American Pipe Dream


“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.”  

So said William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), an English Victorian writer.

So what does it say of the United States, that as of Dec. 6, 2013, The number of people receiving aid from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is nearly 48 million people at a cost of $76 million — or $133.08 per person — in average monthly benefits? Well, let’s look at two examples of current sentiment.

  • Kevin W. Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, in his Dec. 4, 2013 blog post titled, “Reflecting on Hunger This Holiday Season,”::

“Last week, I wrote about the continued need for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), particularly in the wake of the automatic benefit cuts that began on November 1. It is fortunately the time of year when people give generously to food banks and food pantries, but they are unable to fully meet the need in their communities, particularly if the program were to suffer deeper cuts.

Over the holiday weekend, I saw heart-wrenching news stories from across the country illustrating the impact of cuts through the personal stories of children and families that are using SNAP to get back on their feet. I’ve included a few compelling stories below, but these barely scratch the surface of what folks are experiencing across the country.”

His post is continued here.

  • Perry Chiaramonte, of reported on Oct. 22, 2013, in his article, “Craigslist makes turning food stamps into cash a SNAP,”:

“Food stamp recipients are turning the government handouts into quick cash with ads on Craigslist, despite efforts to stem fraud. The federally-funded grocery assistance coupons — which are issued by states in the form of debit cards under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — are being sold on the online bulletin board as well as auction sites like eBay. found several offerings at Craigslist sites around the country, where the sellers offered the welfare benefits at large discounts from face value. The coupons are not supposed to be transferred, and Craigslist’s policy lists them among the items that are not allowed to be sold or bartered on the site.

But unless someone flags such a post, there’s little the sites, which operate in small, medium and large markets around the country, can do. Critics suspect sellers either don’t need them any more because they have found work, or simply want to exchange them for cash so that they can buy drugs or other items that are not permitted under the rules of the program.”

The remainder of his article can be found here.

These two arbitrarily selected posts from the Internet, demonstrate the vast divide among Americans when they consider the subject of welfare for the poor. The concerns include care for children and families unable to gain food sustenance, along with veterans, the elderly, people with disabilities, the disenfranchised, and since 2008 and the Great Recession, the numerous folks who have found themselves the victims unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression.

On the other side of the coin, great anxiety exists over growing instances of fraud being perpetrated and the increasing cost of that criminality to the public.

This blog will share what at least one family is encountering living life on SNAP and other assistance that might be available. It is a family of two adults, married for almost 15 years, where up until 2 1/2 years ago, both spouses worked full time, paid taxes, paid for health insurance and had lived from paycheck to paycheck for most of their married and low-to-middle income life together. After a long struggle, life began to look better.

It is the story of the Farthings, Jim and Gina.
It is my family’s story.


About GMFarthing

Gina Farthing is a freelance journalist, writer and graphic designer. She earned her BFA majoring in graphic design and minoring in advertising, marketing and business communications. Gina has worked in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia as a copy editor, ad designer, features editor, reporter, website designer, interim city editor, graphic designer, newsletter editor and photographer for the last 18 years. She has produced various communications materials for local, national and international academic, governmental, public and private organizations, including for news media and public broadcasting service audiences. Prior to going into business for herself, Gina’s most recent employers included. Her work encompassed publications such as The Waynesboro News Virginian, the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, the Reidsville Review, Eden Daily News, Danville Register & Bee, the Draft, Rocktown Weekly, Shenandoah Journal, North Fork Journal, the Shenandoah Valley Business Journal, The Valley Banner, Real Estate Weekly and Bloom magazine.
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