Confessions of a Food Stamp mom

I purposely did not call myself a “welfare” mom because, let’s be honest, if I did you would have made some sort of judgment about me based on that word. It’s OK. I’ve done it, too. Everyone on welfare is a single mom who just keeps having kids to get more welfare benefits, right? That’s what I believed when I was growing up.

Now, I am one. And I need to confess. Because it seems that Food Stamps is becoming one of those issues, or maybe it always has been and I’m just noticing it more, that people are extremely opinionated about.

Recently, after a report that Food Stamp use is on the rise, I heard a few minutes of talk radio about the subject, and the host was appalled that people might use their food stamp benefits to buy crab legs or some such seafood luxury.

Confession No. 1: I have used Food Stamps to purchase swordfish steaks at our discount grocery store.

Confession No. 2: I also sometimes buy cake, ice cream, cookies, soda and other “luxury” treats using Food Stamps.

Also, on Facebook, you can “like” this statement: If you can afford alcohol and cigarettes, then you don’t need Foodstamps. (Their spelling; not mine.)

This bothers me. I neither smoke nor drink alcohol but I have other vices. Like shopping. And eating. And watching movies.

Confession No. 3: My family sometimes eats out. And we buy clothes or shoes when we or the kids need them. And we have a Netflix account.

We have been receiving Food Stamps for about a year and a half. My husband works two part-time jobs and goes to graduate school. I stay home with the kids and do a little bit of freelance writing when I can. We’re halfway through his graduate program. We don’t plan to be on Food Stamps forever. We look forward to the day when we can be off the program.

In the meantime, though, I’ve learned to accept this help at this stage of our lives. Even though we sometimes spend our money on other things, being on Food Stamps means that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to feed my kids or if I have to choose between food and rent this month. It means that I know we’ll have grocery money, even if I can’t always see where the money to pay the rest of the bills is going to come from. And it means that occasionally we can do other things that families who aren’t poor get to do. Like go to the movies. Or eat at a restaurant. Or spend a day at the zoo. To say that we’re not allowed to do any of those things because we’re on Food Stamps is like saying we should be punished for being poor. To me, that’s the thought pattern behind the alcohol-and-cigarettes statement.

I know that people abuse the system. My mother-in-law worked in that sector her entire adult career and could tell stories. You can write us off as the exception, but I’m sure there are more “exceptions” out there. I’m just asking you not to judge me because I use a Food Stamp card. (Especially not if you notice the highlights in my hair or the new clothes I’m wearing. Confession No. 4: My mom paid for both for my birthday.)

If you pay taxes, then I’m grateful that some of your tax money can help feed my family for a time.

One final confession? Most of the time, I hate being on Food Stamps, but I love not having to worry about how to feed my two kids while I worry about how to pay the other bills. And, sometimes, I’m glad for the experience, if only to have walked a mile in another mom’s shoes.

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4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Food Stamp mom

  1. Honestly, I hate this type of thinking because it is narrow minded and not people-centric, Jesus-like, or caring,
    Even with those that ‘abuse’ the system, if we look at those people in a wholistic way including where they have been, what they’ve been through, how they grew up, etc. we will probably find that the reason they ‘abuse’ the system is that that is how they were taught, trained, etc. Also, many times the system is set up that people who only know how to live off of the system never learn how NOT to. DHS/DCFS and social workers, etc are not trained or encouraged to help the person wholistically, they are trained to get it over with and move the person on without ever helping them learn skills. I was even told not to teach someone skills b/c I was just supposed to ‘fix’ the parenting and talk to them about how they need to fix their parenting.

    This is why everything is so messed up, no one is supposed to learn life skills or need help to learn them or need help period. We are supposed to need and accept help, that is how we are designed. We are designed to need each other and take care of each other. There is nothing to be embarrassed about or judge. Just because someone hasn’t needed food stamps doesn’t mean anything except either they haven’t had the struggle or they were too embarrassed to do it. If someone judges someone who ‘abuses’ the system they aren’t looking at the person like Christ would or thinking about the person like a person, but like a problem or something.

    This is one of the things that I get pretty passionate about because I’ve seen people who have never learned the skills and the ones whose families have been stuck in the same cycle for generations and don’t know how to get out. I am also one of the people who is struggling now to have a better and happier life that God wants for us.

  2. People who think that are ignorant. My husband and daughter and I will be on foodstamps as soon as I apply this week. OUR TAXES PAY FOR IT! So why not use it when we’re in need?? If people and the government have a problem with it then pay us more and give us better jobs so we won’t need them. What, are we supposed to only buy bread and water with food stamps? We’re human, we’re poor, and we have every right to eat whatever we want. Thanks for posting this! ❤

  3. bah, this was a good post.

    i cried the first time i saw that facebook thing about not deserving food stamps if you can afford cigarettes, etc. it was posted by our pastor’s wife.

    charlotte–i loved your comment. what great perspective!

    i totally love you guys.

    val

  4. Pingback: The way I see it « The Home Front

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