Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Food stamps: Taking what little we give

I'm in the food-raising business.   What I produce feeds people in my community, and honestly, even though I try hard to keep the cost down, I'm not the cheapest food option.

Price and food are something I think about quite a bit.  So I'm reading a local newspaper article about food stamps being reduced, and the comments are just plain vicious; accusations of fraud, and lazy poor people, and all sorts of just plain meanness.  Outright cruelty.  

Folks, think back about your interactions with people, and when you were impressed with someone.  I'm going to guess that at least some of those interactions are where someone was generous to you.  Gave you better measure than you expected; gave you something unexpected, went over the top for you for little or no gain on their part.  

And I sure hope that you thanked those folks, because they deserved it -- but realize that there is a virtue in doing the right thing even if you don't get thanked for it.  There's even a word for it in hebrew:  Mitzvah

"...In its secondary meaning, Hebrew mitzvah, as with English "commandment," refers to a moral deed performed as a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an act of human kindness. The tertiary meaning of mitzvah also refers to the fulfillment of a mitzvah. ..."

The MAXIMUM food stamp benefit per person is $133/month, or $4.43 a day.  Did you know that?

Lets imagine that ALL food stamp recipients were fraudulent.  Every single person getting food stamps is doing so illegally.  Would that really be so bad?  

here's why I'm saying that:  For the cost of a single bomb dropped in afganistan we could provide food stamps to 10,000 people.  For the cost of a single month in afganistan we could provide food stamps to the ENTIRE US POPULATION for a YEAR!  Don't get me started about oil company subsidies, or that Apple (the smartphone company) paid either zero taxes on billions of dollars of income or very, very little.  Like 2%.  

And if by chance some child didn't go hungry, or some working poor person was able to buy themselves a chocolate milk and an apple...  are we as a country so poor that we'd begrudge them that?   Look, if you're earning minimum wage somewhere, brother have a cookie on me.  Honestly.  I'm right there for that.  This is my mitzvah; my tax dollars going to feed people, and give them something that their employer didn't.  That their family didn't.  That they wouldn't get any other way, because, honestly, most of these folks are scrabbling as hard as they know how, and if it's fraud, well so be it.  

Most people who get food stamps are living an existance that most of us cannot imagine.  They probably don't read this blog because an internet connection is a luxury that they don't have, much less a smartphone.  

Take a minute and figure out how far that $4.43 would go for you today.  And think about America, one of the richest countries on earth, were we begrudge even that little tiny bit of government/institutional generosity.  

Folks, lets make america somewhere where we are kind to our least, our smallest, our poorest, and our lazy.


plummerj said...

You are so fun to read because you are articulate about a subject--farming, about which I know nothing. I like learning what is involved.

But you really eloquently stated a point of view about a subject--poor people and food stamps where I know quite a lot. I so totally agree.

I think the poor are scapegoats for our fears. We totally have the idea that this is the land of opportunity, anyone can make it by hard work, etc. It's not an accident that 'loser' is an insult.

Thanks for your humanity and common sense.

Bruce King said...

I appreciate your comment, Plummerj. On a personal note, when I was a child, between 3 and 8, my mother and sister and I were on food stamps after she divorced my dad. She worked, but the food stamps were for us the difference between going hungry and having something to eat. It's been a long time since I've had to wonder if I was going to eat, but that food insecurity was for me a defining moment in my life, and I still remember it clearly and vividly 47 years later.
We are a great and wealthy country; our charity is legendary around the world. It's time we remembered that for our own people, too.

ellie k said...

So many people really need food stamps to make ends meet and then there are the ones that want to sell them for half price so they can buy beer and smokes. We have this at Walmart here in our town. Little kids are going hungry so the parents can party, such a shame. Thankful for free school lunches and breakfast in this area, that is the only meals some kids get. I know I worked food service 25 years and fed many hungry kids extra food to tide them over.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, this post honestly brought me to tears and gave me a large feeling in my heart. It is so rare these days to encounter this generosity of spirit, this compassion. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I and my family are on food stamps. I too am one that is dis-heartened by the vicious and unfounded attacks on people who receive food stamp and other welfare benefits. Welfare - that word actually meant something good at one time...the "common welfare". Not anymore. Does anyone reading this know what its like to apply for minimum wage jobs and compete with anywhere from 25 to 50 local applicants for the same job? Do any of you know what its like to raise and feed and house and care for and educate and teach and selflessly parent 8 children (his-mine-ours) and be a full-time mom for 30 plus years and not be qualified for anything else that a minimum wage job? Do you have any idea what it feels like to have to choose between a gallon of milk - a gallon of gas - car insurance - or a three subject spiral notebook for your children at school? Do you know what its like to have to choose between the luxuries of phone? wifi? or electricity? water? or getting the oil changed on your car or getting school pictures for your kid (something you havent been able to do for the last 3 years)? DO YOU? BECAUSE IF YOU DONT KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE THEN YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO JUDGE - to judge me or anyone else utilizing the HEALTH AND WELFARE benefits that are available AND WHICH WE QUALIFY FOR within the very strict federal and state rules and regulations that are set in place by those agencies that distribute them. I am not proud of receiving these benefits - but neither am I ashamed. I DO WHAT I HAVE TO FOR US TO EAT HAVE SHELTER SURVIVE AND AT LEAST TRY TO THRIVE. If you come to my door and are hungry - I will try to feed you. Would you do the same for me? YOU DO NOT KNOW THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MY OR MY FAMILY'S LIFE. DO NOT JUDGE WHERE YOU HAVE NO COMPASSION. Thank you very much for your kind attention.