“Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing. “

Today a reader shares their personal story of being judged for using food stamps while buying food for their severely ill child. Much gratitude to this contributor for sharing their perspective and putting this out there.

Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing.Robbing from Peter to pay Paul is difficult but begging for extensions and requesting medical extensions is harder and more dehumanizing.

For me, life of late consists of medications, PICC line care and antibiotic delivery. It is doctors visits and home nurses and other care for her. We also have two other kids that also have special needs and doctors visits, home therapists etc.

When any kid is hospitalized, it sucks. When you are her only means of communication and can’t leave the hospital but “live too close” for the hospital to help, the only choice you have is to not eat. Last month, I did that for 11 days. Almost half of last month, I had one meal or less each day.

This month, my kid is neutropenic. This means she has very low white blood counts and can’t fight off illness. She has to wear masks and eat special food. She can’t have anything that is not prepackaged in an individual serving. She can’t have anything raw or undercooked including fruits and vegetables.

With those restrictions, I went to the store. I picked up a handful of items including peanut butter, fruit, vegetables, smoothies, applesauce, cookies and cereal. She lost 12 pounds last month. We need to get these higher calorie foods in her.

Items in the cart: 2 boxes of cookies, juice boxes, individual peanut butter (that was one of the things the woman screamed at me about while thrusting her jar in my face), applesauce and smoothie pouches, fruit and vegetable cups, and the only individual boxes of cereal the store carries.
Items in the cart: 2 boxes of cookies, juice boxes, individual peanut butter (that was one of the things the woman screamed at me about while thrusting her jar in my face), applesauce and smoothie pouches, fruit and vegetable cups, and the only individual boxes of cereal the store carries.

I already hate using food stamps. We even separated items into food and nonfood and paid for the nonfood separately, taking it to the car so that no one would notice that we bought dog food and socks and other “niceties.”

The lady behind me saw my wife hand me our direction card before she went to bring the van around. At first, I wasn’t sure I heard her comment.

“Glad I work so you can buy junk food” was quickly

followed with “greedy food stamp recipients buying individual peanut butters while I can only afford a jar.” The last one was accompanied by a jar of generic peanut butter being thrust in my face.

I tried to explain and she didn’t believe me. I tried to ignore her but things kept getting more heated. I put myself between her and my daughter and kept my head down. As I left, she was still yelling at me to spend her money more wisely.

All of my trip cost 38.41. I will skip meals to make that work. I will hope that my wife and kids don’t notice. I will claim I am not feeling well. My kids have to eat.

This is what they can’t see. Medications, IV antibiotics, PICC line supplies, respritory equipment, hand sanitizer hospital bracelets, sharps container, stethascope, PICC lines and masks.


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December 4,2013 update here

29 thoughts on ““Its hard being poor in America. When your kid is sick enough that you can’t work but disability doesn’t pay the bills, it is crushing. “

  1. How awful to be treated so!! I can’t even begin to know what you’re going through. I’ve known many people with special needs children. I pay attention to all they do for they’re children. Not just monetary demands, but a lot of physical labor. I have great respect for you and all that you do. I wonder if there may be a large company that might offer some sort of sponsorship for your family. Maybe a company focused on children, food, medical procedure, or medical equipment. I’ll be praying for life to treat y’all better.

  2. I’m surprised the store didn’t 86 her for such outrageous and offensive behavior! I worked retail for years and know that many clerks witnessing such a situation would have called a manager over and asked her to leave. It’s not only inappropriate and awful for you, the customer being singled out, it’s alienating and upsetting for the other customers.

    1. That store must have been awesome. My son used to work at a grocery store and would see cashiers openly rude & say horrible things to customers using EBT. Management never did anything about it.

  3. Oh, I am so sorry this happened to you. I don’t know where you are, but I know we have an “Action Center” and churches near Denver that could help. I have some experience with surviving hunger (though thankfully not with kids). Please do not feel ashamed to ask these places for help – you are why they help!

  4. I am so sorry that this happened to you, to be treated so awfully by judgemental strangers. (Guess some people never got the memo about being kind to others, since we can’t always know their story/journey.)

    Your story, however, makes me cry, for personal reasons. I wish that there was something that I could do to help you and your family at this difficult time. Please let me know if I can. (Heathir@gmail.com)

  5. Love all these generous offers. Please take someone up on their offer. It makes people feel good to help when they are able.

  6. I had no idea about food stamps or food banks until I stumbled across a couple of bloggers writing about it. I mean, sure I’d heard of them, but I didn’t realise how many people used them, how important they are, and how ignorant most of us are. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m going to investigate local food banks in my area and see if there’s anything that I can do to help : )

  7. I have no idea why people feel the need to be so judgmental! Sure, there may be some people out there who take advantage of the system, but definitely not the majority. You never know what a person is going through. As for you, you don’t owe anyone an explanation… you’re doing the best you can for your family, and yourself and your family are the ONLY ones you need to answer to at the end of the day!

  8. Fwded to FB: Kindness should not be a privilege for the rich. Imagine the karma return of a smile for this poor woman, or the impact of an honest, good-hearted question about her day. I don’t have much but smiles are free, and if I knew of her situation (which is so much like many others I know) I would try to get her some help–right there in the store and from the community. No one should go hungry. NO ONE.
    PS. Oh, my heart goes out to you! Admin:Please, please make sure she gets the help (food, nursing, respite care) she needs! Her story echoes that of many with, and/or caring for those with disabilities. In my community, there is a meals-on-wheels program that could help, food banks, and churches. Also, there are some extreme couponers that would donate supplies to her. Please make sure she is taken care of.

  9. I cannot understand why we as a society do not see the deep need to come together in our communities to help support people just like yourself. Until that happens, these people need to stop bellyaching about welfare. Reading the comments here is awesome and gives so much hope. 🙂

  10. I would have looked at the evil “tax payer” and asked her if she knew my name, address and checking account information, because the last I checked I hadn’t received any funds from her personally and that MY tax dollars that I paid into the tax system prior to being put into this situation more than covers what has been paid out by the system. I would also tell her she needs to educate herself corporate welfare subsidies.

  11. There are people who are ill-informed have no manners. But you and all of those who have legitimate reasons to be on aid need to speak out about those who have abused the system, causing this attitude towards yourselves. Why do I never hear this outrage from deserving recipients? Why is it always like this article, with no mention of the abusers causing this stigma? There are always going to be stupid people saying stupid stuff. People in this situation need not to cry out against stupidity because it will always exist, but against the abusers so to change the stigma.

    1. I don’t address abuse because part of the myth & misinformation out there is that abuse is rampant. It’s actually such a small amount it’s not worth my time to talk about.

      1. To dispel the myth that abuse is rampant is a good place to start. But I don’t see it happening in articles like this. Articles like this stir up the emotional shock factor to bring readers & their sympathetic comments to your blog, but do nothing to address the problem. Too small to talk about? Well, the less than one percent of abortions obtained as a result of incest or rape go a long way in supporting a woman’s right to choose.

        Another thing, and I may be opening Pandora’s Box with this one. “Abuse” is not the only issue, it is the question of how much and for how long. Though states may vary, the $ amount of aid to a low-income family can bring them up to a middle-income status. They get groceries, health care, prescriptions, and braces for their children. I don’t have the food & healthcare freedom as they do, much less afford braces for my kids on my middle income.

        I’m not writing this with a nasty tone and I really am sympathetic. People like this deserve aid. But these sort of articles do nothing to change people’s attitudes. In fact it can have the opposite affect. For folks like myself, we get put off. If I were dealing with the same things as this family on my middle income, we would still have to pay for groceries and a major part of our medical & prescription expenses on top of everything. At least they can get aid. Have you ever watched the movie, Cinderella Man? The boxer Jimmy Braddock had to resort to collecting aid during the Great Depression and you know what he said? “I’m proud to live in such a great country that helps a man when he’s down.” Not, “Some really stupid person in the parking lot made me feel bad.” If more people expressed themselves like Jimmy Braddock instead of the latter, it would go a long way to turn around the negative attitude towards aid recipients.

      2. Just giving all sorts of personal perspectives here on this blog. People are going to react how they want to. Now really my goal to structure the words and experiences of others to evoke a specific reaction.

        The response to this guest post was overwhelmingly positive and several shared that it caused them to think twice before making snap judgement. Not everyone is going to come away with that and that’s ok.

  12. Yes, you are correct, I did make a snap judgment about your intent. I was wrong, my apologies. I suppose I am little punchy these days because there are so many crying out for the plight of the poor, yet the middle class is struggling as well.

    As far making a snap judgment by presenting an opposing opinion, I reviewed the post several times, contemplating whether or not to even respond. But I want to advocate for the middle class to all classes, even if that means having an unpopular response on you blog.

  13. Reblogged this on The Newbie Homemaker and commented:
    I used to have a client who ate all of his food through a G-Tube in his stomach. One of the nurses who worked for our agency taught me to use Coca-Cola to flush out the medications that got clogged in his G-Tube line. It was a useful tip, but one that required me to purchase soda with his Food Stamps card. You can imagine the nasty looks and rude comments I got for buying Diet Coke with a LINK card. Here’s another family who has to use their food stamps for “junk food”. Think hard before you whine about people using food stamps for food that you don’t approve of. There may be a very good reason for it.

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