In my drafts, I have a long and still unfinished piece devoted to the pros and cons of people taking food stamp challenges. I’ve touched on key points here before but the subject deserves an indepth examination. Spoiler: There is one pro and eight different points that are cons. My #1 frustration is that wealthy celebs and politicians take part in a SNAP challenge for 1 week, tell everyone how hard it is, and THAT gives credibility to the struggles on food insecure people instead of the daily voices of those who live the reality telling people how hard it is.
Maybe some day I’ll finish that post I started. Right now, I’m juggling a lot and haven’t had time to write, so for now, I want to share some thoughts from people who share my frustration with SNAP / food stamp challenges for some of the same reasons.
Members of Congress are living off food stamps for a week to protest Republican cuts. It’s a challenge for them, but GOP cuts would hurt millions of everyday Americans.
I want a reality tv show where politicians have to live in poverty for a month. They have to live in Government housing, shop with food stamps, and get only a limited amount of money for clothes. Because here, they still have all their trappings, lilke nice cars and thousand dollar suits. I want them in Walmart jeans trying to determine if they can afford a carton of milk.
Give them a full calendar year. I want to see them confident in January, and sometime around June choking back tears at the Safeway because they are tired, so tired, of eating 25 cent cup noodles, eyeing other peoples’ full grocery carts with a dull bewilderment.
Let me see them despair because they have a persistent nagging cough that won’t go away and might be turning into pneumonia but the minute clinic is $60, which might as well be as six million dollars, either way they ain’t got it to spare – and that doesn’t count the cost of prescriptions. Let me hear them tell people about the muscle cramps they get at night due to eating non-nutritious garbage for months, the weakness from persistent hunger.
Let them know the shame and frustration of only owning one pair of cheap polyester pants for work and one pair of thrift-store jeans, and both persistently have ripped crotches and seams coming undone, no matter how many times they get sewn back up.
Let the women know the particular sort of despair that comes once a month when you can’t afford even the cheapest pads or tampons.
Let them understand the frustration of being charged a $35 fee for a $2 overdraft. Let them watch as the bank holds charges from different days in “pending” till they all come through on the same day, and the bank charges them four times for a single overdraft because “the charges all cleared at the same time”.
I want them to know the particular pain of having to decide between food for the week, or transportation costs to and from work. You can’t have both. Choose wisely.
You do not truly understand poverty until you’ve lived it and a month isn’t enough to encompass it. Not even close.
I have $7000 in medical bills this year because I let something go untreated for nine years because I couldn’t afford it. When I broke my hand I refused to go to the doctor because I couldn’t afford it – it wasn’t until my manager swore up and down that worker’s comp would cover it that I even considered going – and there were pieces of bone sticking out of my hand. I once walked on a broken foot for a year. A year. Because my boss wouldn’t let me have the time off to let it heal properly and my job required being on my feet for 8+hours a day. And that fucking foot kept starting to heal and then re-fracturing all over again. Spaghetti makes me sick to my stomach because I ate it every fucking day for months on end because pasta and tomato sauce are CHEAP, but there was no meat and no veggies, so it didn’t really do me any good.
Sometimes I buy things I don’t need just to prove to myself that I can. And sometimes I go crazy and buy bags of things for the homeless shelter and the food bank because Jesus, do people need it and I have a little extra to spare now. Sometimes I hoard things, like soap and food and old clothes that I don’t like and will never wear again, because what if I need it in the future and can’t afford it?
Sometimes I remember being so poor that my power was turned off and my bank account was negative and I had nothing in the kitchen but ramen noodles and canned beans and god only knew how I was going to scrape together $475 to pay the rent on my shitty apartment and the lingering stress makes me start to cry.
Rice for a whole winter, except weekends when my boyfriend came down and took me out, and margarine—forget butter—for it only rarely, so I couldn’t eat white rice for forty years. Pasta and soup with maybe a burger on payday as my only meat. No dental work, so my teeth are an ongoing trainwreck. Living in one-room studio apartments in residential hotels for a decade because we couldn’t afford a real apartment or utilities. And yes to all the bank crap.
I want the Congresscritters to live through a year of THAT before they vote on programs for the poor.
This is why I can’t stand people taking the SNAP challenge.
You don’t know the reality. You don’t come away with true empathy for people living the reality. And you still don’t listen to people living the reality.