I have a confession to make. I receive food stamps. That’s right. I am a 36-year-old single man from Buffalo, New York who receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program assistance, and I have been receiving it for about eighteen months since April 2012.
While my SNAP benefits started in 2012, the road to them began a decade earlier. In 2002, I had the unfortunate occurrence of losing my job as a stock clerk at a local supermarket due a stroke coupled with having to take care of my then sick and dying parents. Since nursing my parents was a full-time job, I had little time to work until their deaths just a few years ago. Since then, I was able to get a job at a table manufacturing factory and went back to school studying physics at the University at Buffalo, but this did not last long.
Scheduling conflicts forced me to quit my job and concentrate on school. At the time, I didn’t think anything bad would happen. As a physics student, I felt that I would be able to get a job soon after I graduate doing something. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and after six months of job searching, I quickly applied for food stamps when my last remaining paycheck and financial aid grants finally ran out, and was immediately awarded a monthly stipend of $200, the maximum amount New York offers to single individuals. With my old employers no longer having room for me while no one else considering my applications for employment, I had to choose between food stamps and starving, and I chose to live. Fortunately, I make enough from writing that I didn’t need any further assistance.
Now that I have been on SNAP for over a year, I am used to the inconveniences. I file the six-month recertification applications on time. I know which foods qualify for SNAP. I know how to use my credit-card-like benefits card. I also know when the money comes available each month and which stores will accept it (not all do).
However, as a single man living alone, my food selection is limited. I cannot buy bulk or any food that requires extensive preparation such as fresh turkey, beef, chicken, cakes, casseroles, pizzas, and other similar meals as these foods are designed for families and not individuals. At only $200 a month (or about $5 per day), I cannot really buy them anyway or carry them home since I don’t have a car. I usually just go with frozen dinners and Ramen soup with water or some cheap cola for drinks. The photo attached to this article represents about $25 worth of food including sales discounts which will feed me about five to six days if properly rationed. Even with this, I still run out of food stamps by the middle of the month and often have to borrow up to $100 or more from friends.
I wish I made enough on my own that would need help from anyone. However, things could have been worse. If SNAP did not exist, or if New York did not offer it to single individuals, I may not be here today writing this article. With all the anti-SNAP talk these days, I have one thing to say to you. Unless you have been on SNAP yourself at some time in your life, you should have no say on it. People on it are not trying to fraud the system nor are they lazy. Sometimes, things get rough, and you find yourself needing the safety net known as SNAP.