have been guilty of resenting people with EBT cards. This post is making me feel differently about it.

    1. I have been guilty of the same thing… until I had to use them myself. It’s really changed my view on a lot of things. Hoping I can share some of my perspective.

      1. Living in NYC for the past year has taught me to broaden my scope. Things aren’t always what they seem and never say never are two lessons that I’ve learned.

      2. SO TRUE. Things are almost never what they seem. People are so much more vast than first impressions. And we are always unexpected! Things happen that are unexpected and we have to cope.

  27. Reblogged this on Faerieshimmer's Blog "Everyone is Special and Shimmers" and commented:
    Wow this post is really moving. I love your poem. I am sorry you are going through a hard time. I’m a college student as well not close to graduating yet and my folks and I are on food stamps. You are a honest soul I can tell by your words do not be ashamed. Everyone needs help in their lives and this economy has been hard on most of us. Hang in there and I’m praying for you and everyone. God Bless

    1. Thanks faerieshimmer for your lovely words. πŸ™‚ Thankfully I’m starting to come out on the other end of the hard time I had. The economy is pretty rough right now. I’m really attempting to diffuse some of the shame with my poetry. Thanks for reading, and reflagging! Sending peace.

  28. The stigma surrounding food stamps is what kept me from applying for many years. Recently, I made the plunge. My husband has been on worker’s comp disability for almost a year now, we have five kids, and I have a mental illness that makes working difficult. I’m also in school online racking up thousands of dollars in student loans. Our kids have been on the reduced lunch program (free lunch before that) for seven years. Summer is starting which means they will be home for breakfast and lunch and things get really tight keeping enough food in the house. We also had to apply for Medicaid due to losing our insurance since my husband isn’t working and I can’t leave my bipolar untreated.

    And to the jerk up above that implied if you have a credit card you should use that instead of food stamps is an idiot. That’s what we did for years because we were too embarrassed to apply. You know where that got us? Bankruptcy. Using a credit card to buy perishables is the worst thing you can do.

    1. Jen thank you for sharing your story here. Know that you are not alone. My situation was not to the point that yours is but I am so aware that I’m only a step away. I have issues with PTSD on and off and work is hard for me, so I somewhat get it. I’m so glad to hear you are utilizing the resources you have in order to make a better life for yourself. Treating a mental illness is just as important as treating a physical one and I’m glad to hear you don’t have to sacrifice that. I’ll be sending love and light to you, and thinking of you when I see the tax dollars taken out on my paycheck. Know that I gratefully give them; I am so grateful that our country at least DOES have something to help.
      Haha I agree with your credit card comment, it really is ten times worse than using food stamps. I am amazed sometimes at how people think.

  29. What an excellent post, brilliantly written. I, as soon as my part B medicare kicks in in a few months, will need food stamps. I have worked two jobs all of my life. More than 50 million people in this country are on food stamps, and thousands more join the list everyday. People from all walks of life. Our country is at the tipping point in so many areas. We can only hope that things will improve.

    1. Thank you, Sanderella, and thank you for the sweet re-blog as well. So lovely of you! You are right that so many different walks of life are joining the ranks of those who need food stamps. I just went off them this month now, but I’m so very aware that I’m only a step away (especially as my student loans kick in and my car heads towards 226,000 miles on it). Thank you for sharing your story here. You inspire me towards taking action to make changes here in the US.

  30. I’m currently on food stamps and am not embarrassed. My family is struggling right now and need help. I have a bachelor’s degree and worked all my life. When I had a baby, I was mentally exhausted. I hated my job and wanted to be with my baby. I left my job to be happy. My husband doesn’t make much and sometimes we have no money for food. I see having assistance as something to help you when you truly need it. Unfortunately, you have people who abuse they system, stay on public assistance because they don’t want to work. Therefore, food stamps get a bad rep. I don’t plan to have them forever, but it’s a blessing to my family right now.

    1. So glad to hear you are not embarrassed! There is just no reason to be. That’s why we pay taxes. I’m so glad you shared your story here, too. I so want this to be a place where others can share and not feel so alone. I think there are more people than we realize who use the system because it’s a necessity. The SHAME of it is that people who use it are given the shame that is not theirs. Food stamps are definitely fulfilling a hole and in situations like yours and mine, it’s a lifesaver.

  31. We don’t have food stamps up here in Canada, so I can’t share anything about this, but just wanted to say congrats on the FP πŸ™‚

    What else is on your summer to do list now that you’ve knocked this one off πŸ™‚

    Blessings,
    Paul

    1. Thanks, Paul!!
      Well first off I’m making rounds on the blogs I’ve missed lately, including yours. πŸ˜€ And I don’t know what’s next! I joked to a friend the other day that maybe next time I should ask for a book deal by the end of summer. πŸ™‚
      Peace to you,
      Laurie

  32. Laurie, this is beautiful. Thanks for your vulnerability. Destroying stereotypes and speaking truth into the mass opinion requires baby steps. Your post was a strong step on the path toward understanding how much we have to learn from each other. Thank you.

  33. I once applied for WIC (Women, Infants and Children – a food assistance program). I got the checks to use. I kept them where I could see them. I never used them, even though I had a 5 year old and a 3 week old baby to feed. I was too embarrassed. Maybe if there wasn’t such a negative, shameful stereotype concerning this, I would have felt that I could use them. Maybe they could have prevented the use of the credit card, overdrafts on the checking account, borrowing more money, all these things that only make it harder to get by. Maybe my mental health wouldn’t have taken such a beating.

    Thank you for putting your story out there.

    And for anyone who thinks that people on assistance should just work harder, etc. : My husband was working 80 hour weeks, trying to get our head above water. It wasn’t working.

  34. I like to say poverty is a full time job. I’m a starving artist (writer) and raised four children on food stamps. I had been married but refused to be abused so I let him and his paycheck go. I now fight

    1. It IS a full time job; it takes a lot of work to keep all the plates spinning in the air, that is for sure. Good for you that in the middle of all that you also still left a harmful relationship. That’s so hard. You are amazing.

      1. Hi Laurie,
        Thank you for your kind words. I like to say I am a warrior and not a victim but victorious of any obstacle in my way. Nice to know you. Aloha

  35. I like to say poverty is a full time job. I’m a starving artist (writer) and raised four children on food stamps. I had been married but refused to be abused so I let him and his paycheck go. I now fight

  36. Thank you for this posting, I found it very relate-able and I’m so glad that there’s someone else out there who is not afraid to speak out about the deplorable situation of many recent college grads (myself included). Thank you and keep posting!

  37. I love this, I recently wrote a school paper on this matter and basically, is it possible to eradicate poverty in a capitalist country? I never shame anyone on Food Stamps, I come a family that benefited from them, though if I see someone with my own eyes buying liquor and stuff you shouldn’t be, I might start raising my finger only to be stopped by my own consciousness. We are all on our own path whether it be a path of poverty or riches and everything in between! So I raise my glass of sparkling water to yours… a little sparkle never hurt anyone.

    1. Rene, I don’t know… that is a great question. Eradicating poverty period is hard, but probably harder when we live with such an individualistic society and economic system. I can easily judge those who use food stamps for alcohol too, but only for a moment… that’s when I remember how damn hard it is to be poor and honestly just do not blame them. Raising my glass of sparkling water to you too. Cheers!

  38. This is my new theme song. Our family of seven survives because of SNAP…. WITH full time employment.

    1. That is a huge load to bear… so grateful my tax dollars are helping you!! Wow. Sending much love to you this evening. And thank you for your kind compliment and coming by to read. πŸ™‚

  39. Good post. There are lot of hard working people who need food stamps. We as a society need to support such programs that assist with feeding individuals so that they are healthy. Access to quality food means improved health.

    1. So agree with you. I do wish that EBT programs provided more nutrition education on how to buy nutritious food on such a low budget; for me, it was so stressful that I wanted to give up most days. Just too much more added pressure.

  40. This is so true and honest. Most people are of afraid to say Yes I’m poor and I have food stamps. Me included. I used to be embarrassed.Now I realize I just don’t have the money not to have food stamps. This beautiful. Thank you.-Rena

    1. Thank you, Rena! And thank you for coming by to read. It is incredibly hard to admit to things like this in our society. But it is absolutely not an embarrassment. Keep on keeping on, sister. You’re not alone!

  41. When I was growing up,there was no card to swipe. There were only paper food coupons,which my mother had way too much pride to use. We often went to bed hungry as a result of that pride, and I vowed never to put my own ego before the needs of my own children. I had to rely on food stamps when my ex husband left me with three toddlers and let me tell you, putting my ego aside was the best thing I ever did. While I disliked having to rely on a helping hand, I loved being able to feed my kids nutritious meals every day.

    1. Nutrition is SO VERY IMPORTANT. Good for you for not putting your ego in front of providing that for your children. So appreciate that you shared your story here. Thank you!

  42. When my father became terminally ill and he lost his business, we ended up on food stamps. I remember some cashier souring her face because my mom bought nice big steaks with them once. Little did she know that it was my for my dad’s last meal with us before they moved him into a hospice cottage for the remainder of his life. People really have no idea what others are going through and are in no position to judge.

    1. I think it’s really important that we share stories instead of judging at first glance. Once a story is shared, we relate to others differently and are not nearly so judgmental about their situation. I think if this would have happened in your situation, the cashier might have been more understanding. Thank you so much for sharing this here.

    1. Mike, thank you for linking to this!! I had seen it on my feed and hadn’t had a chance to go read it yet. Going now. πŸ™‚
      Also, nice to see your face around these parts again, my friend.

  43. I loved the poem, and thank you for using your voice. I hope more will share as you have. How often do you get strange gazes or hear comments made regarding this toward yourself? Which is worse, in your opinion, the internal or the external shame?

  44. No one should ever feel embarrassed about using food stamps or WIC, thank the Lord for those services, people can say what they want, but I cannot stand to see people hungry.

  45. I grew up poor. We didn’t get food stamps, but we probably qualified. Instead, we (my parents mainly) owned and ran a homeless shelter. Every night, my mom made a huge pot of stew or chili or soup or something that was inexpensive that she could make a lot of, and we took it to the shelter where we fed as many people as we could until the food ran out. I made friends with the children. I helped serve the adults. I was never better. I was never worse. We were people, and we had something, so we gave.

    I think our system is flawed. There is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. You do work hard. You deserve anything and everything, and if there are times when a helping hand is needed, then you should be able to grasp it until you’re free enough to let go and not a minute before.

    Great post, Laurie. Very beautiful. I read it hearing your slam poetry voice. It made me wonder if you plan to or have already performed it. I’m in awe.

  46. You should not feel embarrassed that your government has let you and your people down, stop feeling shame and start feeling ANGRY..raise the minimum wage …start creating jobs!

  47. we should honour our life with gratitude for all the life we have and share it with unfortunates .. greediness is the source of corruptions and chaos in the economy.. ignorance is the source of anger and conflicts…

  48. Wow – so well stated Laurie & Karen!!

    “I suspect that most people who think food stamp recipients are abusing the system are reacting out of fear that if a β€œnormal” looking person could be struggling to buy food, it could happen to them too.” THIS is absolutely the truth because it is happening to more & more “normal looking” people every day – people who have lived decades and never relied on government assistance have lost their jobs, & after running through their savings to stay afloat, now rely on the food stamp program to get by. I know a few, and many feel that same shame, though they are working hard to find jobs. Ah, the ever-illusive job for many of those over the age of 50 . . .
    Great post!!

  49. As some one who is on EBT I fully understand the embarrassment and shame that is based on carrying the card. I live in Southern California and I have had several cashiers even point out and embarrass me about the luxury and how it must be nice to not have to worrying about providing for myself. Your blog was so helpful for me to put down the shame that is so unnecessary. I have a seasonal job that is off season right now and no matter how many interviews or jobs I have gone on or applied for I haven’t received another job. My EBT literally makes sure I don’t starve in the albeit stressful time. Thank you for your courage!

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