Sunday, February 15, 2009

Food Stamps or Middle Class

I came to a stunning realization the other day. I was reading an article on cnn.com about the example of two people on food stamps and the "worry" and apparent crisis of whether they would have enough food to make it through the month.

My realization: my husband and I spend less than one person gets on food stamps.

I was shocked and amazed. How is it possible that a single 50-something year old man can complain in front of a nation that he "only" gets about $250 a month on food stamps when my husband and I spend about $200-$225?

That budget isn't just for rice and beans. We eat cheaply, but we still have choices. We include alcohol and paper goods in that budget. We buy frozen chicken cutlets and bulk hamburger meat. We eat a lot of generic brands, but we can also buy fruits and vegetables if we choose to.

The family of four (nearly $500 a month) was "unable" to buy fruits and vegetables and the mother "went without" so her kids could eat what they wanted. I'm so sorry, but I wasn't able to afford Lunchables or other brand names as a kid, and I choose to purchase other things now as well. Since when did food become such a status symbol that kids can't just eat a sandwich and carrot sticks?

I also keep reminding myself that a bag of salad mix typically costs the same as a bag of chips - it just probably won't be finished in most households as quickly. So do you think people on food stamps "can't" buy fruits and vegetables or that they choose not to?

Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against food stamps. I worked in a low-income school and my students would work hard for the chance for pretzel sticks that I stocked for them. I'm just not buying the fact that $500 a month is not enough for a family to buy the basics. Food stamps aren't for luxury goods, they are there to buy the things that I buy every week for my husband and myself. Let's consider it a test for a middle class food budget.
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