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A Food Stamp User Story

Artist, Mother, Hotdog Enthusiast

 
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I Am ‘Those People’ — Why SNAP Matters to Me

Posted: 05/22/2013  5:41 pm                                                        

                                            

 
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Congress is debating the reauthorization of the Farm Bill this week — a bill chiefly (strangely) concerned with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps as the program is often called. And at a time when almost 48 million Americans receive SNAP (the largest number since the program started 50 years ago), some legislators, and perhaps more immediately head-desking to my daily existence, Facebook friends argue that the benefits are too generous and/or are not an effective use of “my tax dollars” (as though SNAP recipients were somehow magically exempt from paying taxes). There is a lot of talk about bootstraps, and drug tests, and responsibility. And sometimes I’m not sure whether or not I really have the energy to remind them that “those people” they keep debasing are my daughter and me. Sometimes I’m tired of suggesting that maybe they, who’ve never experienced needing SNAP, are perhaps not the most qualified to decide whether or not it’s a necessary program. Perhaps they are far away from understanding the good and necessary help the program brings to recipients. 

2013-05-22-IdaforSNAPpiece.jpgPictured: “those people”

In 2008, when I became unexpectedly (scientifically and statistically astoundingly, really) pregnant, I learned that I qualified for Medicaid and SNAP. I was working full time managing a café, and my husband was in graduate school. We thought about his taking a break from school to work full time, thus potentially circumnavigating our need for the benefits, but decided that with only a year to go and the dramatic increase in earning potential in his field if he finished, it made more sense for us (and for the larger economy, incidentally) to just try to squeak through that last year.

The SNAP benefits were our lifeline for a while. Not only could I afford to buy healthy food for my family, but I could also cook meals for others to trade for childcare so that I could go to work. Food became a currency in my life, because other currencies were not available to me. And believe me, I had to work for it. My family’s file — the sole source of our identification as approved recipients of SNAP and Medicaid — was deleted. Twice. We just vanished from the system, and along with us, hours of painstaking work to get qualified. If you’ve never lived through the nightmare that is applying for aid through the office of Children and Family Services, I wish you a lifetime of ignorance. It’s awful, and grueling, and demoralizing. And the fact that anyone would smugly be thinking,  “Good. It should be awful. That’ll teach ‘those people’ to work for their own and not mooch off the government” is evidence of the scariest human meanness. Because the truth is that most recipients of SNAP benefits are working. They’re working harder than you are.  They’re working much harder than I am presently. Ironically, nobody calls me lazy now.

“It must be nice to just charge whatever you want to the government,” quip Facebook acquaintances as they express their distain for the woman buying Cheetos with manicured nails and her SNAP benefits. No. It’s far from nice. In my experience, it’s a relief to feed your family, but pulling out your LINK card and seeing the person behind you immediately scrutinize your choices as you bag your food is humiliating. I distinctly remember wanting to scream “YES! I see that you disapprove of this box of funfetti cake mix! But it’s my daughter’s birthday and I am so busy working and otherwise bootstrapping that I can’t make a cake from scratch! Please stop being such a monster!” I remember feeling my face get hot as a clerk picked up the speakerphone to ask for a manager to approve my LINK card because the magnetic strip is demagnetized. I’d call to get it replaced but the last time I did that our file was deleted so please, give me a goddamn break!

I can blissfully say, “I remember” because I don’t deal with these things anymore. My husband finished school, got a great job, and additionally started a business. The business is so successful now that he recently left his day job. I spend my billable hours raising our daughter, going to school, writing, and performing. I sometimes find myself thinking that it was almost worth going through such debilitating stress and lack of resources because now I truly appreciate each instance of there being enough. As most folks who’ve been through life-altering times of financial hardship will attest, I would do almost anything to avoid going through it again, but I value the perspective I gained in the process. Never in my life have I felt so profoundly that I am on the other side of something. SNAP was a crucial piece of the bridge I traveled across to get here.

We — the “those people” my ignorant Facebook acquaintances refer to; the folks perpetually “other-ed” by anti-SNAP politicians — are the poster family for how SNAP is supposed to work. We needed a modest amount of help for a short time (which is true of most SNAP recipients). And now, because we got the help we needed, we were able to dig ourselves out. Now it really is “my taxes” that are paying for somebody else’s cake mix. I’m personally delighted with this arrangement. I’ve never felt so lucky in my whole life.

And that’s the way it should feel to have enough resources to support those who don’t. That’s why we decided to live all together and make a union with a government and all that jazz — to be some kind of “us.” Aside from all of the expert analysis supporting SNAP as an incredibly effective form of economic stimulus, boon to public health, and a number of other things that are indisputably in everyone’s best interest, supporting SNAP is saying yes to the idea that we matter to each other on the most basic level. It’s saying that it’s not ever going to be okay with us that some kids get to eat breakfast and others don’t. Supporting SNAP is acknowledging that little bit of help that many of us need at one point or another in our lives to get to the other side of something. And if you’ve never been over there, on that “something” side with “those people,” I’d like to suggest that perhaps your opinions on the matter should be tempered with a little more listening and imagination. It was me. But it could have just as easily been you.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Mobile Food Pantry Aids Northeast TN Seniors

Margaret, who is in her seventies, helped her husband farm for shares when he was alive. Now she survives on just over $400 a month in Social Security. When she can find the work and her health allows, she cleans houses to supplement her Social Security income. At times, she must choose between food and medications, rent or gas.Margaret’s story is increasingly common throughout the country and throughout Northeast Tennessee.

Feeding America has conducted extensive research on the issue and reported that the number of older adults is projected to increase by 36% over the next decade.  They also cite the fact that seniors are more likely to go hungry if they live in a southern state.  This finding is the due to the fact that southern states have rural areas with less access to communication and transportation networks than urban/metro areas.

Second Harvest Food Bank is well aware of this situation and has decided to take action through its Mobile Food Pantry program.  Bags of healthy, nutritious foods are distributed to needy seniors and families.  In fact, Mobile Food Pantry currently assists 470 seniors per month via its 33 sites.  For more information on the Mobile Food Pantry program, you may go to the Food Bank’s website or contact Austin Phillips at 423.477.4053, x. 225 or outreach@netfoodbank.org.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Food Bank Programs

 

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Student Food Drive Promotes Charity And Student Development

The Food Bank began its 5th annual Student Food Drive on October 2, 2012 with a Kick-Off Party for participating students.

Students and Advisors from area high schools have signed up to hold food drives and help raise food to feed people in the region with a food drive that runs from October 2 to November 8.  High school students challenge each other to participate in this challenge to receive cash awards based on school population and the amount of pounds of food collected per student.

The Student Food Drive accomplishes two goals – to participate in the immediate effort of collecting food and donating it to the Food Bank; and, to encourage young people to either start or enhance their commitment to volunteer service.  The Food Drive develops student leadership by challenging them to raise food, collect money to purchase food, and then find a way to deliver the food to the Food Bank. Last year over 38,000 pounds of food was collected by high school students in the region.

Supporters of the Food Bank are encouraged to support their local school’s efforts.  All high schools in the eight-county region that still wish to participate are encouraged to contact the Food Bank at (423)477-4053, x. 224 or donatefood@netfoodbank.org to sign up.

 

 

 
 

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Larger Facility Will Help Food Bank in Meeting Long-Term Goals

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The Board of Directors of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee announced at 11 AM on Friday, July 13, 2012 the purchase of a larger warehouse facility to accommodate the region’s critical need for food assistance.  The new headquarters is at 1027 Jericho Drive, off of I-81 at Exit 63 and is centrally located for the convenience of the Food Bank’s eight-county service area.

According to Executive Director Rhonda Chafin, the move is a key component of the Food Bank’s strategic plan.  “Simply put, the Food Bank has outgrown its current space.  In addition, the Food Bank has seen a 52 percent increase since 2007 in the number of households requiring emergency and supplemental food assistance, and the new facility will allow us to ensure that all of our partner agencies can effectively provide nutritious food to our most vulnerable individuals and families. “

Other benefits of the new location are that the Food Bank’s 200 partner agencies will have access to a larger inventory of food product, and the warehouse staff will be better equipped to accommodate the partner agencies.  The new facility will allow the organization to save funds by taking advantage of additional donated and purchased food.  Also, the new facility will allow for the formation of new programs and services to assist individuals receiving food assistance on a monthly basis. 

Some renovations will be needed to equip the new location for operations.  A cost-effective building renovation is being planned and includes a combination of in-kind donations and contracted work.  The Food Bank plans to secure financial support for these projects through private donations and other funding sources.  The relocation will take place sometime during Fiscal Year 2013.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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FINAL day to Vote to FIGHT Hunger

Vote Now to Fight Hunger

FINAL day to Vote. We need your school, college, corporation to do this by 11 p.m. TONIGHT! We’re in 2nd place, we need your vote to win! (on Apple products get ‘Atomic Lite’ Free App to Vote) https://apps.facebook.com/walmartfighthunger/profile/1961?src=share

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Campaigns

 

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YOUR VOTE and all your Friends can get us back in the lead

Volunteer smiling handling food to child

We can do this please VOTE and SHARE with all your friends! YOUR VOTE and all your friends can get us back in the lead! Please go the the link below and vote TODAY and every 24 hours through Monday. Please vote for Johnson City! Please vote every 24 hours until Monday night! Thanks for your support!Please click the link below to help now: https://apps.facebook.com/walmartfighthunger/profile/1961?src=share

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Campaigns

 

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URGENT! Loosing our Lead win $1 Million to fight hunger in our area! VOTE NOW

Little Girl with a Meal

Folks, we’re about to loose our lead, other communities are making a HUGE move. They’ve gained thousands of votes yesterday. This $1,000,000 would go so far to help our region to help the 93,000 people living in poverty in our Northeast Tennessee Region.  It doesn’t cost anything to help in this campaign only a few minutes of your time to vote on facebook.  Won’t you please vote for the next four days!  


Please vote for Johnson City (it’s really the whole region) by clicking the highlighted link below (Facebook). Please click the link below to help now:

https://apps.facebook.com/walmartfighthunger/profile/1961?src=share

Our mission is to feed the hungry by securing and distributing food and grocery products to non-profit agencies that provide services to the needy in the eight-county region of Northeast Tennessee.
 
 
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Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Upcoming Events

 

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