Saturday, June 22, 2013

Trial By Food Stamps

A Day In the Life

I was heartened to hear that some members of Congress had taken the "food stamp challenge" in order to experience life on the federally funded supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP).  While most of the members of Congress who took this challenge affirmed that eating on $4.50 a day was difficult, Texas congressman Steve Stockman was unconvinced.

No, he did not himself try to live on that food stamp budget, but had spokesman Donny Ferguson do it for him.  Predictably, this dude said after two days that it was "a breeze."  Well, I have to say that I have been fighting a losing battle with my weight all my life, and I can diet easily for two days.

So let me just say that I believe, Mr. Ferguson, congratulations, and you are now ready for the next level of the Poverty Game.

You work 40 hours a week -- that's 8 to 5 because you don't get paid for lunch.  You are earning a lush $10.00 an hour, well above minimum wage, but with a spouse looking for work and two school-aged children your Food Stamp Challenge is exactly that.  Your spouse drops you off at work with your one car in order to get the kids to school, limiting where and how often you shop for groceries.  Nice that the big box stores are now accepting that EBT card but you can rarely make the trip.

It's also nice that there are incentives for buying fresh fruits and vegetables, but that means getting the kids to eat the fruit and finding time to make that salad and find palatable ways to cook that broccoli.

And when you get home it's 6:00 and the kids are tired and hungry, unless your spouse has bought a frozen pizza and a bag of cookies.

A glass of wine would be nice when you can budget it in, and sometimes a glass of wine just won't do the trick.

Hey, Ferguson?  How about sharing with us what you eat (and drink) when you're not making that two-day sacrifice?

And Representative Stockman?  You've argued with your wife over the need to get the car repaired, which you've been trying to budget in for a year now along with the increasing price of gas.  And you've decided that that pain in your stomach will have to wait just a little longer before you can take the time off to see a doctor (You know after the co-pays and deductibles there are just going to be more costs and time off for tests and medications, if not appointments with specialists.).

Still feeling like you're living on "easy street?"

How about those looks you get from people like you when they see you load that cart up with those frozen pizzas?  Did you know that SNAP doesn't cover the fried chicken at your supermarket's deli counter?  So if you are in the mood for a little greasy relief, you are just going to have to cook it yourself.

And that birthday cake you bought with that EBT card?  There are some including my own South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley that concur with you that life should just not be that easy for those forced to accept government dollars.  Bake that cake your own self.  Your kids may not have seen you all day, you're asleep on your feet and still have a load of laundry to do, but that bit of extra effort will make you a better person. 

You may think you've taken the Food Stamp Challenge, Mr. Ferguson, but you haven't got a clue until you've done it day in and day out, along with all the other special experiences of living at poverty level in the US.

So perhaps you can stop feeling so smug, and perhaps you can pause a moment before you judge those whose lives are not quite so cushy as yours.

And don't forget, they may not pay a lot of income tax, but the taxes they do pay support your life on "easy street."

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