Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ice cream on food stamps?

“Grandpa…can we go to McDonalds for lunch?” A week ago, before going on a food stamp budget for Lent, that was a pretty simple question. Not so much now.

Pat and I have a $347 budget for food this month, a food stamp allotment for two people. Divided by 31 days, that’s a daily food allowance of $11.19 for two. Divide that by three meals a day means Rhyland and I couldn’t even eat off the dollar menu.

I couldn’t explain all of that to a four year-old. I just told him we were having lunch at home. He was good with the peanut butter sandwich and carrots.

Saying no to grandchildren is something I try to avoid. That’s their parents’ job, not mine. J In telling him no, I received another one of those lessons about being on food stamps. There must be a lot of explaining to do when your children or grandchildren ask for those things that seem to them to be a routine part of the lives of all their friends.

Even though we have already spent $116.74 or one-third of our monthly grocery budget, we did acquiesce in Ryland’s request for some ice cream Saturday evening. As I made my way through the checkout line, I recounted all those judgmental Facebook posts, letters-to-the-editor, and off the cuff comments about the way in which recipient spend their food stamps.

Some members of Congress who countenance no shame for their own extravagant lifestyles humiliate food stamp recipients with unfounded or sensationalized claims. The only thing that “trickles down” in this economy are these stigmatizing stereotypes.

A Congresswoman from California made the point as the House of Representatives was voting on budget cuts for the program. Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called out several members of Congress who went on all-expense-paid trips, spendin excessively on food while voting to cut food stamps for the poor.

“Let me give you a few examples,” Speier said. One congressman was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. Another spent $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. Twenty members went to Dublin, Ireland on a $166 a day food budget.

The member of Congress who took the trip to Russia was Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who represents a district with the third-largest number of recipient of agricultural subsidies, getting more than $9 billion since 1995. In voting for 20 billion dollars in food stamp cuts, King said his “Democratic colleagues have long been for expanding the dependency class here in America.”

Shameful is as shameful does. It is the measure of hypocrisy that a father who has to explain to a child why they can’t have an occasional happy meal at McDonalds is made to feel shame while a member of congress who criticizes that father stuffs his mouth at other people’s expense after cashing an oft-unearned paycheck for $175,000.

But I digress.

As I blog about our experience on a food stamp budget, I hear stories from many people who have actually been there. There is nothing easy or shameful about their experiences. Many are heroically finding ways to put healthy meals before their children during the most trying times of their lives.

I have been invited by several to learn more from them. One reader responded to my blog about shopping at Wal-Mart, saying I hadn’t experienced anywhere near the entire challenge. I should try going shopping on the city bus with a child on tow.
Another invited me to accompany her and her husband to the Department of Family Services office to witness the application process.

These last few days have been eye opening. Developing budget-conscious shopping lists and matching the food up with a menu not so high in carbohydrates, are a part of the experience. The better part, the part that is so much more real…is hearing stories. The real life stories of people who have done this for real are making this experience so meaningful.


  1. Your blog has become a must-read for me, Rodger. It is so great.