The Food Stamp Challenge

thIn today’s economy, getting by can be hard – even for people who have steady jobs.  Since President Obama has taken office the price of gasoline has doubled, food prices have sky-rocketed, and health insurance premiums are rising at a faster pace than ever thanks to Obamacare.  So when the Farm Bill, or more suitably named the “Food Stamp Bill”, was getting ready to come before the House of Representatives, 27 Congressmen and Congresswomen vowed to live on $4.50 a day for food to underscore the fact that Congress needed to reduce the funding cuts allocated to SNAP.

One Democrat Congressman, Sandy Levin of Michigan, was interviewed by US News, where when asked if he was hungry living on $4.50 a day, he said “yes, especially at night” and that the only thing he could afford as a snack was “white bread spread with just a small bit of crunchy peanut butter.”  Now, I don’t mean to be insensitive to people on SNAP or to the Congressman, because I believe that some people on food stamps and the Congressman might actually be hungry – not because they can’t afford to eat but rather because they don’t know how to shop, cook, or for that matter – budget.

My family is a single-earner household.  I am a stay-at-home mother with 3 children and a fourth one on the way and my husband works long hours to support our family.  Every week I budget between $75 and $135 for our grocery bill.  Granted this amount does not include eating out, but neither does SNAP, and my children are small so they won’t eat as much as full-grown adults but this is also true of many children on SNAP.  So when you figure out the daily amount per person per day for groceries in our household, it comes out to between $2.14 and $3.86.

Mind you, our family is not poor.  We are frugal, and our family is not hungry or starving.  We are very satisfied, healthy and our family does not live on white bread; matter of fact, I buy 100% whole wheat bread and we do not live on canned fruits and vegetables.  I almost exclusively buy fresh fruits and vegetables with some of them being organic and I don’t buy the cheapest meat; I buy organic ground beef, fresh chicken, sometimes fish, and usually some other type of red meat weekly, not to mention all the extras – from brand name cereals to snacks and everything in between–and I do it all on less than a family receiving food stamps.  So forgive me if I don’t feel sorry for a person (or Congressman) living off of my buck and getting more money for food per day than my family currently lives on.

I am sure there are many arguments that could be given as to why it is easier for me to buy food for my family than it is for other families.  One, which I previously addressed, is that my children are young so this makes my food bill lower.  This would be a valid argument except for one thing – my children are also homeschooled.  I feed my children breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  If I were a low-income family that sent my children to public school, my children would receive free lunches and in some areas, free breakfasts–so that automatically cuts a huge portion out of the total food bill.  Another argument is that I “must live in a low-cost food area”.  Once again that would be a good argument – if it were true.  Unfortunately I live in south Florida where the cost of food is high and I don’t have a “super cheap” food-mart, such as Aldi, conveniently located to me.  If I did I could probably lower my grocery bill even more.  My options for grocery shopping are Publix and Wal-Mart, and quite honestly, because I have 3 children that go shopping with me every single time I go shopping, I often choose Publix because it saves my sanity.  (If you have ever shopped at Wal-Mart with small children you would understand my reasoning, and because of this I am not always going to the cheapest store.)  Another argument is that “we must eat out a lot” – to which I say we used to but not anymore.  We currently eat out once for dinner and once for breakfast as a family.  My husband will buy an inexpensive lunch 3-4 times a week at most (sometimes less), and occasionally I will buy my children a quick lunch out.  So currently our eating out bill averages about $115 a week – depending on the week.  If we ate these meals at home or if I packed my husband’s lunches instead of him eating out, it would cut that bill down to a third and would only add an additional $1.09 per day per person to our food bill.  This would bring our total food bill to between $113.33 and $173.33 per week or averaged out to $4.09 per person, per day – still well below what the average person on SNAP receives.

Living on less has nothing to do with quality or quantity of food, it has more to do with how an individual shops and whether or not meals are homemade rather than out of a package.  Many low-income individuals, and obviously the Congressmen and Congresswomen who are taking the “food stamp challenge”, don’t know how to buy in bulk, buy on sale, use coupons, and make homemade food to stretch the budget farther.  Low-income families would benefit more from educational classes on how to stretch their food budget and how to prepare healthy, wholesome meals for their families as opposed to just throwing more money at a program that is out of control and failing.

If these Congressmen and Congresswomen tried to live below the World Bank poverty line of $1.25 per day – for everything – to show how people around the world live, I would have a little more respect for their challenge.  However, living on more per day for food than my family currently lives on is ridiculous and does little more than show how privileged or uneducated about food the poor in our country currently are.  The problem with SNAP, welfare, Medicaid, and all government “assistance” programs is that they have gone from being a help during hard times to being a way of life for far too many individuals in our country.  Millions of Americans have figured out how to work the system and can live at a higher standard of living than many hard-working tax-payers who are supporting these food stamp dependent individuals.

I believe that there are times where many people will need a helping hand.  If a family with no savings loses a job for several months, they may need help but only until they are able to find another job.  The way our current food stamp system works, there are no checks and balances to require people on SNAP to prove that they are looking for work or to prove that they are not turning down jobs so that they can continue to live on government assistance.

The House of Representatives voted down the current “food stamp” bill because some Republicans thought it didn’t cut enough of the funding for SNAP and Democrats thought there were too many cuts to SNAP, even though the bill allocated $80 billion per year to fund the program–while only cutting $1 billion per year.  Unfortunately, now they have to come up with another so-called farm bill – where if they once again cut too much of the funding for SNAP, it will automatically be voted down by Congress or vetoed by the President.  Our current administration is intentionally fostering the welfare way of life to further its own agenda and until we can take back the Senate, and hopefully in 2016, the Presidency, our country will continue to fall deeper and deeper into debt until the backs of tax-paying citizens are broken by this endless cycle and our country falls into an abyss from where it can never be saved.

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