SNAP embarrassment


I was trying to think of what else I could tell you about living on SNAP. 

It’s really pretty basic: you apply for the benefit, you fill out paperwork and send in copies of requested information, which could include tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements and more. Your case worker goes over the information to determine if you qualify, which it seems that mostly it goes by your gross pay, not your net pay.

Of course, since we’ve been on SNAP since last year, we haven’t had medical insurance that was deducted pretax or after taxes for that matter. So for all I really know, that might have some sort of influence on SNAP benefits. 

But there is one thing I was thinking of today at the grocery store. We actually shop at a big-box store because they’ve come to handle most services we need, such as prescriptions (they are the cheapest around!)

Anyway, in preparing to swipe my SNAP card, I remembered back to the days when food stamps was handled with actual paper tickets. You would get booklets of so many of certain denominations of paper tickets – like the kind you would buy if you were buying a book of raffle tickets.

You would tear out what you needed, in ones, fives, 10s and I think 20s were the largest denomination I ever received.

Yes, you’re correct. I was on food stamps one other time, back in 1997. I was a single mom with two children and I had returned to school full time. I believe we received them for one or two months.

Why such a short time?

Well, that was during the Clinton years. I think I’ve mentioned them before. You know the time period when supposedly our country was flush with money and people were making money hand over fist. 

I must’ve gotten in the wrong line or something, because I wasn’t. I’d been making $6.50 an hour as an administrative assistant trying to care for my kids and bills and it was a constant struggle. 

In fact, about a month after I stopped getting food stamps, because I refused to go back to work for at least 20 hours a week while I was also attending school full time, my car’s transmission stopped working.

Luckily that was in May of 1997. School was out for the summer for me and we lived close enough for the kids and I to ride bicycles to and from their schools or grandmother’s house for visits. (She thought I was crazy riding bikes with them all over the place).

But hey, I didn’t have the $1500 to get the transmission replaced until my father helped me out. All in all, we basically rode bikes to get around, go grocery shopping and visiting, maybe for two weeks.

Anyway, back to those paper food stamps …

What I was thinking today was about how embarrassing they were… if you did major grocery shopping, it always was a hassle to have your various booklets handy and to count out the proper amount in a timely fashion. All the while, people behind you in line staring at you and wishing you would hurry up and finish. Then after you paid what you could for food, if there was anything else in your buggy that was not covered by food stamps, you would have to pay with a credit card, check or cash.

No – we did not have atm cards at that time 😦

So, it could be a time-consuming process.

Today though, we get a debit card and you just let them know you’re paying with the SNAP card first and then you pay with whatever else you might have after that.

So, if the people behind you in line, cannot see the front of the card, it just looks like you’re paying with two credit cards.

Does it matter if people behind me know I’m paying with a SNAP card? Sure it does!

There are all kinds of nosey-bodies around, always thinking they know better than you on anything. Heck, you hear it in the news all the time.

Let me give you an example: People who live on SNAP, shouldn’t be buying expensive brands; People who live on SNAP, shouldn’t be smoking, doing drugs and whatever else comes to their nosey minds.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful our government decided that it was a good thing to help those in our country, who were not able to help themselves. Very thankful.

The government already tells me what I can buy with the benefits: food – and I do. But they don’t tell me what kind of food I can buy, how much of an item or what brands I can buy.

We all know that the price of food has been increasing steadily. And for the most part, when I buy food, I buy store brands. You know, the cheaper generic brands – the ones that were always thought to be lesser quality than name brands.

But there are somethings I will not compromise on, for example, sliced American cheese. I buy one name brand and that is the only kind I will buy. My husband on the other hand is not picky about his sliced yellow cheese. I happen to have tried his “lessor” priced and quality brands and to tell you the truth, I’d rather eat mud than some of the items he’s brought home.

I buy generic when I know it tastes good – and the only way to know that is to try the various brands. But if they just don’t measure up, I go back to my good old choices.

Whoever said living on SNAP had to taste bad? It’s as if embarrassment is just not enough for some people.

As far as I’m concerned, my husband and I have paid into our country’s welfare programs for many years. Not planning to use them ever. But now that we are in circumstances that enable us to use the benefits we have paid towards, we have no reason to feel embarrassed at all or feel like we need to lower the level of our eating anymore than it already is. 

People don’t have to be kicked when they’re down already, do they? I don’t believe so.

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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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