Friday night’s baseball adventure brought up a number of questions for our family. Although I had planned carefully in advance, our JFSC got sticky as we tried to stay on a food budget while at the ball game. Obviously, we have options, while someone living on food stamps might not. The major difference is that the JFSC is a choice for us, not a long-term situation.
So here are some questions to consider:
- What happens to a poor family when one member refuses to play by the rules — abide by the budget, buy only healthy food, or eat only his share?
- Is it right or wrong for a poor family or person to accept a gift of tickets to an event, or some such, that s/he couldn’t afford, if s/he can then attend but not afford the other goodies (the cost of high-ticket beverages, appropriate clothing, tips for the waiter, etc.)? Does this outing then become more of a burden? An exception to the budget? A treat?
- We have invited some friends and family to a Father’s Day barbecue and intend to offer hospitality on that day. That means, to stick to the JFSC, I will have to make sure to budget sufficiently to afford this party. Should poor people do the same: plan ahead and save, or not hold family gatherings because they “cost too much” and the food stamps might run out buying party food?
- What about holidays and birthdays, summer potlucks and BBQs: should those be avoided if one “can’t afford it”?
- Is it cheating if we, middle-class, college educated, but living on a budget, choose to step off the carnival ride of the JFSC for a day here and there in order to meet our social obligations?
- Should we, as an example for those less fortunate, try to set an example to show those people how it can be done properly on a budget, but with style? Would it make a difference if I served served it in a teacup?
- Is it cheating to eat anything other than what your food stamps can buy if you are subsisting mostly on food stamps?
- 51 percent of all participants are children (17 or younger), and 65 percent of them live in single-parent households.
- 55 percent of food stamp households include children.
- 9 percent of all participants are elderly (age 60 or over).
- 79 percent of all benefits go to households with children, 14 percent go to households with disabled persons, and 7 percent go to households with elderly persons.
- 36 percent of households with children were headed by a single parent, the overwhelming majority of whom were women.
- The average household size is 2.3 persons.
- The average gross monthly income per food stamp household is $640.
- 41 percent of participants are white; 36 percent are African-American, non-Hispanic; 18 percent are Hispanic; 3 percent are Asian, 2 percent are Native American, and 1 percent are of unknown race or ethnicity. (USDA stats)
Eligibility for food stamps is outlined here if you want to know how one gets into this exclusive club. Your income has to be pretty low, and eligibility depends on who is in the household, age and able-bodiedness, and so on. No one is denied because of race, age, religion, ethnicity, geography or political beliefs. If you are an able-bodied adult who is out of work, there is a limit to how long you can receive benefits, and you have to be actively looking for work and documenting that search.
There are welfare cheats, of course. Those are probably the one common denominator that I’ve been asked about — not the children, elderly and disabled who are hungry, but the cheaters — the able-bodied, the slackers and shiftless unemployed druggies who don’t even try to work for a living, etc. Yes, welfare cheating exists at all levels. I find that, for some reason, the visible poor evoke a visceral response when I post about hunger — in a way that millions of gallons of gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico does not. You don’t think BP Oil is receiving welfare? Oh, they are. They are. Compare to:
“In 2008, SNAP served 28.4 million people a month at an annual cost of $34.6 billion. In February 2009, SNAP served 32.6 million people, an all-time record. SNAP participation fluctuates with the economy and with the pattern of poverty in America. As the number of persons in poverty rose, SNAP participation grows. When poverty falls, so does reliance on SNAP.” (USDA)
However, if you feel righteously indignant that someone is abusing the SNAP system, by all means, visit this Web site and call the Abuse Hotline. Don’t waste your breath complaining about it if you aren’t going to pull the trigger yourself: http://www.fns.usda.gov/contact_info/hotlines.htm.
Snack: Nectarine ($1!) – the last one 🙁