Saturday, April 6, 2013

Food Stamps Made* Me Fat


If you read the name of my blog you might assume that:
a. I am incredibly good-looking
b. My husband makes a ton of money
c. I spend hours a day exercising and undergoing intense beauty treatments.

If you know me in real life, you may see a little irony my blog title.

Truth be told, I haven't always lived in the lap of middle-class luxury that I do now. Yesterdays Hope Studio's Feedback Friday got me thinking about a time when I was the recipient of several forms of government aid and I wrote the following rant based solely on my experiences.

I believe our current welfare system is broken and will be one of the driving forces of our eventual national economic ruin. No nation can survive when half the country is trying to support the other half.  Politicians that try and change the system are painted as money-hoarding heartless monsters who laugh maniacally as widows and orphans painfully starve to death. 

 Let's face it rich politicians just can't take benefits away from poor people, but they should and here's why:

WIC Made* Me to Stop Breastfeeding
After the birth of my first child, I taught high school.  Trying to juggle a classroom and pumping breast milk sucked, but I couldn't afford formula. The school secretary suggested I apply for WIC to get free baby formula.  We qualified, and received free milk, juice, cheese, peanut butter, tuna, beans, and baby formula. 

WIC is supposed to promote breastfeeding, but by giving me free formula, they made it possible for me to quit. **

My baby drank every ounce of our free formula, but lots of WIC moms turn around and sell the formula and actually make a profit. Go do a search on Craig's List if you don't believe me.

WIC is supposed to provide nutrition classes to moms, but every class I had to sit through was a complete waste of time. Sometimes they provided information that was just plain wrong.  For example, I sat through an entire class on why I should eat corn tortillas instead of flour ones.  They kept saying that each flour tortilla contains 30 grams of fat. 


Food Stamps Made Me Fat
 When we lived well below the poverty level, we tried to keep our food budget to about $200 a month.  We always had plenty to eat, but couldn't afford a lot of junk food or prepared food. Then we went on food stamps and we were given $485 a month for the 4 of us.  We could then afford to buy ANYTHING we wanted.  Ben and Jerry's ice cream?-yep! Frozen California Pizza Kitchen? -no problem.  Steak and Brisket?-BBQ at our house! 


I think I put on about 10 pounds.


What's your current food budget?  Here's how much you could get on food stamps (source)


People in HouseholdMaximum Monthly Allotment
1
$    200
2
$    367
3
$    526
4
$    668
5
$    793
6
$    952
7
$ 1,052
8
$ 1,202
Each additional person
$    150


We are finally (and gratefully) financially secure and our family eats very well on the current food budget of $500-$600 a month. Moms all over Pinterest put my budget to shame and feed their families  for $200-$300 a month. 

A family of 5 qualifies for $793 in food stamps. In addition to food stamps, that same family might also still be eligible for WIC and free breakfast and lunch at school for the kids. So basically they just need to feed the kids dinner and meals on weekends. How could you not overeat with that food budget?


(just b/c I am curious leave me a comment telling me your family size and current monthly food budget)

I used to think it was silly that you could  buy soda at the 7-11 down the street as long as you waited until after you left the store to put a straw in the cup. However, now you can even eat out at restaurants. Recently more and more fast food places are accepting EBT (food stamps)-Subway, Dominoes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and many many more. Here's a link to 17 pages of restaurants in LA that will happily take your food stamps.



(I couldn't find the source for this-but it is sadly true)

Food Stamps Made* Me Rich
 In Texas, benefits come in the form of the "Lone Star Card" which acts like a credit card, except for the fact you don't need to show ID. This causes a huge problem with people exchanging their benefits for cash (and who knows what else). 

Food Stamps Made* Me Lazy
There are people in tough situations that might actually starve without these benefits. There are also people that just don't feel like getting a job. Either way, the government will pay you for doing nothing. 
I think if you don't get a job, your benefits are supposed to stop, but in my experience, it pretty much went like this: "You need to get a job or  else...I will ask you again next time if you have a job".



Food Stamp Made* Me High
Many states are trying to require mandatory drug tests in order to receive benefits.  I guess some are offended that our tax dollars may being used to get people high. There isn't a test that will tell us if people are spending beneits on alcohol, gambling, women etc?  I personally don't think we can stop people from misusing benefits and that drug testing will just end up costing taxpayers more in the end. 




(although I did see drug tests at the Dollar Store last night)

Here Are Some of My Suggestions:
1. Limit the amount of food stamps to $150/ person over age 10 and $100 under age 10.  In certain areas with high costs of living, allow for additional benefits.
2. Don't allow for double-dipping.  If a family qualifies for free school lunch, then reduce their food stamp budget accordingly.
3. Get rid of WIC altogether. One national food program is enough and most of the services they offer are redundant. 
4. Limit what types of food a person is allowed to buy on food stamps to healthier options and there is no way tax dollars should be used to pay for fast food.
5. Require a picture ID for all food stamp purchases.
6. Require recipients to do something (anything) in exchange for benefits. They could volunteer in neighborhood clean-up projects, schools, libraries, city landscaping, nursing homes.....Just think of how this could change our country for the better. 



I don't ever see the changes going into effect, but wouldn't it be wonderful if someone applied some common sense to welfare reform?  I am sending a copy of the post (and all the comments-so add your 2 cents) to my congressman. 


Rant over.  
I will now return you to the regular program of projects, recipes, and the normal housewifey hodge-podge of stuff I usually blog about. 


*Of course none of these programs "made" me do anything -playing the victim just seems so "in" these days.

** Please don't leave comments on how I poisoned my baby w/ formula.  I realize breastmilk is best, but my formula fed baby is just as smart, good-looking, healthy and athletic as my 2 breastfed kids. Also being my only girl, she even has way better personal hygiene habits.

***I know they are no longer called Food Stamps,they are now SNAP, but if I kept talking about SNAP, many of you might think I was ranting about a blog conference.



37 comments:

  1. I feed my family of 5 on $400-$500 a month.
    We did WIC with the last two kids, and while it helped a bunch, especially the baby food they bought the kids because I did breastfeeding exclusively, I agree that there is a better way of doing things.
    And while I agree with what you said, I don't see many people in office doing anything to change the way it works.
    I think the programs were good ideas when they began, but have had so many "good" changes that they lost the good idea they began with.

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  2. I feed my family of 4 on about $400 a month. Somtimes much less depending on what else needs to be paid that month. We are on a fixed income (social security and pension) and are raising two teenage grand children. The last place that I worked had a ton of young girls receiving WIC benefits and they would get everything that they were allowed and then bring it to work and sell it really cheap. This way they had their cigarette etc money. Some of us older nurses were so angry about this that we called the department of social services (welfare) in our state and were told "we are aware of this practice but we just don't have the fund to investigate these claims" WHAT???? We are living in a generation of people who think they are entitled. Wish I knew what could be done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Makes you so mad huh? Wish I knew what could be done too.

      Delete
  3. What??!!! I had no clue about any of this. I spend about $450 a month on our family of 5. I could actually buy organic and grass-fed meat if I were on food stamps. I'm sure that happens a lot. Ha! Eye opening article. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. You'd probably even have some money left for a few trips to Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken:)

      Delete
  4. We spend around 400 a month for our family of 4. We've been on WIC in the past and I totally agree with you about the nutrition classes. I couldn't believe how much completely wrong information they gave out. I love your ideas for reform, unfortunately you are right that any politicians that try to reform these programs are painted as evil and selfish.

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  5. We spend about $800 a month for a family of 5. Which I never realized was what I'd get from food stamps! I thought that was pretty spendy, we eat grass-fed meat, organic veggies and fruits, grass-fed-in-a-glass-bottle milk etc. Plus that includes my husband's work lunches out and a few dinners out per month.

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  6. In our family of 6 we spend about $700. I wish there was some way to change things too. I have a family member that just had her third baby on the government while her husband stays home and lets his mother-in-law, who they live with for free, raise their kids. They recieve WIC and both are healthy and able bodied. It just galls my husband and me. *rant complete*

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  7. Oh, honey! I hear ya! I 98% agree with everything you said. (The drug testing I like, but agree we won't ever be able to control every penny of other people's spending). I SO agree with you on WIC. Drives me crazy. I was on WIC with Abby (thank HEAVENS. Both of us going to school, almost ready to graduate). I had to go to all their classes on the benefits of breastfeeding. I didn't understand why they so freely gave out formula if that was their push. They could have done other classes like budgeting and money management that most people in this world can benefit from. Especially mothers with young children. Oh, and food stamps. Drives. Me. Crazy. My sisters-in-law have worked in grocery for years and they have some crazy stories about what people buy with their food stamps. I have another sister-in-law who, when she goes to visit her sister who has food stamps, her sister takes her shopping and my SIL comes home with a car load of free groceries!! She has that much extra that she doesn't need for her small family of 4 that she can load up my SIL's family of 6 with groceries. Blows my mind. People on food stamps should have to put together budgets and show where they're spending their money so they're actually accountable for it, and then can make better decisions with less money. They should NOT get free junk food. Hello, where Michelle Obama on that one!? Fresh fruits and veggies, dairy, pasta, nothing down cookie aisle. None of that is necessary to live. Ok, I should end my rant. There are so many things wrong with the government systems that are supposed for the "good" of the people. When in reality, it is only to their detriment. And in so many more ways that one. The saying, "Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" says it best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Goodness! Too many typos in that comment. I meant that anything down the cookie aisle isn't necessary to live. Fruits, veggies, dairy, etc...of course it's ok.

      Delete
    2. I'm not opposed to the principal of drug testing just the expense. If the government is buying the tests at the dollar store, I'm on board. I personally enjoyed the WIC classes on "limiting your child's juice intake" and then handing out tons of free juice.

      Delete
  8. Oh, and we usually do $400 tops for groceries/month. Then $40-$50 eating out/entertainment. But that includes hefty babysitting costs! I'd go out on a date every weekend if we had to the extra monies lying around.

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  9. I was thinking about your email and I'll bet that even if they used those Dollar Store tests they would charge $100 for the person who administers it. I'm sure there are better ways to fix the system than that.

    You actually thought of things to fix the broken system that I ever thought of!

    We used to get the free cheese and butter when I was growing up but my mom would never take the food stamps or free lunch cards because of the stigma. It's a shame because there are people who legitimately need a boost but too many who just choose to live that way rather than work.

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    Replies
    1. I thought of most of these sitting around in the soul-crushing waiting rooms of government aid offices. It seems to me that the greatest country on the planet could use both compassion and common sense to fix the system.

      Delete
    2. Common sense? Well, I guess it will never be fixed in that case...

      Delete
  10. Tara, before we got out of the military I wad spending $500-$600 on food for my family of 7. Due to our circumstances, with my DH getting out of the Army in Dec but not being able to start law school until Aug, we sought some Govt assistance. He couldn't get a full time job in his field for only 8 months! I was grateful, yet shocked at how much "assistance"we qualified for! We live better on welfare than we did working in the Army!!! We have better medical! (How about EVERYTHING is free!!!) We get $550 to feed our family from SNAP, 2 of the kids are on WIC, and my DH gets unemployment. If he were not on unemployment, our food stamps would be over $1,000! What in the world?!? While I am eternally grateful and humbled to have these sources available to us for this 8 month period of trying to get our feet off the ground and into the next stage of life, I recognize a serious problem with our welfare system! BTW, I do not have to attend any classes, do volunteer work, or show an ID. Yes, your rant is completely correct. I would have blogged about it too but felt like I would be cutting off the hand that feeds me :) I do nit feel bad for having to use welfare right now. I believe it was put in place for temporary assistance for situations such as mine. However, the benefits are WAY too high, its not sustainable. OK, that's my 2 cents.

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  11. Tara, before we got out of the military I wad spending $500-$600 on food for my family of 7. Due to our circumstances, with my DH getting out of the Army in Dec but not being able to start law school until Aug, we sought some Govt assistance. He couldn't get a full time job in his field for only 8 months! I was grateful, yet shocked at how much "assistance"we qualified for! We live better on welfare than we did working in the Army!!! We have better medical! (How about EVERYTHING is free!!!) We get $550 to feed our family from SNAP, 2 of the kids are on WIC, and my DH gets unemployment. If he were not on unemployment, our food stamps would be over $1,000! What in the world?!? While I am eternally grateful and humbled to have these sources available to us for this 8 month period of trying to get our feet off the ground and into the next stage of life, I recognize a serious problem with our welfare system! BTW, I do not have to attend any classes, do volunteer work, or show an ID. Yes, your rant is completely correct. I would have blogged about it too but felt like I would be cutting off the hand that feeds me :) I do nit feel bad for having to use welfare right now. I believe it was put in place for temporary assistance for situations such as mine. However, the benefits are WAY too high, its not sustainable. OK, that's my 2 cents.

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    Replies
    1. I wonder if you can live better on welfare than in the army?
      These benefits should be used exactly how you are using them-for people in that can't provide for themselves or are in temporary tough financial situations.

      Delete
  12. I agree! Food Stamps are a necessary program. Nobody wants anyone to go hungry. However, people or families on food stamps often spend more on groceries than people who pay for their own groceries. Something is wrong with that picture. I think food stamps should be kind of like WIC where they limit it to certain types of food such as; milk, bread, fruits and vegetables, meat, beans, flour, (the staples) etc. If the sky is the limit, then why is there any incentive to want something better.
    Here in Idaho the 1st of every month looks like Black Friday at the grocery store. I have learned to avoid it like the plague. However, one month I made the mistake. As I stood in the checkout line I started to observe what people had in their carts. Pizza, steak, chips, soda, candy, hot dogs. Not one fruit or vegetable, no joke. (BTW- I knew this person was on food stamps because I overheard them talking with the checker. Just in case you thought I was wrongly judging this person.)
    I also agree that there should be no double dipping. I know a family that receives food stamps, WIC, and free breakfast and lunch at school. They literally have more food than they know what to do with. I also know a family that went through a rough couple of months, and received food stamps for 2 months. She said that it bought their family's groceries for 6 months. Crazy!!! On the flip side in my neighborhood there are many hard working families that don't make a whole lot of money, probably would qualify for food stamps, but instead they make due with what they have. They use coupons, shop sales etc. They have to be very careful with what they buy, but they certainly don't go hungry. It makes me frustrated to see these families scrape by every month, and then to see others on food stamps buying seemingly whatever they want to.
    When my husband and I were in graduate school the food stamp craze hit like a wildfire. All of these students realized they qualified for food stamps, because they had no income. We jumped on the band wagon like everyone else. However after a couple of months we just couldn't do it anymore, so we didn't renew our food stamps and just left the money in the account. It really came down to this. There are needs and wants in life. Needs: food, clothes, shelter. Wants: going out to eat, plane tickets to visit family, entertainment, nice clothes, cable tv, cell phones etc. For our specific circumstance, we did not feel like we could justify using what money we had to pay for "wants", when I was asking someone else to pay for my "needs."
    My husband and I have been very blessed. I am grateful that I have money to buy groceries, and that I do not need to be on food stamps. There is nothing wrong with being on food stamps. However, I think it is way over done, and this excess can enable people and create dependency. We have a serious over spending problem in this country. I think this is one area that could and should be cut a lot. I feel like I pay my "fair share" of taxes, and it frustrates me to see a bloated food stamp program. It makes me feel like, "really, that is what I am paying for." Now I will step down off my soap box, and get back to cleaning my house. =)

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  13. Right on! Send my echo to your congressman

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  14. I could join this rant with you for a long time! haha. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about our government. I love that while I work 2 + jobs to support myself and my husband also works full time I have TONS and TONS of friends who think it's completely ok to let the government provide for them to live. This is what they say, "I actually make more money not working." "If I get a part time job they take away my benefits." STOP IT. Why anyone needs that much money to buy food is crazy! In fact many times one of my friends would have huge parties/bbqs and buy the food for everyone because if they didn't use it that would lose it.
    We eat pretty healthy and for 2 people I spend about $250 a month (including eating out and all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners).

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  15. Dear Americans. You really have a great thing going on there. I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I killed myself working and now am sick on a terribly bad health care. Just to inform you - you have really cheap food. My husband and I do not eat fast food, don't eat out, we buy mostly staples and very little meat (only chicken) and we spend way more than you do on food than you do. We have to spend at least $400 for two of us to have a rather healthy diet. Food here is simply too expensive, and so is everything. We just can't afford 'wants' with two average salary full time jobs - we barely cover for 'needs'. So please, keep these things in mind. You live in a truly blessed country with many benefits.

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    Replies
    1. I feel really blessed to live in this country. I just want it to stay wonderful and I am worry that those that try and take advantage and abuse programs that are meant to help people will eventually bankrupt and destroy us.

      Delete
  16. I don't know if that Bosnian post was spam or not, but it is true. Only in America is food that cheap. I can't believe how ignorant I was about how much the government is subsidizing our food industry. In Japan, and other countries I have visited overseas food is almost twice the price we pay in the States. Want a watermelon out of season? Try paying $30-$40 for it! That will change your hankering for "oily" foods (see the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" for the definition of oily).

    Even shopping at the commissary I spend $600 a month on groceries for our family of 5, but I also buy some produce off base. I also have a pretty loose budget and we get expensive produce ($2 for one apple, $1.50 for an orange), but I am by no means buying steaks and frozen dinners for Aaron to eat for lunch at work like we did on food stamps. In the States I think I spent about $500 on our family of 4.

    I agree with the food stamps thing, except there are exceptions. Aaron's brother who was in the exact position (and I mean exact) received $100 more in food stamps a month. Not sure why, it depends on the case worker and how the plug your information into their formula. We received $425 in dental school at first but then when we had another baby, for some reason were bumped down to $350. Still plenty of money, but our budget felt tight after being able to buy whatever we wanted, exactly like you said--BBQ at our house, halloween candy bar hook ups, Gatorade for the heck of it, the gourmet frozen dinners. It was funny when Aaron's parents came to visit and they said that we ate better than them, and we did.

    Aaron's other brother in law school had 4 kids and qualified for almost $1000 a month. They spent an unspeakable amount of money on one of their Thanksgiving dinners because they could. Wanna try this gourmet cheese for $30 a lb? Sure, why not? It's absurd. So much waste and abuse, and I was guilty of it too. I think the program was meant for people in our situation though, and I'm not sorry I used food stamps or WIC. Did you know we qualify for reduced lunch? Crazy!!

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    Replies
    1. You qualify now for school lunches? We no longer did as soon as we joined the Air Force-maybe the charts are different overseas. $30 cheese sounds completely reasonable-it was Thanksgiving after all.

      Delete
  17. one more bit...the school lunches here are atrocious. You pay $2.50 and on some days, mozzarella sticks are considered the entree. I am not a picky eater, but the cafeteria food here is disgusting.

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  18. ha ha! Formula is just one more thing for working moms to feel guilt over, right? We spend around $600 for 5 people each month, but that factors in soap and TP and such. Plus, hubby is on a silly diet milkshake diet to drop a few pounds for Philmont this summer. I clip coups and generally recycle food in the form of leftovers. But I am sure we could do better. Incidentally, when I was in x-ray school, and had two wee ones to feed as we almost lost our house and cars, the WIC lady told me that hubby made enough money to feed a family of 7. Humans. Unreal.

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  19. amen. I also don't think food stamps should be allowed to be used a gas station.

    ReplyDelete
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