Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Food Stamp Stigma

Is it me or does this article ("Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades"), while seemingly innocuous, seem rather anti-poor and anti-minority? Frequently, the statistics in the article related to blacks, Latinos, children and the poor, and then would quickly shift to statistics for whole sections of states, counties or sections of the country. But then to counter those claims, the article would offer an emotional tale of some family who used to be middle class and is now struggling and accepts the fact that food stamps are not for "lazy people" who don't want to work and who are up late at night shopping. Where's the true depiction of everyone receiving food stamp benefits?

I wonder if Mr. Dawson considered that those people who are up so late shopping are doing so because they are ashamed to have to be shopping with food stamps--not because they don't want to work and are up to no good. Did he ever consider that they work the 3 to 11 shift and prefer to shop when they get off from work? What does when someone shop have to do with anything?

While this article does make an attempt to express the true need of hard working individuals who have been beaten down by this current economy as well as explain how the perceptions about the food stamp program have shifted slightly, I still take issue with many of the sentiments expressed within. And as for Mr. Rector of the Heritage Foundation who thinks that food stamp programs should have work requirements just as strict as the cash assistance programs, I would ask him, "how are people supposed to fulfill those work requirements at this current time when unemployment is ridiculously high and the main reason that many people are even seeking food stamps right now is because they have lost their job or had their pay/hours greatly reduced?" While I agree that under regular economic times, no able-bodied person should be able to sit on their behind all day, do nothing, and collect food stamp assistance (unless they are disabled), it's a bit difficult to require people to adhere to strict work requirements at this current time! The actual unemployment rate is projected at being nearly 20% these days. Come on, people!

I truly wish people would see that there will always be people around who will attempt to take advantage of the system (like the lady with the $300K house and Benz getting food stamps); HOWEVER, most people WANT to work but can't find it right now and would rather struggle on their own than ask for a handout. Not everyone receiving government assistance is the stereotypical lazy bum we've been led to believe all these years.

It annoys me that this article only furthers the antiquated notion that food stamps are mainly for minorities, the poor, and lazy folks who don't want to work, and the idea that the people who do not fit into those categories will ONLY accept assistance when they are truly at their lowest. I'm tired of these lies be propagated. Let's be real: right now, we ALL need assistance in some form or fashion (insurance rates that don't continue to skyrocket for no real reason, cheaper gas rates, cheaper food rates, fair costs of living, politicians who listen to our needs and don't lie because it suits them, health ins. that don't deny babies because they weight too much or too little, etc.), so don't try to continue to sell me this dressed up fib. Underneath it all, for some people, folks who truly need the assistance will still be labeled as unworthy for whatever reason, and those who just need it for now will use it up and then as soon as they don't need it go back to complaining about the folks who do need it.

Food assistance programs are helpful and great in times of need. Don't crap on the needy and praise the half-needy while trying to semi-praise the positives of this program. Be real about it all!