Food Stamp Soap Box

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Inauguration of Barack Obama, and I’ve listened.  I’ve listened and I’ve watched, and I’ve held my tongue, at times turning off the television or changing the station when the talking heads begin their endless hair-splitting.  It’s not because I’m a total Pollyanna, but more that I’d like just a small amount of time to let everything sink in.

I’m not talking about all the pomp and circumstance, or the history, or nauseating Booyah going on about which side won and which didn’t, or why, and what if.   It’s more about watching how the new president goes about beginning to dig our way out of the disaster we find ourselves in after nearly a decade.  Everyone agrees that it’s a daunting task.

Daunting.  What an understatement.

I find myself wanting to rage about Rush Limbaugh’s desperate groveling to secure himself a position for the next many years by being an even bigger ass than he already is.  But I don’t.  I want to smack the faces of the talking heads on television who just have to sustain talk to earn their paychecks, and I can’t help but sling a few comments at the television, but nothing that would singe anyone’s eyebrows.  I read a blog here, and a blog there, beginning to comment, and find that I don’t want to make the effort to express myself, knowing that at this point, only those who truly understand politics or  bottom dwelling are filling comment boxes right now.  I have no desire to be a deer in the head lights on any of it.

No, I’m a big chicken.  A big deer chicken in the headlights.  Or an ostrich.

But when I saw Blog:  Living on Food Stamps by Sean Callebs on, I had to say something.  I had to acknowledge my  reaction to the reporter’s decision to live on $6.28 a day, equivalent to what a single person would be given by the government if he or she qualified for food stamps, or what is currently known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Sean.  You know you can’t, and you’re not supposed to because it’s a supplement, but you already know that, too.

If you’ve happened by today thinking, “Oh my.  Kelly’s written twice in three days!” and you’re still reading, wondering where this is going, I  know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong.  I’m not going to wax about how horrible it is that anyone could be expected to live off of that amount of money because they do in other countries all over the world every single day with money earned making products sold in this country.  I’m not going to sling aspersions at the reporter who found a good angle for his story — and one I’m now planning on following.  No, instead I’m going to sort through my feelings about it all and wonder why it makes me so angry.

Evidently, as part of the Economic Stimulus Package (clearly different than those Dubyah created by padding our wallets with some bucks that our family summarily spent in Italy last summer….) those qualifying for the SNAP program are to get a 13% raise which is sure to send many opposed to the new administration howling over the injustice of it all.

I don’t completely disagree with them, because I’ve had the opportunity to work in places where I can see just how assistance is spent.  It’s been many, many years, and I’d yet to have a family of my own to feed, but when I was a cashier at a local grocery store where many of our customers used food stamps and saw just what went in their carts, even the naive young woman that I was knew something was not quite right.

Most of my attitude about this comes from my mother.  She had very little growing up and her mother even less. When it came to grocery shopping, my mother went twice a month, and so we had to learn to ration.  If we were pigs and ate our portions — risking all kinds of wrath from my stepfather — then we were done until the next trip to the grocery store.  There was no such thing as extra food.  We ate everything on our plates, period.  And no, there was no cola in the fridge, or expensive treats.  We ate simple food but our meals were well balanced.  Okay, except the nights we had waffles for dinner — but I guess that would be another off shoot of this problem, right?  If you want veggies and well-balanced meals, then you do have to have more money.  Or a great garden in your yard.  Erm — apartment?  Yah, right.

I know.  I’m preaching at this point, but if I don’t just let it rip, then I’ll stop and the next thing I’ll do is hit the delete button — which happens quite a bit now.  But the tone comes from quite a bit of conflict.  How did I experience a growing up with very little, at times with a single mother, or as part of family with one meager income, and not only make ends meet without assistance, but not realize we were poor?


I have no tragic story to tell about doing without because I didn’t know we didn’t have what others had as far as food went.  But you don’t get any press when you don’t have a tragic story to tell that has given you angst in life.  That wouldn’t happen in our family because we’re all from the same mold:  SUCK IT UP.  You may have to do something you don’t enjoy to earn money, or get training to learn a new skill, or give up a few of the things you’ve enjoyed for years, but too damn bad.

Now, it’s completely not politically correct for me to be spewing about this, because what I’m saying with far too many words is that just giving people money doesn’t work.  It doesn’t help, it hinders.  When you get something for nothing, there’s no intrinsic feeling of accomplishment or motivation to continue to strive to improve.  There’s just an outstretched hand and then bitterness and accusation if the hand isn’t filled.  There’s animosity for those who have money with no regard for the fact that the money was earned with hard work, and skill that was learned over time with persistence.

Yes, I understand generational poverty. Trust me.  Professionally I saw it day in and day out in the children who came to my classroom each day.  But I’ll never forget the huge baskets of food in the grocery store, loaded with products our cupboards had never seen and then have to watch the customer pay with food stamps, and worse — assist her to a Cadillac or Lincoln to load them in the trunk.

I’m old enough to know that in those cases, fraud was most likely the reason, but I’ve never forgotten them.  And it helps me think about all of this business of “bailing out,” or increasing support to those who are needy.

I could keep raging about this, but won’t.

My cracked wheat bread is done with its second rise and I need to put it in the oven.

Hmmm…I wonder what the difference is between the cost of a homemade loaf of bread and one that has absolutely no nutritional value and is wrapped in plastic?

Definitely a very big soap box today.



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8 responses to “Food Stamp Soap Box”

  1. Rush Limbaugh makes me sick to my stomach! grrrr

  2. Excellent post Kelly. Excellent! And I totally agree.

  3. Having had to live on assistance several times in my life, I have to say I really couldn’t agree more with the latter part of this post. It’s just that unlike many others, I was friggin’ determined not to stay there.

    At that time the system did not offer day care of job placement. they just handed you a check that didn’t cover the bills. to start a career I was forced to find a sitter and get my arse to work. this generally meant that to pay said sitter, Dad ate very little for the first two weeks and slept less often.

    The aid system needs to be changed. It needs to be redesigned to get people back to work. If they are incapable, then aid isn’t the answer, disability is. (And we all know that system is hosed, but that’s another rant.)

    Keep on with that soap box, sister!

  4. I grew up in the “suck it up” household. Growing up on a farm, we were fortunate enough to always have food but not much else. I too, never really knew I was poor – because everybody else around me was too.

    Rod and I have had the same discussion around the handing out of money. The learned helplessness of many is troubling to me – it is almost a badge of honor to them. I don’t have the answers, but this certainly isn’t…

  5. cooper

    I think homemade bread is more expensive, but maybe the only time I did it I did it wrong.

    There is a lot of fraud I’m sure, and yes the system does have to be revamped. I just don’t know why it hasn’t been. Quite possibly because those in power in Washington are so good at taking advantage of the system and perpetrating frauds on this country that they don’t have the motivation.

  6. in my experience food stamps aren’t worth the time and effort one spends trying to get them.. that time would be better spent putting in applications and finding a job… even when i really deserved them,, they offered me like $11.00 per month,, now granted this was in 1980,, but i doubt the standard has risen much since then…

    if people are genuinely deserving,, they usually dont qualify so i am thinking we need a better program all around,, for those that really deserve them and to weed out the drivers of the lexus……

  7. The misuse of the food stamp program I saw in my years working in the food industry in Chicago made me ill. Ringing up T-bone steaks and jumbo breaded shrimp on food stamps while my 50+ hrs / week working didn’t afford me such luxuries.

    I saw the Cadillacs, even a Rolls Royce.

    Particularly frustrating was watching folks digging through the $100 bills and Harrah’s casino cards in their wallets to find their stamps.

    I’ve got stories that would turn your stomach.

    I love that we as a country can offer this sort of aid to folks who really need it – I just wish we would start doing so.


  8. I couldn’t agree more. Great post, and well said.

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