Ok, I saw yet another comment from someone today talking about how it makes no sense to tell people not to feed the animals in the park because they'll become dependent on the help when we are feeding people with food stamps and I will admit, it irked me. Again. Because that is the most freaking ridiculous comparison ever. So prepare yourself for a bit of my opinion here. And, no, you don't have to like it.
Yes, foodstamps (or SNAP as it is appropriately known now) are a necessary thing in our society. Necessary. Because we, the people, have stopped doing our duty. Our duty as a Christian, as a human person, as a being to make sure that we look out for those less fortunate than ourselves. Food stamps came into being because churches, families, and extended support networks stopped doing their God given jobs of helping out those less fortunate than themselves. Because those with money started getting an attitude and a holier than thou mindset and started saying well, just go get a job you lazy bum. Ok, how about you hire them then? If you think it is always a matter of just getting another job, you hire them. Oh, wait, you can't provide the income to hire someone. But wait, you just said all they had to do was quit being lazy and go get a job. Um, it just doesn't work that way. Jobs, in case you haven't noticed, are not just laying around for anyone to just go get. And, yes, there are cases where a person simply cannot afford to get a job. A single mother who has left an abusive relationship with 3 young children likely cannot afford the daycare necessary for her children if she just took any old job. A parent with a medically fragile child who's life would be put in danger if they were put in a daycare setting simply cannot just go get any old job. Yes, there are special cases.
And if you are going to attack food stamps, why don't you attack medicaid and disability and social security and a host of other programs? They are all entitlement programs designed by the government years ago to pick up the slack that we the people stopped picking up ourselves. And they are all equally taken advantage of by the minority of people who are just truly not interested in improving their situation.
Yes, at one point Alan and I found ourselves in a situation where we qualified for food stamps when we were first married. When the funding for his government job disappeared. When our family was unable to truly help. When they said "We've paid into these programs for years. Please go apply for the help you need." And we did. But see there was a loop hole. Yes, we were in college. Tuition already paid. No refunds available. If you were in college even if you were independent students (as married students would be), you could not receive food stamps unless you were working 20 hours a week. I was, Alan was not. Our case worker said if we got divorced, I would qualify for emergency food stamps (when they give them to you immediately) but in order to get them while married, we needed proof that both of us were working at least 20 hours a week. Yes, this was a humbling experience as indeed it should be. It is not fun to go to all 3 of your employers and ask them to sign paperwork stating how many hours you are working and explaining why you need it. It should not be fun or easy to apply for or receive said benefits. In the end, we did not qualify because we felt the whole marriage thing was more important. We did, however, qualify for the WIC program. But here's the kicker. No one in the food stamp office ever suggested to us that we go apply. No one ever told us hey, here's another option. It took talking to someone I worked with to get the information. So for several months Alan would often not eat or we'd wrack up debt on the credit card to get food. When Alan was finally able to find a job, he lost it when he came to the hospital with me when Bryan was born. Yes, that is a shortened version of a long story but the truth is simply that it's not always as easy as just applying for a stinking job.
What I have found in the past few years is that it is often those who have the least who are most willing to reach out and help others. It is those who are often in the greatest need who often say nothing about needing help. Many people have been too shamed by stigmas and attitudes of their friends and family members to reach out for that help when they are in need and truly rightfully qualify. I've heard so many people pass judgment on those receiving assistance who never take the time to talk to those getting it. They never ask how someone got there or what they are doing to get out of the situation. They never bother to bring over a little extra to help a family in need out. Maybe they contribute to a food drive once a year but do so begrudgingly with a mumble under their breath about how so-and-so should just go get a job.
Yes, we still live on a very tight budget. No, we are not poor. No, our tight budget has nothing to do with having 10 children. Yes, we still qualify for WIC. Yes, we consider ourselves blessed. Yes, we feel the entitlement programs need to be reformed. No, we feel the reform should never come at the expense of feeding children who have parents who have made poor decisions. Yes, we still donate to food pantries and bring food over when someone is ill or just when we have extra and think maybe someone else could benefit. Yes, we've been blessed by the generosity of family, friends, and strangers over the years. Yes, we've learned a lot more about how to successfully feed our family on a budget since getting married than we ever knew when we first got married. Yes, it is our goal to make sure our children have this knowledge before they leave home so they are way more prepared than we were. Yes, we've packed holiday food packages with scouts and churches. Yes, we've even received one once. Yes, we are blessed beyond measure right now with what we have. But, no, I will not say that if you give a person food stamps you will make them dependent. Some will become ungrateful and expect more. But so many more will be incredibly grateful for the help. For the ability to care for their family. For the dignity that a decent meal provides. Please don't judge these people. Vote for reform but then reach out and help that family down the street or in your church or at the grocery store that you can tell just needs it. Because God did not give you extra so you can sock it away in a bank. He gave you that extra so you could share it.
Anyway, that is my rant for the day. Quit complaining about those on food stamps unless you are willing to help more of them out yourself. Vote for reform but don't take your frustrations out on those on the programs themselves because they are just as worthy of being treated with dignity as you are. And just like you might sometimes buy your child a juice box or a soda or a box of cookies, they sometimes might do the same thing. Or, oh my goodness, buy a steak for dinner for a birthday. Because even if you are poor, you still might want to eat something other than beans and rice every single day if you had the option.
And on that note, one wonderful resource for learning how to stretch your food dollars and still eat real food can be found here. She just started a realistic food stamp challenge for 2013. Not the fake ones politicians and noteworthy figures pretend to do every so often. Awesome realistic ideas and thoughts to share with those living on a tight food budget.