FIRST PERSON | I am on SNAP, short for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what most call food stamps. Despite what the stereotypes held by some tell you, I am not a minority. I am not uneducated.
Let me start back at the beginning: It was 1990 and I was 25 and pregnant. I knew the father, but I would not marry him, so I chose to raise my daughter alone. I was uninsured at the time, although I did have a job, working at a small restaurant .I applied for Medicaid to cover my prenatal care. I also received food stamps. At the time, it was about $320 a month, and every month I would find a ride to the office to get my “books” of food stamps. This was rather humbling, and I told myself that, when I was able to, I would get off the program. I learned how to shop wisely to make the food stretch from one month to the next. That isn’t easy when you have a growing toddler.
Flash-forward to today: I am 48 and raising my son, a teenager with a never-ending appetite. My son’s father and I split up eight years ago, and I chose to keep sole custody. This meant unfortunately re-applying for food stamp benefits. My son also receives Supplemental Security Income of $ 516.00. Every time they raise his SSI, they cut down our SNAP amount. When the job market in Deland ,FL. went belly up, my daughter found her hours at the 5 Guys Burgers reduced to the bare minimum. At 21 she was on her own for the 1st time. I was able to add her to the case I had with my son. This helps her to at least eat while trying to find a second job. With myself and both kids my SNAP amount is $448.
We are traditional as far as food preparation goes. By this I mean we actually make real food; we don’t just throw a frozen entrée into the oven. So when I shop, I buy quite a bit of fresh foods that I can make meals with. I try to buy on sale, BOGOs, use coupons, in-store deals (e.g.: Winn-Dixie has a buy 10 for $10) even then I barely manage to make it through the month. I am also self-employed; I own a business cleaning residential windows. I make enough to pay my bills and the taxes on the business but there is never much extra, maybe $30 to $45.
I go to the produce stand for all my fresh vegetables, fruits, and the local meat market for the occasional deal on meat. I also go the local dollar store just for things like cheap snacks for my son. I usually buy milk, Kool-Aid drinks, and fruit juices at the big grocery store and I get eggs fresh from a friend with several chickens. I know if things get real low, I can go to local food pantries. Thankfully only 5 or 6 times this year.
The people who abuse the program do give the rest a bad name. Not all of us are lazy, take advantage of the system, or sell our stamps for booze or drugs. Don’t judge all by the misconduct of a few. I am feeding my family.