You guys…seriously. I either need a writing retreat or to be able to hide in the attic or something.

I am doing my best to do a post a day, because I have all this stuff to talk about and my list of posts to write is growing but between only wanting to give you the best quality (I will not phone it in) and acting like a parent (oh! the drudgery!) I have the worst time getting posts written at a decent hour on weekdays!

Then weekends happen and I think SWEET BLISS I will finally get some work done.

Why do I think that? I have to know better by now! The kids are all home and that means my house sounds like it’s been invaded by a pack of howler monkeys in a cage full of heavy metal and cocaine. Which means I am most productive after 8:30pm on weeknights. Sure, my husband wants attention after the kids are in bed, that’s what video games are for. They give him the love that I deny him because I’m a blogger and it’s not a hobby it’s a business.

Actually, right now it’s just a half-built platform. Every post is another stick on the beaver dam of awesome I’m workin’ on.

Today I saw my favorite artist that I actually know post something on Facebook that was lamenting that people don’t think she does “real work” because she’s an artist and photographer and the pictures she paints and the photographs she takes aren’t dark and scary so obviously they were fun to take and, therefore, not real work. (I honestly have no backstory on who said this to her, so all that stuff about why they don’t think it’s real work is made up in my head. I am telling you, I have a great imagination. Especially for fake backstories.)

I thought about the people who think that my writing isn’t work or my parenting isn’t work or….

Worrying About Money Is Not Work

My husband has actually made the mistake of saying this one to me but I think a lot of people don’t give credit where credit is due. This one is for the people who are both on SNAP or not on SNAP but have to budget for food and are feeling strapped and stretched thin.

When you don’t have enough – or barely have enough – to get your basic needs met you spend a lot of time and energy thinking about it. I do not know any poor people that are puppies and rainbows about their situation. They’re either pessimists or realists. Even the ones who are really religious have an increased uptick in how many “trust in the lord” memes are shared, because they have to spend more time and energy reminding themselves to chill and have faith that their decisions will lead them to a good place.

When I get pushback on Facebook it’s usually from someone who literally has so much faith in their situation I pray it never changes because they wouldn’t know how to cope. They feel a very human, middle-class version of invincible. It’s odd to watch because you can almost picture the bubble they’re in. I don’t wish anything bad on them, because I don’t like to see people hurting. Also, I’m pretty sure enough people are wishing bad on them in their everyday lives they don’t need me piling it on.

Because the thing is, I get lots of messages from people who are poor and no one knows. I could easily keep it a secret if I wanted to. While our identities may be easily stolen by hackers out to have a good time or make some money, it is surprisingly easy to show the best side of a life in such a way that it seems better than it is.

For example, I could have called my 1958 thrift store kitchen table “vintage” and claim to have paid three times what I did. If you thought I could afford it, you would believe me, because it is vintage, it is in good condition, and I’ve seen them downtown going for $300+ dollars. (Crap. Now I’m wondering if I could sell it. I’m so in love with it though. See, now I’m going to waste precious time and energy wondering if I should get rid of my new favorite thing that brings my family together for a couple hundred bucks. This is stupid.)

Those rabbit holes your mind goes down? They waste precious time and energy. For me, that’s energy that I would probably be spending on building this blog. Thus, it’s detrimental to my bottom line monetarily as well as emotionally.

The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side

There is a little secret I want to share with you about my life. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. There is going to be a gap between where we are now and being “okay” and that gap is steep and dark and it has spikes and water on the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to look like it’s getting better and that won’t be fake at all. But then… well, we’ll get back to that. I want to get back to the secret of people who are having trouble affording food.

  • Most people on SNAP would love to make enough money to pay for their own food. 

  • Most people with a tight food budget think it would be amazing to have supplemental food income.

The problem is, both groups only add the extra into their equation. Not every single one. I don’t. You probably don’t. Lots of people do. They think, “If my situation was exactly how it is now AND I had another four hundred to spend on food every month I wouldn’t have to worry about making every penny stretch as much.”

At the very same time, SNAP recipients are thinking about having a job that pays enough they wouldn’t need to feed a family of five on a little over four hundred dollars a month. They feel that if they had a good job they would make enough to spend a normal, decent amount on groceries.

It’s like when you were a kid and you fantasized that you were on Supermarket Sweep getting everything you want and just chucking it in your cart willy-nilly from Nutella to Prime Rib. Or maybe you were the kid who fantasized about that five minute sweepstakes winner that would get to take a cart through Toys R Us for five minutes. (My husband was all, “I’d get GI Joe stuff.” I was like, “Whatever. I’d had a route mapped.” He was all, “My idea is better.” Then I hit him. Okay, I didn’t hit him. I just gave him side-eye and changed the subject.)

It’s also like when people wish they were someone else because of their beauty, money, power, or some other perceived benefit. It’s just easier to believe others have it easier than we do because we only feel our pain, our sorrow, and our defeats. We know what we have been through in this life and how we’ve had to pick ourselves up and crawl to a place where we are okay.

Where the phrase ignorance is bliss slides right past me because I’m not smart enough to get it. Yeah, I spend some time in fantasyland on my way to dreamtown where I’ve never known hunger or pain and never had anyone dump me or felt like a monster for breaking someone’s heart. I think we all spend a little time there now and then. If I am the only person, please don’t tell me, I think it might break me irreparably.

That Person Who is Angry at People on Food Stamps Buying Junk Food?

The typical person who is angry is not really thinking of a person buying junk food as a normal person. They are either someone “milking the system” or someone who “doesn’t know any better” as opposed to a normal person buying something crappy for their kids because if it wasn’t normal it wouldn’t be a billion dollar industry.

I know. That’s my whole take on it. Poor people want to be normal and have normal lives. They see commercials where little Jimmy comes home from hockey practice (sports are expensive, I had to pull my girls from all activities that were not free) and have a Hot Pocket. While I, personally, have enough of a marketing background this just makes me hate Hot Pockets, if you don’t have a marketing background or don’t know better and you know you can’t give your little Jimmy or Jane sports you can at least buy them the Hot Pockets and feel just a little less crappy about your life.

Sometimes I wish I could just give in to the marketing and buy my kids Hot Pockets and have them smile and say mmmm because their brains are firing off fat/salt neurotransmitters like the inside of the obelisk in 2001 all “My God…it’s full of stars!” (Only watch the YouTube clip if you’ve seen 2001/2010 or it will just creep you out. 2001 shows the stars but doesn’t have the words and 2010 has the words but doesn’t show the stars so I went with a clip of the words. It’s creepy but I love it.)

Down the Rabbit Hole

There are lots of articles addressing the topic of junk food and food stamps, mostly because there was a bill being bandied about where someone was going to make junk food not able to be purchased with food stamps. While it might be healthier, it’s also kind of dehumanizing. So now you can’t give Jimmy sports OR a friggin’ Hot Pocket. Seriously, is it any wonder poor people are depressed? They can’t have anything they’re being told makes them a good parent. Trust me, when you are on the tail end of having no money, “Love is enough” does NOT help you get to sleep at night no matter how many times you listen to Jeremy by Pearl Jam.

Don’t read any of the comments unless you have a strong stomach. I don’t know if they’re bad because I don’t read the comments on these types of posts because the hateful ones make me cry sometimes.

I tried to avoid any site that was heavily political. I think Bill Moyers is political but I can’t remember. I guess if it’s not overtly hateful and I picked it that might be me and my skewed perspective that then ends up being political anyway. I’m not sure. I can tell you if you are firmly against food stamps the odds are REALLY good you’ll find people who share your thoughts in the comments section.

What About You?

Do you have a story you would like to share about being poor? A childhood story? A current situation? I would be happy to publish it here for you under your name (with a link to your website or blog, of course) or under a pseudonym if you just have a story you want to get out there and share. Send an email to jenny(deletethispart) (yes even delete the parentheses so it’s just jennydecki) and I’ll be happy to schedule one for you.

You could also share a story about why you feel secure or insecure about money regardless of your socioeconomic status or paycheck. I’m open to all stories so we can kind of learn from one another and grow in understanding.


5 Comments on Angry At People on SNAP Buying Junk Food?

  1. This really resonated with me because, after a really good few years (as you know, I’m freelance) I experienced a downturn. It didn’t get as bad as it could have (thank God) but it was definitely a “there for the Grace of God…” moment… or month. Or several months, as the case may be. [sigh] Just picking up now but I am NOT going to be stupid about it this time.

    Another thing is, it’s tough NOT to want to splurge when you suddenly have money if you haven’t had it before. So I can see why people with lower incomes do something that could appear to be a bad decision when they get their tax refund or something. (You were smart with yours, I know from what you reported… but the temptation is great, and I don’t blame people at all.)

    The other point I wanted to bring up… worrying about money definitely does expend energy and make me less productive in other ways. It seems the more work i have coming in (to a point) the more I can DO, because I know the bills are paid. Budgeting, clipping coupons,negotiating to pay bills… all of that takes time and mental energy and seems to put me into a tailspin of depression where writing becomes harder. Not a good cycle to be in.

    On another note, one thing I’ve been doing to stretch my food budget is shopping every 10 days instead of once a week. (We do 2 mid-week runs for milk and, sometimes, fruit.) Then again, if my kids ate like normal human beings, that might not be possible. LOL And they are still young. But i did cut my food budget down to $100/week in order to pay down debt first.

    Finally… I wanted to say thank you because your recent string of posts have really opened my eyes to a lot of things and actually turned some of my beliefs about things like SNAP and welfare completely on their head. You’re conveying things very well. I’d love to see one of your posts picked up by Huff Post or somewhere else where it could reach a boatload of eyes and possibly even change more minds/make a difference. (Not saying you don’t have good traffic … but… Huff Post. LOL)

  2. I’m pretty liberal, and want to have social programs to benefit low-income people, but I’m becoming more conservative in my old age, and hate it when I see people taking advantage of “the system.” That being said, I don’t consider buying junk food with food stamps as taking advantage of the system. I have a problem with people under-reporting their income so that they will qualify for government programs that they should not qualify for. (Or underpay their taxes). That is truly disturbing to me!

    • I understand where you’re coming from. I don’t actually know anyone who was able to successfully underreport their income in order to qualify for benefits. If they did that wouldn’t it just hurt them at tax time because that unreported income would not get them the earned income credit (which is thousands of dollars)?

      I am not saying you are wrong, just trying to wrap my brain around what you are saying.

      Is there a certain type or group of people who are known for under reporting income? I’ll Google to learn more but wondered if you happened to have an example.

      I’m all about the learning. Thank you for your comment!!

  3. It’s actually fairly easy to “under-report” your income. There are a variety of accounting methods that allows this to happen. However, most don’t do it to qualify for government assistance; some do for healthcare reasons. It’s fairly difficult for someone getting a W2 to under report though. I do know of a few who work under-the-table, and report no income at all, and thus qualify for just about everything under the sun, from spousal support to SNAP.

    • I see where you are coming from. It still does not address my point that if you under-report to get benefits you will lose out on the earned income credit on your taxes which can be like, what, five grand in cash? The poor person is going to either get the money in benefits or in a tax return, so why does it matter?

      You make it sound like there’s some “Quickbooks for Poor Folk” that helps you with “accounting methods” for under-reporting. If someone has enough money coming in they are using shady accounting methods they aren’t poor and absolutely should not get benefits. But the people using their accounting departments to get more government money are mostly corporations, not individuals.

      The money many states spend to make sure a handful of people aren’t cheating the system costs everyone paying taxes (including my family) much more in government jobs, systems to track things, and more paperwork. The money is getting spent, I guess it just depends on where people prefer it get spent. Government jobs or some people gaming the system to get their $400 a month in free food. (I can understand how spousal support could be a much bigger number, but don’t know anyone personally so cannot speak to that at all.)

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