Monday, August 29, 2011

Some Food (Stamps) for Thought

I have mentioned previously that I have become more actively involved with the community outreach programs that my church involves itself in. This being one of the reasons that I drive almost 20 miles to go to church. I have not been able to find another house of worship that I love as much as this one, so I just take the drive on Sunday's. To me it is worth it. The downside has been that I used that as an excuse for not being more involved in the projects. I have been determined to change that this year. Last week I went to government office that helps people with food stamp applications with one family. It was quite an experience.

Our church can only do so much to help with food to the people in need, because at the moment that need is so high. We have to find ways to stretch the food that we have available and to limit what we give out much more than we have in the past. Now, our church is not in the habit of telling people to apply for government programs; quite the opposite really. We try to help as many as we can with what we have available. For some families it is not enough and in order to get food for their kids they make the decision to apply for government aid. Another thing that we see quite often is that we have much greater need at the end of the month than at the beginning due to the fact that people who are receiving food stamps have simply run out of money before the month ends.

One of the things that makes me crazy is hyberole that isn't rooted in the facts. I see over and over again the accusations coming from the right that people who are on food benefits eat better than they do. This, for the most part, is a fallacy. The average amount that a single person recieves in this country is $98. That is $3.26 per day for food - another words $1.08 per meal. That doesn't even cover a can of soup. The average amount a family of four receives is $668 per month. That works out to $1.85 per meal per day. Most of us have been grocery shopping of late. You see for yourself how expensive food is becoming. A gallon of milk is almost $4 at my local Giant. A loaf of bread is about $3.

We have to deal with the fraud and the abuse that happens in the snap benefits programs across the country. We are spending millions that we should not be spending. But not everyone on this program is abusing it. Some really need it at the moment. Times are very tough for many around the country. They are barely scraping by. Some of these people don't realize that there are church programs out there to help them. Others can't get what they need simply through their churches and local charities that try and help as many as they can. During economic downturns the ability for the groups to collect the food and cash they need to help the needy diminishes.

One of the things that the conservative movement must do in this country is educate people on how conservative governments will actually benefit them in the long run. By making statements that these people eat like kings is not helping in that effort. At $1.85 per meal I hardly think they are eating filet mignon on a nightly basis. Chances are they are forgoing fresh vegetables altogether and eating lower amounts of protein then they should be.

The snap program should not be a way of life for people. It should only be a safety net for those needing a helping hand. Most people have needed a helping hand from time to time. We must cut the abuse out of the program so that money actually goes to the people who do need it while they are out of work or underemployed. We shouldn't be giving to college students so they have more money to party with.

I have said many times before language matters. When we talk about how people who are eating better than we do because of food stamps then we eat ourselves, we only make ourselves look silly. The numbers simply don't bear that out.

Household Size Maximum Food Stamp Allotment

1 $200

2 367

3 526

4 668

5 793

6 952

7 1,052

8 1,202

9 1,352

10 1,502

Each Additional Member +150

Household Size Maximum Net Monthly Income Limit

1 $903

2 1,215

3 1,526

4 1,838

5 2,150

6 2,461

7 2,773

8 3,085

9 3,397

10 3,709

Each Additional Member +312

These numbers are for people with no income at all. Since most people have some sort of income, these amounts will fall based on that income. If you receive social security, your benefits will fall. If you are collecting disability, your benefits will fall. If you are receiving aid from other organizations such as WIC your benefits will fall (and may disqualify you). You try feeding your family on $5 per day and see how it easy it is.

We need to find a way to help the people who need it without demonizing them because of the ones that abuse the system. So, if you have any food in pantry that has been sitting there for a month or so, bring it down to your local church or food bank. There is a family out there that will be able to use right away.

And no, I am not turning into a bleeding heart liberal, I just realize that the issue isn't as black and white as some make it sound.


LL said...

I don't know many conservative people who feel that there shouldn't be a safety net.

How much work are people asked to perform in order to receive those benefits? Are they picking up trash on the side of the road? Do they work in child care centers to care for underemployed people who are able to work?

If there is a quid pro quo, and a sunset on the 'net' most people fell more comfortable with these programs.

Deekaman said...

LL is spot-on here. It's not the program, it's the never-ending handout that gets most of us. It's not a hand-up for most recipients. Get them to work, teach them the value of work. In fact, I have no issue with a recipient getting paid for the work in addition to getting the food stamps. It only makes sense.

Just a conservative girl said...

Sadly, I have seen far too many demonizing all for the lot that abuses the system.

It just gets my goat when I hear people say they eat better than they do. It simply isn't the case.

We need to find a way to provide the safety net without making it a way of life. Something we have done somewhat poorly in this country.

A big pet peeve of mine is that we use too much rheotoric in this country instead of having the real debate.

I truly believe that conservatisim will win on the merits, so why do we muddy it up with generalizations? A question for the ages, I suppose.

But one issue with your work for benefits plan is that many (especially in today's economy) are already working, they just are not making enough to support themselves. I do think that people who are accustommed to getting benefits without working and are able to do so, should do at least a part time job that benefits the community for the benefits. It will give them a sense of purpose.

Estase said...

Great blog. I think that of all the boondoggles that government engages in from cash to clunkers to the war in Libya, the SNAP program is actually a very necessary expenditure.

hometown guy said...

And good for you for getting out there and helping people CG! The truest observations come from people on the "front lines."

Just a conservative girl said...

I have been involved in community service since my teens. I firmly believe in it. This was just the first time that I had been to the welfare office.

I never thought that they got a great deal of money. But I was surprised at how little some do get. In some cases it hardly seems worth it. I know a family of five that gets $215 per month. That is only really a weeks worth. She manages to make it stretch three weeks and I help out at the end of the month.

Richard (FL) said...

CG I understand your position. I have volunteered at our county food bank for almost a decade. The need in this day and age has outstretched the resources available. There are people entering the doors for the first time ever, ashamed to admit that they need help. Unfortunately, until the economy picks up and many get back to work, it appears the lines will only get longer.

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