Wednesday, December 07, 2011



Recently I reposted on Facebook a statement made by Newt Gingrich in regards to someone using their, SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps to travel to Hawaii.

I had a few people leave comments. What was interesting is that my childhood friend of more than 25 years actually believed this could really happen. I refrained from commenting because I cherish her friendship and value that people do not have to support the same beliefs about things as I.

But today, after sleeping on it a few nights – I feel like I must comment in some manner.

So here it is. . .

It could never happen!

I know because I have personally received both SNAP and WIC benefits.

SNAP benefits in most states are put on a plastic card, much like a debit card. There is a set amount in the account, say $197 like in my case. I could only use those benefits at approved locations where my purchases could be regulated. There are some items, even food items that SNAP recipients are not able to purchase.

An example would be: I could purchase a TV dinner, but I could not go to the ‘food court’ of the grocery store and purchase a bbq plate or make a salad that was hot and ready to eat. I hope that makes sense.

I also could not purchase tobacco or alcoholic beverages.

So now let’s just be honest!

I had $250 of child support coming in every month. That’s it. No, really – that’s it. I had a new baby, who was born with health problems. He was sick and could not go to daycare. I could not work. We were living with my best friend who was nice enough to allow us to move in with her rent free so we weren’t out on the streets. But that was it.

I received WIC. Even those benefits were mirochipped onto a plastic credit card so those purchases could also be regulated.

I received $250 cash a month.

I received $197 in SNAP a month.

I could not have ‘freed up’ enough money to travel to Hawaii! Trust me!

Most people who receive these benefits are not cheating the system – they are not cheating us tax payers. They really need them. They are grandparents raising grandchildren. Some are just simply seniors on their own who can’t afford the increase in food prices, increase in gas costs, increase in - well everything! Some are single parents or families who are working just to make ends meet but find themselves short every month.

I doubt they swallowed their pride to stand in line after line, to jump through hoop after hoop to get a few extra dollars a month because they have this dream of going to Hawaii!

But yes, I hear you! I hear you talking about another headline – some lady who lives in a million dollar home who gets SNAP benefits. I hear you talking about the guy in front of you in line at the grocery store that just purchased five prime ribs and paid with his food stamps.

Okay, so there are a few people who are defrauding us fellow tax payers. So there are a few people who make choices at the grocery store that really is none of our business. I said we would be honest.

For those who need the benefits, for those who lose sleep every night wondering where, when, and what they are going to do for their next meal, wondering how they will feed their children – hoping no one will take their babies away from them because they were laid off and haven’t be able to find work yet. . . for those people I want to explain to the rest of you. . .

They are not planning a trip to Hawaii.

They are most likely wondering what they are going to do when their WIC and SNAP benefits run out this month and they still need food for their family. They are probably wondering if they do take this new job – with much less pay than the one they had before they got laid off – how will they make ends meet if they lose their WIC and SNAP benefits because they ‘make too much.’

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those people – the ones who really need the help.

I needed help. And even though I received both WIC and SNAP – I still needed help.

I found it at our local Food Bank, the South Plains Food Bank where I am proud to say I now work.

Others find help from us too – about 84,000 of them last year. They came to us or one of our more than 221 agencies and they asked us for help.

We stand in the gap between them and hunger. We stand in the gap between them and homelessness. We stand in the gap between them and losing their children. We stand in the gap – period.

They dream about being able to feed their families. They dream of only working one job instead of two or three. They dream of a better life.

They are not dreaming of Hawaii.


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