Poverty, homelessness, and starvation are rampant in the world. This is nothing new and should never be taken lightly. Roughly, 795 million people in the world are chronically malnourished. That’s a startling number.
But just how many people are starving or going without adequate food in America? One in six. For being the tenth wealthiest country in the world, that’s a sad statistic. For being the most benevolent country in the world, it’s devastating.
But we have food stamps and ways to feed everybody. Right?
Theoretically, that is the case. Reality is a little different. Many families don’t get enough in food stamps to feed themselves. Eligibility is contingent upon your income, or lack of income. Anytime the household expenses change, or the income changes, it affects the amount of assistance.
This is going to get personal now. I am a disability recipient. I’m married and raising two teenage sons. I have a mortgage, a car payment, and try to provide as much for my children as possible. I receive $147 in food assistance.
When I went from being a renter to a homeowner, my benefits dropped from around $230 a month to somewhere around $174 because my house payment is cheaper than my rent. It made sense.
I was okay for awhile.
The benefits took another hit when I received cost of living increases from the government. After a succession of decreases, it was down to $133. I still should have been okay but with high utility rates and other bills rolling in, it didn’t take me long to start using credit cards to feed my family.
But then the county passed a bond that increased my property taxes substantially and increased my house payment.
I was no longer okay.
I was going down hard.
By then, my credit cards were carrying high balances and getting even higher since I still had to feed my family with them. I appealed to the state and they gave me an increase of a little over ten dollars.
Ever grateful, I was able to put that toward bread and milk.
I never squander or misuse my food assistance. I am fortunate to receive it and do the best I can with it. I don’t drink or do drugs and rarely eat out.
With the average price of a pound of hamburger at or nearing $4, we eat chicken and a whole lot of Ramen noodles. Fresh fruits and vegetables are out of the question, unless there is a heck of sale on them. I shop at a discount grocery store; buy clothes and shoes only when they are on sale and never for my husband or me. I don’t wear makeup or have my nails done nor do I get my hair cut. I don’t buy jewelry or have any tattoos. I drive an older model minivan with 150,000+ miles on it. It gets great mileage and runs well, thank God.
We eat pasta, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, potatoes, peanut butter, and things we can get in a can. I do splurge on soda, chips, and candy every once in awhile because I don’t want my kids to be penalized for being with parents who are economically challenged. The soda is Great Value. The chips are Great Value. Candy is such a rare treat but chances are it isn’t Hershey or Nestle, either.
My husband picks up work whenever he can. I am limited in what I can do due to my disability and my need for a controlled environment. I’ve discovered that getting a work-at-home job is almost impossible.
This is the first time in my life that my family has been adopted by a local charity for Christmas. It comes with a mix of thankfulness and shame. Every parent wants to provide for their children and give them the very best. They’re kids. They deserve it. They didn’t ask to be brought into this world. I owe them. When I got the call, I had to swallow what’s left of my pride and my tears and say thank you.
I see a lot of anger from people who are fortunate enough not to be on assistance when they see a cart full of groceries, including soda, chips, and candy and the person buying that stuff swipes a food stamp card to pay for it. I understand why they’re upset but it’s not fair to penalize our children for being poor. Maybe the purchase is a once-a-month thing, like it is with me. It’s a treat for the kids; not a staple in their diet.
Sure there’s a lot of abuse in the system but there are the honest people out there who just want to feed their kids and give them somewhat of a normal life.
Who are we to judge?
I’m not asking for sympathy nor am I whining about the benefits. I am thankful to get them and use them wisely. I am asking for a little understanding for these parents who are desperately trying to give their kids somewhat of a normal life and require assistance.
Put yourselves in their shoes for a minute. I can’t speak for others but as for me, I don’t want to live like this. I have to.
I cried when I signed up for benefits. If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I’d be in this position, I would have called them a liar. I had a job; I was gainfully employed. I’ve been on the other side of the spectrum. Now, I have no options. I have to do what I have to do to provide for my kids.