Food Stamps: A Recipient’s Perspective

Dec 29, 2015 | Posted by Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill, author of For the Love of Suzanne | Post a Comment

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.

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Posted by | Categories: Poverty Stories |

About Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill

Kristi is the author of For the Love of Suzanne. If you like her post, please leave a comment and follow her on Twitter: @khudecek

6 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Scott Hughes
    December 29th, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    Thank you for telling your personal story, Kristi.

    Certain social programs such as but not limited to food stamps can get this negative stigma that’s totally undeserved. For one thing, as a percentage of income, poor and working families in America pay way more in taxes than very wealthy people, including those potentially receiving the credit card interest from the groceries you have to put on your credit cards. This is why I like that you mention the stress of changing taxes on your family.

    Food stamps for children is just one thing a person can receive back from the taxes they have paid from their work for years; other things to just name a couple include fire protection and public school which is thus also full-time daycare. Should we look down on someone because they cannot afford private school for their children or because they call the fire department in times of that kind of crisis? Of course not.

    I know first-hand you are a very hard worker and a great person, Kristi. When we were still working on your book For the Love of Suzanne, you edited yourself and went through it so many times. Even after I had it professionally edited, you helped proofread the various formats and copies. You’re a great writer, person, and mother.

    I really appreciate you sharing your story so others in the same situation can relate and not feel so alone and not feel undeserved shame. 🙂

    Thank you!

  2. Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill
    December 29th, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    Thank you, Scott.

    This was pretty hard for me to write and I wasn’t sure I should even post it but your comment was kind and I appreciate it.

    I see so many people on social media who are outraged that their tax dollars are going for chips and soda and how drug testing should be mandatory for all benefit recipients. I feel their anger. I was there once, too. But it isn’t like this is a career-choice for me. I just have no options.

    I know brighter days lie ahead for my family and me. We just have to get there…and we will. :).

    Thanks again for your kind words. I can’t disagree with anything you said.

  3. Kimberly Wetzel
    December 29th, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I am a food stamp recipient. I was on them when I was married and remain on them after getting divorced… I do believe that there should be more supervision over the overall program since I’m not certain how my benefits went down by more than half when I got divorced. I’m a full-time mom of three. And apparently, they gave about half to my ex-husband. He’s been self-employed and is NOT honest with what he actually makes. He never has the kids and does not have to feed them. I am not ashamed of using food stamps, nor am I ashamed to have Husky health insurance or fuel assistance. I simply CANNOT afford everything without the help.

    If they make any changes to the program, I would not want it to limit what families can get. It already limits what you can get to food items and will not pay for things like alcoholic beverages and non-food items. I would NOT want to be told what I can and cannot eat. I’ve lived long enough without so many things and I’m at the point where I get what I would like since I went my entire marriage living in the poor house. I do watch prices and don’t eat out a lot or go shopping a lot. We don’t eat organic (unless it’s on a super great sale) or splurge too much though. I would WANT more supervision over those who are self-employed to make sure they actually need it. And yes, I just wrote that even though I’m currently self-employed and have been for almost the past 4 years. I have nothing to hide. I’m a hardworking person and I make under $25,000 per year for my kids and I. My mortgage is about $650 per month and we don’t have cable and while I have a cell phone, I do not have a Smart phone…

    I would also want the program to NOT factor in child support since that doesn’t always come. Then you are docked again…

  4. Kristi
    December 29th, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    I admire your attitude, Kimberly.

    You’re right about the child support thing. It doesn’t apply to me since my husband and I are together but it doesn’t seem right that they would use that as an eligibility factor. I did not know that.

    When I was a kid, my mom rarely got a child support check from my father and she was working a full-time job and had to pay for everything on her own. We were on food stamps for a long time but honestly, I don’t know what kind of hoops she had to jump through to get them. I remember her saying, “I wish they would let me have food stamps for three months while I get the finances in order.” But that isn’t how it works. You get an extra few bucks and they start dinging your benefits.

    My younger brother and I were sent to live with my aunt for two summers because my mom couldn’t afford to keep us. Those were great summers but it was a tumultuous time for her.

    You keep doing what you’re doing. It sounds like it’s working. 🙂

  5. Janaei
    December 29th, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    I know quite a few people who have or have had assistance with food and although some misuse it, most just hit hard times. There is no shame in needing to ask for help. I am single and have no children but for a while my refrigerator was bare because I couldn’t afford to put anything in it. But I am lucky enough to work in the food industry and I have a family who can help me when I ask. Food is expensive, feeding just myself is sometimes a challenge so I could only imagine having a family. Such a basic need but so many people go without. I have heard so many sad stories about people going without food because their assistance was cut or they did not meet the criteria to get it at all. So I appreciate hearing your story and you deserve to hold your head high because you are doing what is best for you and your family.

  6. Kristi
    December 31st, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Thank you, Janaei.

    I wish for you to have a full refrigerator and full cupboards for the new year. 🙂

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Children suffering from Poverty