Boxes

First, as you may or may not have noticed, I am not a very political person. What opinions I do have, I keep to myself. Everyone is entitled to their own, and while I may not agree with yours, or you with mine, it is our human right to have an opinion. I also see no point in debating with uneducated or uninformed people on political topics. Not to mention, there is no point in waving my opinions around for people to attack just because they don’t agree. Maybe I’m right, maybe you’re right, maybe we’re both wrong. I have more important things to deal with than your opinion or your opinion of my opinion.

However.

However, there are some (what I see as) common sense issues at hand that are irritating my soul, and today I am sharing my opinion.

Today, we’re talking about replacing food stamps/SNAP benefits, EBT, whatever your state calls it, with boxes of food.

I have seen some very intelligent questions about the process on social media, and some very ignorant responses to these questions.

So let me just hop out of the gate by saying fuck yes there are people that abuse the system. It does not matter if you have money on a card or food in a box, this shit is going to continue happening. There are ignorant, worthless people in all walks of life, all pay grades. $20/hr or minimum wage, receiving state benefits or not, there are liars and cheats everywhere and they will continue to find ways to sidestep the system. A fucking box isn’t going to solve this, it will just make people more creative.

What this box is going to do is label people and potentially limit their diets to what the government thinks they should eat.

All that is known at this point is that there is a possibility that a box of food will take the place of the money those on government assistance receieve, which is given to them for them to shop as they see fit for their family.

Will it be standardized? Will it take into account age ranges of the household, diet restrictions – religious or otherwise? Will people get to pick what’s in their box?

I grew up with food stamps. I mean the literal thing, pieces of paper in a book. It looked like monopoly money, and mom would give us the “one dollar bills” to go buy a treat at the end of the month. Man, I remember being so excited when she’d hand us those.

Then the card was implemented, in Michigan it was the Bridge card. My mom had one, my dad had one. And when I found myself making minimum wage and pregnant, I had one. First in Michigan, and then in Ohio where I currently live.

The struggle is a real one, folks. I’ve lived it. People on social media are acting like being poor is a privilege or something. Like all poor people are expecting a hand out. I just want to shake some sense into them.

I wrote the following in a Facebook post a couple years ago:

I haven’t been on a real grocery trip in awhile, so my cart was over flowing. Amongst the groceries were some household necessities as well as a new outfit for Chase for his birthday. There was an older lady behind me who commented on it. “a little behind, are we?” Trying to ignore the snide tone, I replied “yes, a little. I have two young boys and I’ve been working a lot. It’s my first day off in several days, so it was time to catch up!” I finished unloading my cart and awaited the total. I then utilized the coupons I had, saving me a considerable amount. My total was under my goal amount, so I was pleased. Until I pulled out my EBT card to pay for a portion of my bill. . . And I heard her sniff. I then pulled out my debit card to pay for the rest. “Wow. That’s a lot for that price,” She said, tapping the total screen. I didn’t say what I wanted to say. . . I don’t have time for giving into people’s negativity and judgements. I was still bothered, though. The woman knows nothing about me, nor my household, nor how hard I’ve worked to be able to afford to pay cash for ANY of my groceries. She has no clue that this is the first of many shopping trips this month, and I’ll be paying cash for those future trips. And she ignored the fact that I plainly told her I have two growing boys and work full time. I was proud of myself. Until her snide remarks and self righteous sniff.

There’s just so much to this debate.

One comment on social media – someone all for the standardized box – stated that people receiving benefits should not be allowed to buy high dollar items, steak, lobster, whatever. I have a problem with this. My little one doesn’t like hamburger unless it’s in patty form. Hamburger helper is out of the question. So either I make nothing but cheeseburgers, or I buy the occasional steak or roast in order for him to get that protein his growing body needs. Do the people who pose this argument not have children? Kids are crazy. They are picky. My oldest loves broccoli and asparagus and Brussel sprouts. Should he be denied these vegetables because they cost more than peas and corn? Why should my living, breathing, growing children be forced to eat less expensive food, when the reality in America is that the healthier it is, the more expensive it is? Just because you make more than me, that makes your children more worthy of healthy food? I have two words for you, and they aren’t pleasant.

Another argument was against “junk food”. Should my kids not have been allowed to have candy or cupcakes or pop because we were “poor?”

If I chose to buy supplies to make my son a birthday cake, who’s business is it but my own? He deserves a damn birthday cake, just like your child.

Another argument stated that maybe if these people got off their asses and got a job. . . Man, don’t get me started. When you work 108 hours in two weeks and bring home just enough to pay your rent and electric, then we can have a conversation.

Let me tell you, I was not excited to be receiving benefits from the government. But facts were, I needed the help to feed my child. I could not afford rent and utilities and gas and car insurance and groceries for us making less than $9/hr.

It took me five years to work my way up in life to a point where I didn’t need the assistance anymore. And I busted my ass working two jobs six days a week for a lot of that time. Finally, finally I landed a good job and got off of food stamps. And after a couple years not receiving benefits I was suddenly laid off from my job and was pregnant a second time. In the blink of an eye I needed the assistance again. Was I happy to need to walk into the welfare office again? Nope. Did my kids need to eat? Yup. So I did it. And this time it took me 4 years to work my way off of it, working 60hr work weeks at times.

I worked my way back up the income chain, and every time I’d switch jobs or get a raise, my benefits would be reduced. Which makes some sense. If I’m making $10 an hour as opposed to $8, I have more money for food. This benefit is supposed to be supplemental in many cases, not your only source for food.

But then there’s that grey area. That point where you make too much to qualify for food benefits but not quite enough to manage all of lifes bills. Where you’re like, do I pay electric or put food on the table? The governments income qualifications are a little skewed, in my opinion. I did face similar choices while working my way up in life. “My car could really use an oil change, but my cupboards. . .” No one should be faced with this choice. I worked. I worked my ass off. And still struggled.

In roughly twelve years I have switched jobs seven times in order to better my income situation and still achieve being there for my children. Don’t talk to me about willingness to better oneself and get off of assistance.

As if the paper food stamps didn’t label you enough, or the brightly colored food card, now they’re gonna give you a box. Is this delivered by USPS or some other delivery service? Something that screams to your neighbors “we’re poor!”? As if the judgemental lady in that grocery line years ago wasn’t bad enough. . .

So, to wind around to my point.

I needed the help. I accepted the help while I needed it, and my goal was not to stay on government assistance my entire life. Are there people who work the system? Yes. Does everyone who is using government benefits? I can tell you with 100% certainty that they do not. My goal was to get off of government assistance, and I was able to. But the single mother living and working as a waitress in a one street light town may not be able to just yet. Or the father who has a disabled child, and needs to stay working at a night shift factory job so he can be there for his child during the day. . . That job may pay shit, but he needs that schedule. Children need your time, not your money. What about the couple who is caring for their sick, elderly parents? The college graduate who got laid off after 20 years and has to go back to school for another degree? These people don’t deserve a box, labeling them and making them eat what the government sees fit. Not to mention the homeless. Where do you propose we deliver their box? Or will there be some random pick up day where you have to stand in line for the whole day to get your box? Tell me, what single working parent, what college student, what family with young children or elderly parents, has time for that?

The paper food stamps and the card are limiting and embarrassing enough for those of us with pride and a goal. Leave it at that. Keep boxes out of the equation. The problem goes much deeper than what “poor” people should and should not be allowed to eat.

Published by: A. Elizardo

Single mother to two amazing boys, sister to an inspiration, and the daughter of two opinionated, sarcastic, fun loving individuals that are no longer physically with us. Music, writing, reading, my family - living and gone - are what keep me going as I put on my rose colored glasses and navigate us through this crazy world.

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