Taking the Food Stamp Challenge

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Have we mentioned that Chelsea is living off of the 21 dollar a week food stamp diet? She’s two weeks into it and says the free samples at Whole Foods help a lot. Here’s part of her shopping list from last week:

a bag of spinach ($1), 6 mangoes (.69 each), two jars of peanut butter (two for $4), two cans of tuna (three for a dollar), canola oil ($1.39 per pound), 24 bananas ($2.40), 16 oz. shredded mozzarella ($1.77) and a big splurge — 24 popsicles ($2). What a country!

Mary, in her Notes, June 12, 2007
Food Stamps

We Accept Food Stamps [Maulleigh / Flickr]

It’s not just our producer Chelsea who’s giving the $21 a week food stamp diet a shot. Lawmakers across the nation are taking the “food stamp challenge,” limiting their weekly food budget to the average amount that food stamp recipients get. That’s $1 a meal, if you’re keeping track. Activists and bloggers are taking part as well, and then there’s the significantly larger group of Americans who have no other choice.

The challenge is designed to call attention to the realities of hunger (or food insecurity, as it’s now known) among America’s poor. You’ve been nudging us to talk about these issues for a while: Allison with her farm bill pitch, and Kate McShane with her reaction to Chelsea’s endeavor. Is the food stamp challenge a winning strategy, or just a gimmick? Even if it is possible to eat on $21 a week, is it possible to eat well? And what’s your reaction to that number; is it ludicrous or luxurious?

Barbara Lee

U.S. Congresswoman, 9th Congressional District, California

Marion Nestle

Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies, New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Author, What to Eat

Author, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health

Miss Maggie

Blogger, Hillbilly Housewife

Extra Credit Reading

Lyndsey Layton, Lawmakers Find $21 a Week Doesn’t Buy a Lot of Groceries, The Washington Post, May 16, 2007: “‘All of us in Congress live pretty good lives,’ said McGovern, who ate a single banana for breakfast yesterday and was going through caffeine withdrawal by midday. ‘We don’t have to wake up worrying about the next meal. But there are a lot of Americans who do. I think it’s wrong.'”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Lee: Day Four, Congressional Food Stamp Challenge, June 8, 2007: “This is such an unhealthy diet. I am trying to eat the most healthy food I can afford, but I have no problem imagining how someone eating like this could quickly develop diabetes or high cholesterol. And with all these carbs, I can see how easy it would be to gain a fair amount of weight.”

Miss Maggie, Food Stamp Challenge, Maggie’s Musings, May 17, 2007: “I love anything that brings attention to hunger in America. It is my pet political issue, because to me it’s not political at all. It’s more basic than that. When children are hungry you feed them. Doesn’t matter where the children come from, hungry children should always be fed.”

kactus, Food Stamp Chronicles: Week 5, Super Babymama, May 27, 2007: “

So now I will be very carefully buying food for the week with cash. A trip to the pantry on Wednesday–which I always put off because the workers at this particular pantry are amazingly vicious–and a trip to the grocery store for essentials like veggies and potatoes, and we will make it to the end of the month. Saturday my food stamp card is renewed, and we start the whole process again.”

kat, Cook Awhile in my Shoes: Flirting With Food Stamps, Eating Liberally, May 17, 2007: “I’m glad politicians are volunteering to venture beyond the Land of Milk and Honey to get a firsthand look at the food deserts so many Americans never see, even if it’s only for a day or a week. Our awful agricultural policies have created a food chain that makes it possible, for the first time in history, for poor people to be both malnourished and obese.”

It’s bigger than the moment., Living Deliberately, May 18, 2007: “One thing I’m hearing and noticing is that the monthly amount for a family on the average food stamp rate totals what many American families have for their food budget without government assistance. There is an under current of sentiments like, ‘Well we do it without help and the government shouldn’t be feeding people,’ or ‘They only use the food stamps for the real food and they use their wad of cash for the junk.'”

Gina, Living on food stamps, G’s Place, May 17, 2007: “I think it is good that the Congressmen are experiencing what it’s like to not have enough food. But is adding more money to the food stamp budget the answer? In the short term, yes it may be. But let’s SOLVE the issue, let’s make jobs. Don’t let big factories in the US use illegal labor. Don’t reward big companies for sending jobs overseas to access even cheaper labor.”

natasha, Food Stamps: Not a Lifestyle Choice, Pacific Views, May 27, 2007: “Popular culture often demonizes the poor, calls them lazy, treats them like criminals. People so untrustworthy that they’re made to go through a half mile of paperwork for an extra $3 a day to spend on food. Nobody wants to put up with being treated that way, or living with that little, so if public attitudes towards the poor were at all rational, they wouldn’t include the sorts of tedious platitudes that can be cut through by a half minute thought exercise.”

Related Content

  • Greta

    Relevant comments to start you off, here on the Mary’s Notes thread.

  • rc21

    How many people starved to death in the USA last week? My guess is zero. This is a bogus issue.

    Congressman McGovern is misleading the public into thinking that people on food stamps are forced into only spending 21 dollars a week for food. This is totally false.

  • Potter

    Hello- great idea to do this- and thanks to Chelsea for her efforts. My impression is – and maybe I should phrase this as a question- that people who use food stamps have some income and it just helps out. The question would be do we know how many or what percentage of people use these stamps as their sole means to buy food?

    People feel ashamed having to use the stamp. A person in my family used them a number of years ago during a difficult period and felt this way. As well there was available certain foods for free- like honey, cheese and powdered milk- government surplus foods. Here is one link to this program.

    Out here in Central MA. we have a wonderful group called Rachel’s Table that we have supported gladly for years. They go around collecting food that people don’t want (from restaurants and caterers for example) and distribute it to the hungry.

    I’ll say it again: Jim McGovern is as good a congressman as we have ever had– and he is calling attention to this issue. ( He was one of the few that DID NOT vote for this disasterous wasteful tragic Iraq war by the way).

    Thanks for this program.

  • Bob Peel


  • hurley

    rc21 writes: How many people starved to death in the USA last week? My guess is zero. This is a bogus issue.

    “Bogus issue”? Your “guess” “is zero”? Surely you’d want to back up such a stark claim with a fact, no? But then you couldn’t, there being the small problem of proving a negative, nevermind the rest. Leaving aside the “mere” matter of everyday hunger and malnutrition, how many people need to starve to death, in your view, to elevate this apparently sentimental fatuity — hunger in America — into an issue worthy of concern?

    I hope I’ve misunderstood you here. Please clarify if so.

  • rc21

    I hear the argument from my liberal friends all the time. People in America are starving to death. I say B.S. People are not starving. And noone is trying to live off of 21 dollars a week in food stamps. McGovern is misleading the public and he knows it, and my guess is so do you.

    If you are mentally and or physically handicapped I feel the govt should help you. Welfare, food stamps, ssi, disability, what ever. People who cant take care of themselves should be helped. For all others there is a funny concept called a job.

    Millions of people are crossing our borders every year and finding work. They earn enough money to feed,clothe,and house themselves. Many can’t even speak english.

    The country does an excellent job of providing opportunities for all.

    Tell me what exactly is McGoverns point? What is he trying to prove?

  • Tim Sackton

    I hope you will spend some time discussing a point raised by one of the bloggers (kat from eating liberally) in the extra credit reading links: the problem of hunger in this country is not simply one of people starving, but is intricately tied to malnutrition and obesity. As Michael Pollan points out, cheap corn has created a situation where the cheapest calories in a supermarket are the worst for you, and this means that if your food budget is short, it makes more sense to buy junk food than healthy food, since you get more calories per dollar. I don’t know what the solution here is — it seems far too heavy handed to force people to buy produce with their food stamps, even if it was tied to an increase in the amount of food stamps people get. Maybe there is some way to reform our system of subsidies so that more nutritious food represents the cheapest source of calories, but that isn’t going to be easy since it would require taking on Cargill and other big agribusiness. In any case, I think the problem of hunger is not just one of people unable to get enough food (which, of course, is a real problem for many people), but one of the economics of food making eating a healthy, nutritious diet far more difficult than it should be.

  • enhabit

    should one declare this to be a “bogus issue” because of a “guess”?

  • Sutter

    RC21, what’s your evidence?

  • Perhaps we should do a show about the lifestyle of the illegal (or even, legal) immigrant work force. Migrant workers, in particular, since they are directly related to our food economy. Minimum wage jobs don’t support anybody. So, people live in squalor, crammed into apartments 10 to a room. I’ve seen it. Then there are those that work 2, 3, 4 jobs at low wages and still don’t have enough to cover rent, food, insurance, etc. The vast majority of the poor are not lazy. That is a myth that I thought we debunked a long time ago. Upward mobility is also a myth. I’ll look for the references, but studies were done several years ago to show that only 1st generation immigrants see a change in social status – mostly because they aren’t in any social class when they arrive. Everyone else, with very few exceptions, stay right where they are. Poverty is not a matter of “getting a job.” The Horatio Alger plan isn’t real. Upward mobility is like the lottery.

    I might sound like a broken record here, but the problem with food costs is two-fold: 1) our nation’s mission for the Department of Food and Agriculture – to ensure the cheapest food possible. (No qualifiers for nutritional value here.) and, 2) our unwillingness to pay a real living wage for the labor it takes to create the products we consume.

    As mentioned above, $21 does not buy a week’s worth of groceries, So. we know people are using other funds to fill their stomachs. When those funds are so scarce, you seek cheap calories. This is why we have the odd situation of having a population of people in poverty who are obese. I think this is an historic first. Hunger is coming in the form of diseases from ill nutrition – diabetes, heart conditions, etc. rather than death by starvation. We seem to be more willing to pay the medical bills than the food bills….

  • zeke

    When I worked in an inner city school district in the 1990s teachers would bring food to their classrooms on standardized testing days. It wasn’t to celebrate.

    One of the saddest sights I could see on a daily basis would be little kids walking to school while eating their breakfast–a bag of potato chips.

    Lastly, kids wouldn’t claim the free lunches for which they qualified because of the perceived stigma. The district convinced the Dept of Agriculture that if they offered free lunch to ALL the students in high poverty schools, they would actually SAVE money on the reduced paperwork etc.

    I agree that eating for a week on 21 dollars isn’t the real issue. But I think it is a wonderful way to shine a light on hunger and poor nutrition in this land of plenty.

  • Potter

    well said allison.

  • Potter

    and Zeke.

  • Thanks, potter.

    Here’s the link for some studies on upward mobility in the US.


    Maybe we should just do a show on that.

  • rc21

    Sutter, my evidence of what. If you are refering to McGovern, his 21 dollars a week formula has already been debunked. It is closer to 36 dollars a week. Secondly, food stamps are used as supplements for people who are already on other govt social programs.

    McGovern is trying to mislead the public into believing that the govt is forcing the poor to feed themselves on 21 dollars a week. This is a bold faced lie.

  • Even if it is possible to eat on $21 a week, is it possible to eat well?

    I’ve done it. It is. It’s a mindset thing, really. If you think of it as a trial to get through it’s no fun. If you just take it as ‘that’s life’ it’s a great deal easier.

  • I am one of the extra credit readings. I used to be poor enough for food stamps…sometimes. I knew all the tricks…when the grocery stores marked down meats, where to get marked down produce, etc. I also used dates to supplement my children’s diet (alfredo is great heated up).

    Fruit? you gotta be kidding (unless it was marked down). I saw a comment about free lunch….my kids qualified but refused to eat the food because it was awful (pb&j every day instead!)

    How about making jobs so people don’t qualify for food stamps? I am lucky…I went to college as a single mom and was able to climb out of poverty once I got my degree. That is getting harder to do. The low-wage jobs are increasingly being filled by illegal immigrants. You know, “doing the jobs Americans don’t want to do”. Maybe not middle class Americans, but poor Americans have always looked for stable, full-time work. Get people to work, and this problem will go away.

  • Potter

    Eggs are a great value.

  • spydervik

    In Vermont there is a farmers market program that gives food stamp vouchers for local farmers markets so people can get fresh produce.

  • rc21

    I just had scrambled eggs for supper. Cost about 35 cents

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  • Potter

    RC21-About what McGovern is trying to do…call attention to hunger and poverty… no lie. This “stunt” caused this program for instance.

    The grandmother of cookbooks on combining foods to make complete proteins is Frances Moore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet”- lightyears ahead of it’s time ( the 1970’s I believe). There is a sequel “Recipes for a Small Planet”. The recipes are delicious, inherently cheap and nutritious. Once you understand the combinations and the way to think about what you eat- you are set.

    This book is a cheap paperback- cheaper if you find it in a used bookstore. It’s not your new sexy veggy book with glossy pix.

  • katemcshane

    It was nice to listen to a show with guests who were all women, and really nice, down-to-earth women, at that. This issue is very painful and their warmth and common sense made it easier to think about it. When I first came onto the thread and saw the comment about how it’s a bogus issue with the implication that anyone who works can afford to eat decently, I felt overwhelmed. I felt so upset, poisoned really, that I had to reassure myself that I would feel better after I listened to the discussion — and I did.

    Thank you, Allison, for pointing out that people are not paid a “real living wage.” When I first had the misfortune of working a retail job 10 years ago, we were paid so little that many of my coworkers lived on Ramen noodles. I, myself, for over a year, lived on a bag of pretzels and a soda each day, and some of my coworkers lived on pretzels and coffee. Several of them slept in closets and pantries, because they shared apartments with so many people. And all of them went to good schools and couldn’t find a better job. The big advancement for the ones who had to pay school loans was a secretarial job at $21-22,000 a year. In the late 1970’s, I made that salary and hadn’t even finished my B.A. And it wasn’t enough money THEN!!!! In 1997 was when I looked at the way the culture had changed since Reagan and Bush and at the effects of the backlash, and I was blown away to see the sum total of the insidious changes in our lives.

    Recently I saw an interview with one of the Harvard students who was fasting to call attention to the salaries of security guards at Harvard, who are outsourced and were making several dollars an hour less than other Harvard employees. (An old issue already, since they received an increase) She said that the guards weren’t making a living wage, which she stated was $14.50 – 17.50/hour. I had to laugh to myself, because I was still thinking of $10/hour as a living wage — when Harvard did their first living wage campaign, I had been working in a bookstore in Harvard Square for less than $10/hour, even though I had been employed there for 7 years. When I finally made $10/hour at a different store, I thought I had arrived. And here I find out that I need $14.50/hour, at least. Not to mention that so many of us are now making even less this year, thanks to Mitt Romney’s requirement that we pay for health insurance.

    When I listened to the discussion tonight, I thought of how many poor people are not able to cook the decent cheap vegetables Maggie mentioned, because they live in rooms where they cannot cook, or they are able to microwave, only, (and I’m one of those people who believes that microwaving food kills the nutrition). I’ve known many people who had to work three jobs to pay rent in this area and feed their families, and, still, their kids often went to bed without eating dinner, because around here, you can’t raise a family on three jobs.

    I wish I could say something intelligent about this issue, the way Allison and other people did, but it’s too upsetting. I’m feel too angry about the way poor people in this country have always been fucked over, and how we’re all supposed to accept the fact that nothing will be done because no matter which administration is in power, they’re always a bunch of narcissistic, corrupt bullies.

    Chelsea — I hope you’ll be able to go back to eating normally soon.

  • rc21

    Potter, the book sounds great I will look into it. As someone who is very fitness oriented and who basically eats on about 40-45 dollars a week it may have valuable information.

  • Potter

    RC21- if you read the reviews on Amazon- you will see some like the recipes and some don’t. That’s not the point. The point is to learn how to combine foods, then you can revise and experiment.

    Where does the time come form to select and cook the right foods with a very tight budget if a person is to hold a ( minimum wage) job? If a person is hungry or not eating well, they cannnot work well either it would seem.

    When I was in college I had no money for lunch so in the cafeteria I took the free hot water and used the free cream to make a delicious drink which I combined with the free package of saltines that were provided for those who could afford soup. I use the ketchup- I think to make tomato soup with the hot water.

  • Sutter

    Can’t wait to listen — Marion Nestle is a friend of my uncle’s. I hope she rocked.

  • rc21

    Try oatmeal not instant but real mix it with cinnamon,and raisons. It tastes great is very nutritious, and incredibly cheap. I eat this several times a week. You can change it up by adding different dried fruits or flavorings.

    Another cheap yet very nutritious food is sardines,also kippers,smoked mussels /oysters and other canned fish.

  • zeke

    An email I received tonight just as the show was ending:

    Dear Friends and Neighbors, June 2007

    Summer is here at last! Quite exciting! However, when school is out for summer, many children don’t receive subsidized school meals, creating an increased need for food supplies at the food pantries. As a result, we (the Rogers Street Association of Portsmouth and the Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle) are collecting food to help stock the pantry at the Salvation Army in Portsmouth.

  • rc21

    Ok I checked the CDC stats and other sights that give mortality stats. I could not find anything in regards to Americans dying of starvation.The numbers are either so small or nonexistent that they don’t register.

    I did find a story about some vegan parents who starved thir children and apparently Karen Carpenter of weve only just begun fame starved to death. I’m not sure if she was receiving food stamps at the time of her death. If she was than maybe she was in line for an increase.

  • joel

    It is so tiresome to listen to people whine about how hard it is to eat cheaply. Food is the least expensive item on anyone’s budget in this country.

    The most expensive whole wheat flour in an expensive cost-of-living area in Massachusetts is a dollar a pound and would be a lot cheaper in bulk from other than yuppie-serving organic food stores. That is a lot better than $1.50 a lb. (at least) for non-nourishing white bread at the supermarket. It takes 7 minutes of labor to make a great loaf of bread every day with a breadmaking machine of which, in recent years, I have found at least 5 such machines in good working order at the Swap Shop at the town dump. I use one every other day, at least, just for myself and have one for a backup for when the one I’m using goes down (it has been going strong for years.) I have given several away to friends.

    Throw a dollop of peanut butter in the bread dough and one has essentially one’s full protein needs plus the recommended omega 3 oils. Throw in some oatmeal, flax seed, sunflower seeds, raisins, etc. for variety and it becomes even more nutritious.

    One can buy a 50 lb. bag of dog kibbles which, in a bowl with milk, is about a complete diet except for vitamin C for a carnivor like a human and it is a far more tasty breadfast food than the sickeningly sweet junk food marketed as breakfast food such as corn flake type stuff, cheerios, shredded grains, rice krispies, etc., all sprayed with sugar or honey sprays or some such during manufacture… a great start toward diabetes. Dog kibbles will keep your teeth a lot healthier and strong, as they can be chewed as well, than “breakfast cereals.” 50 lbs. is sufficient per person for longer than a month (without refrigeration), requiring nothing else, probably costing less than $20.

    Food co-ops are always looking for more people to subscribe so they can bargain for better prices. At prices of $15 per month I get 3 to 4 different frozen meats, a lb. or so apiece (one only needs about 1/4 lb. per day… so I get half a month’s meat) plus a 5 lb. bag of potatoes, plus a 3 lb. bag of carrots plus a 3 lb. bag of onions plus about 4 apples, pears, bananas, and/or oranges and often more, plus such seasonal treats as cumquoits (sp?), pineapple or melons, corn on the cob, etc. plus the occassional bag of rice, etc., plus the occassional bag of greens or salad or a box of frozen green beans. This plus the less-than-a-dollar loaf of whole wheat bread every other day is half a month of food for less than $30.

    By this time of year greens are growing ready to eat everywhere. Plantain is growing even in the cracks in city sidewalks and alongside the curb and every vacant lot. Lambs quarter is usually easily found. Pokeweed (toxic until cooked) is plentiful. Grape leaves, raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves are abundant for picking and cooking. Dandelion leaves have be available for months already. Stawberries are ripe now. Raspberries will be ripe in a few weeks, blackberries a few weeks later and the same for blueberries and shad berries, and grapes will be ready in the fall… all wild and all free. Rhubard has been ready for some weeks now.

    Much of the above can be grown, even in the city, in discarded 5 gallon buckets, crocks and pots, old garbage cans, etc. on one’s doorsteps, decks, in the yard with no spading or tilling, etc. Just fill with composted scraps of plants. Enough tomatoes can be grown to be easily canned for a year’s supply of spagetti sauces, stewed tomatoes, tomato juice, etc., etc. And everyone knows that just one squash plant will provide so many squashes (some of which will store well into the winter) that you will be tired of them by the end of August.

    $21 per week obviously allows one’s budget to include all kinds of expensive treats and other unnecessaries such as pints and quarts of ice cream, processed ingredients of puddings and other deserts. I consider $80 per month per person for food to be extravagant in the extreme. I consider food stamps to be too expensive for the trip (in transit costs and time) to collect and their use to be irresponsible.


  • joel

    For the “breadfast” in line 3 in paragraph 4, please read “breakfast.” Thanks.

  • jskdn

    What is the source of the $21 a week figure? The “Fact Sheet on Resources, Income, and Benefits” at http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsp/applicant_recipients/fs_Res_Ben_Elig.htm

    has this chart:

    People in Household

    Maximum Monthly Allotment

















    Each additional person


  • I totally agree with rc21. Oatmeal is the the best good cheap food. pinch o salt, maybe a little maple syrup with any kind of dried fruit.

    When I see my money running out I buy a dozen eggs and some peanut butter so I’ll have some protien. I always keep oats and brown rice – its homely but good food. Ironically it the freash fruits and veggies that are the spendy items.

    I heard a chef on a food show create a menu for the food stamp budget. My thought about that was… well, he had all day to cook. The mom who comes home from a long day of low wage labor isn’t going to spend 5 hours cooking. I can totally understand why she’d just throw some macaroni in a pan.

  • herbert browne

    So, Joel… have you got a favorite kibbles? The bread is a good idea… and if you go find one of those grain grinders (that the children of dead hippies have sent off to the Goodwill) for a couple of bucks, you don’t need flour at all- because you make it yourself. It’ll have more good stuff in it, too, because milled grain loses about 30% of its volatile oil vitamins in the first few hours after it’s ground up. You can get sacks of organic wheat for about what you quoted for kibbles (which I doubt you can find at the price you quoted- and which I wouldn’t eat, except in an emergency, anyway, because of the processing done to the meat & fat scraps & the preservatives). Oats are also pretty cheap. Poor people are pretty resourceful scrounges, generally… and I like lamb’s quarters, sorrel, dandelions (but I like the little flower balls, before they emerge, a lot better than the leaves), nettles (better than spinach), miner’s lettuce, a little oxalis, rhubarb, (but you better be careful about too many sour greens & rhubarb, because of the oxalic acid content… ever deal with gout, &/or kidney stones?), & more. Your “1 squash plant” will probably be zucchini, if you’re sick of it by August- but summer squash doesn’t keep all winter, like hubbards, pumpkins, etc do… and they’re not ripe until Fall. Better get 2 buckets for squash.

    Really, though, we’re not addressing the “food stamp alternative” if we talk about scrounging, because there isn’t enough to go around; but there are lots of entrepeneurial ways to get food. You can look in the classifieds for free cats & dogs, hit grocery & restaurant dumpsters, run an urban trapline (for rats, waterfowl, etc), go fishing… lots of ways to spend your time getting enough to eat.

    If you want to buy your food, though, and rent (or “discover”) a place to cook, and provide the other amenities that are considered requirements to gainful employment, that will really cut into your scrounging time. So, it’s a trade-off, for sure. Even making compost takes awhile… and requires space, containers, & organizational skills. Urban homesteading can be fun & rewarding- especially if your city has a “pea patch” program in which you can participate. (&, yes… I’m still dissecting roadkill… few meals are better than possum stew.)

    chow ^..^

  • wellintune

    I am a working artist, so my income has always been either feast or famine.

    During the worst economic times, I have gone to the Food Stamps office in our city and enrolled. I have discovered several ways to keep the quality of my diet high in spite of the small budget food stamps allots. Here are some of the things I do:

    shop at the Grocery Outlet.

    get a lot of bulk whole grains and beans at a health food store or an Trader Joes.

    grow a subsistence garden and/or carefully shop at farmers markets

    eat primarily vegetarian – use tofu instead of meat

    don’t buy packaged foods – fresh and bulk are cheaper in the long run

  • enhabit

    i managed to live on rotini with butter, dried parsley, parmesean and frozen broccoli for dinnner and yogurt and orange juice…for months.

    we would augment this by occasionally nursing a draft beer ($1.50) at a free buffalo wings happy hour.

    weirdly..i was in incredible shape after that winter.

  • Potter

    Scrounging is great if you know what to eat and the season is right. What about the other half of the year?

    Woof! Woof! Regarding chewing dog biscuits I wonder how those who cannot afford food can afford to keep their teeth in shape.

    To RC21- we are not talking about people starving to death- we are talking about very hungry people, the price of food, the preoccupation or time spent trying to to figure out how to survive.. This was pointed out several times already.

    I have hot cereal every morning-oatmeal today-with walnuts and organic agave nectar on top. I got the agave nectar – a bargain- at Ocean State Job Lot.

    Yoghurt is a great food. It’s fun to make too.

    I learned the basics from my mother- she learned it from her family- her aunt wrote “health food” cookbooks. My mother passed on to me Adele Davis’ book “Let’s Cook it Right” a classic of her day. I went on to Beatrice Trum Hunter’s “The Natural Foods Cookbook”. Those were from the early days of the re-awakening in the late 60’s and 70’s. Today there are so many wonderful books – Deborah Madison ( “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”) was mentioned on the show. These books are inspiring.

    Some people were taught and are interested – they know how to eat and what to eat- some don’t. Those who don’t, need help- need to be awakened. Why? – because it affects us all as a society. We can tell each other how much we know here but that does not help the uninformed. There is a real problem when you see so many kids and their parents so overweight. Being overweight is more normal and socially acceptable than ever. People either just don’t know how to eat to take care of their bodies or do not see the connection with what they eat and illness. And this ties into the pharma problem ( for every symptom there is a drug). Health insurance plans refuse ( foolishly) to cover preventative care which would have to include continuing dietary education ( which should begin in the schools).

  • Tim Sackton

    Scrounging, gardening, etc, while great if you know what to do, are incredibly time consuming. Add to that the time it takes to cook the various bulk bean and grain staples that would have to supplement a diet of veggies, greens, and fruits, and you are talking about a significant portion of each day spend gathering and preparing food. This is almost certainly not realistic for someone who is already working two jobs just to pay the rent.

    Of course it is possible to eat healthily on $21 a day, especially if supplemented by a garden and/or foraged food. But it isn’t quick or simple, and so often it must seem easier just to by the cheap corn calories.

  • rc21

    Potter, Yes I know you are not talking about people starving to death. It is the politicians who are using these scare tactics. I’m just pointing out that McGovern and his ilk are distorting reality. Actually the poor are suffering more from obeisity than they are from hunger.

    As eating yofurt youare correct. Great food I like the nonfat type.

    Peggy sue. Your right fruits can be expensive. If you buy things that are inseason the prices are usually cheaper. Bannanas are always fairly cheap(great source for potasium). Also I have found buying frozen bags of berries is fairly inexpensive. They are great on yogurt and other bland tasting foods.

    Another thing people don’t seem to eat much of that is inexpensive is vegetables frozen and fresh, and beans or rice. Fairly cheap and good for you.

    People in general eat like crap regardless of income. But that is a different topic.

    Tin Sacton. I work 2 sometimes 3 jobs a day. I find time to cook these things. It really is not as difficult as you seem to think. We are not talking about building the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • rahbuhbuh

    none of this relates to the food stamp diet specificly, but alternatives and supplements to it:

    herbert browne: hit grocery & restaurant dumpsters

    friends did this for a while. their main opponets were not the cops potentially arresting them for trespassing, but the shops sabotaging the bags full of bagels and food. they would intentionally pour coffee over everything or throw hunks of meat into the bag (knowing the dumpster divers were primarily vegan) to discourage scavenging. the stores had more qualms with feeding people for free than wasting good (and often still very fresh) food. retirement homes often do the same thing, throwing food away rather than driving it across town to the neighborhood food kitchen.

    an alternative to wasting food, which is fraught with drama: http://www.replate.org/

    good intentions with poor application.

  • hurley

    Enjoyed the show and the thread very much, but should ROS ever sponsor a community dinner, maybe best not to base the menu on the recipes presented here, joel’s kibbles and milk, Potter’s crackers and cream, herbertbrowne’s no doubt delicious road-kill stew, etc. Then again…

    None of my hard-luck stories more counter-intuitive than that of the long periods spent as a child eating little but lobster (father a fisherman at the time), praying like a cargo-cultist for a nice can of SPAM and the occassional care package from a Boston aunt full of mouldy Ring-Dings and candy…We really couldn’t afford anything else, Even now lobster — which I haven’t eaten since — has a certain desperate overtone, and not just for the lobster.

    rc21: Thanks for the clarification. I can’t argue the merits of McGovern’s program, not knowing much about it, but your comment struck a chord I didn’t think you meant to strike.

  • I would like to get the chowhound’s take on all this. What would Jim Leff do?

  • Potter

    “McGovern and his ilk”…

    scare tactics?

    RC21- Then what do you call this? :

    USDA drops “hungry” from Annual Report

    “‘sugar coat a national shame”?

    Here is McGovern’s final entry on his blog that states clearly what he and “his ilk” are trying to do:

    McGovern’s final blog entry at the end of his foodstamp diet

    Tell me he is a nefarious liar.

  • plnelson

    I hear the argument from my liberal friends all the time. People in America are starving to death.

    Since you “hear it all the time” you must be able to cite some examples.

    Anyway, as other have pointed out, the real problem is a poor (in every sense of the word) diet that leads to illness and fatigue. There are basic problems that go beyond mere lack of money –

    1. Most Americans (not just the poor) are clueless about basic nutrition. They either no nothing, or worse – they know something they read on some website or in some fad diet book that’s based on bogus science.

    2. Many poor people don’t have access to good food even if they have the money. NPR reported recently that many poor neighborhoods don’t even HAVE what most of us would recognize as a supermarket. They have small, very expensive “convenience stores” that sell mostly highly processed junk food.

    My wife and I are affluent but we probably eat cheaper than most people because we do almost all our own cooking using lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and fish, and we try to buy our grains, dried legumes, etc, in bulk whenever possible. Just try finding that stuff in an inner city neighborhood. We also have a big garden.

    Also, our refrigerator has a large capacity freezer so we can cook in bulk and freeze it.

    This is another example of something I pointed out in the mortgage meltdown thread – – the great irony is that if you are affluent you can live cheaper!

  • plnelson

    They either no nothing

    Although I like the phrase “no nothing” (no, nothing for me please, just the check …) what I meant to say was “know nothing”.

  • rc21

    Potter there is no national shame. People eat and people eat well. Do you know there are at least 13 other federal programs that exist to feed the poor. Almost everyone that gets food stamps is also eligible and recieving benifets from these other programs.

    Dems like McGovern are basically doing what they do best, scaring people into believing that they need to become wards of the democratic party. They coerce them into thinking only they can help them and without their vote they will starve.

    As I said there is no real hunger problem in the USA. There is a problem with people having terrible diets. This is a different issue.

    We both know, and so does McGovern that almost no one in this country has a food budjet of 21 dollars. As I also said McGoverns figure has been shown to be incorrect the real figure is closer to 36 dollars a week. Putting that aside. McGovern also knows that food stamps are only a supplement to other Govt programs that people are eligible for and use. Unfortunately the person who produced this show did not do his or her homework because they are also helping to mislead the public with this “Feeding once self on 21 dollars a week charade”

    So Yes McGovern is a liar.

  • hurley

    rc21: You’re all over many maps here, note least the moral one, Yes some people eat, and yes some peope eat well, but nothing in your diktats corresponds to the plight of people who don’t on either score. You write: “As I said there is no real hunger problem in the USA.” Tell that to someone who is hungry. And what might a “real hunger problem” in your view be? More to the point, why the hard heart? Who stole your lunch money? Surely not the unforunates who have to live on a food budget of $21 a month? I resist your implications in a friendly fashion, not quite believing you mean them, again wishing you might clarify them.

  • rc21, I think you need a wake up call in regard to hunger. A few weeks service at a place such as Fair Foods in Boston might give you a little eye opener. Ironically, we have obesity among our impoverished. They lack education, access and the funds to healthier foods. While their bodies have fat, they lack in vital nutrition. They don’t die of ‘starvation’ per se, they acquire debilitation illnesses which guarantee they will never rise our of poverty. They suffer terribly. They suffer physically and then they suffer the indignities of people like you why treat them with disdain and disrespect. The ongoing stress, anxiety and disenfranchisement that comes from being impoverished cannot be overcome without the help of others.

    Liberals have been disparagingly labeled “bleeding hearts”. Aren’t our hearts supposed to pump blood? I’d rather have a bleeding heart that heart made of stone.

  • rc21

    To Hurley, and allison. If you go back and read some of my other posts you will see I am in favor of helping people who are either phisically or mentally unable to support themselves. I think we could even do more in some repects. I’ve always been in favor of aid to the disabled. Where I take issue with this whole subject is here

    The 21 dollar a week figure is eroneous, as I’ve stated.

    Food stamps are a supplement not the method the poor have to buy food. There are at least 13 other govt food programs in place. Most poor people qualify and use many of these.

    Yes I know it sounds cruel but the hunger problem in the US has been over stated by the left in an effort to gain votes. Keep the people in need and you gain their vote. Only the Dems will help you.

    Are there pockets of people who go hungry yes. Are there programs in place to help them yes.

    What do you think people did before the food stamp program? Do you know we had a food stamp program at one time and it was done away with mainly due to the massive amount of fraud and corruption. In the ensuing years there was no uptick in starvation. Yet liberal politicians insisted on bringing it back. Why? Votes.

    These programs and the ones like ithem only serve to keep the poor right where the dems want them, down and out and depending on them for scraps.

    Here is a little story in Puerto Rico factories were in danger of shutting down because people did not want to work,even though unemployment was 20% . Yet with 60% of the population getting food stamps and recieving other govt hand outs it made more sense for the people to stay home and live off the govt.

    I don’t think we are helping anyone by letting them live a life that allows them to live off the govt when they could be out earning a living by actually working for there food.

    Sorry I guess thats just me.

  • Potter

    RC21- if you wanted to get my goat you have it.

  • rc21

    I’d rather talk about good cheap meals.

  • I’ve eaten roast goat. It’s a bit tough. Some people say its “goaty” but I thought it was OK.

    RC21: It is quite possible to work hard for a living in America and still be very very poor. I suggest you read Nickled & Dimed by Barbara Erenriech.

  • sorry, should be: Barbara Ehrenreich.

  • herbert browne

    OK, now I’ve heard about “at least 13” government food programs there to help the poor (ostensibly); and I’ve participated in at least 3: food stamps, WIC, and reduced-price lunch programs at public schools. There was a pre-food stamp program, which provided USDA commodities where I lived in my mis-spent youth (it was known as “Kennedy food”). I liked that one, because you never knew for sure what you’d get; and because it was distributed at the county fairgrounds, where all the admittedly poor folks & their young families (& a few “grands” & solitary oldsters) gathered for a little social time, together. We all understood that the food being distributed had been purchased by our government to keep commodity prices up above a certain point, so that farmers wouldn’t “crash” because of overproduction. The USDA still does this- and the food ends up at schools & institutions. If it weren’t for the subsidies in the Farm Bill, there wouldn’t be a solvent wheat farmer in all of Montana. Turning cheap petroleum into food calories has been the “agricultural miracle” of the last century. Anyway, when the food stamp program became an option, we “po’ folk” (& I’m talking about rural poor, who picked berries & mushrooms & poached deer, and probably had a garden) talked it over. Many of us liked the commodities program- not least for the great social hit- because it made sense, given the way the farm support programs were being run. Who liked the food stamps? Grocers!.. and middlemen, and a few farmers, too- because they all made money from it. When you couldn’t buy “imports”, at first, who hollered the loudest? Chiquita! Maxwell House! Lipton! Hershey! In the “early days” there were also some nutritional caveats- like “are we gonna let these things be used for sodas? chips?” etc

    Don’t anyone fool themselves that food stamps, WIC & the rest are there because of a “Poor People’s Lobby”- because they’re not. They are there because the “independent land-holding” class- once primarily farmers, but more & more, corporations, these days- are considered a key to economic life in this country… and so they must be supported, so that all the rest- banks, manufacturers, processors, distributors, etc etc that depend on their output- may also flourish. If the government must buy the surpluses to donate to people in other countries, fine. If the government has to pay them NOT to grow something, fine. If the government has to pay them to plant something for wildlife, and let it stand in the fields, fine. If the government has to buy up entire dairy herds (with the dairy owner promising to stay out of the business for at least 5 years), fine… whatever it takes. So we’ve been moved by “social food policy” from gathering together to receive canned powdered eggs, and condensed milk, and flour, & oatmeal, and bulgur, and (sometimes) cheese & butter, and canned “mystery meat,” and other staples (canned fruits & vegetables, maybe), to becoming “Consumers”- and making the choices of what & whom to support- despite the fact of the ongoing “surplus” program (& the jobs that it provided), and the lack of any nutritional education to go with our new “power”.

    The caveats are still there, though, to salve the wounds to our hard-working Puritan-work-ethic-inspired, penny-wise & pound-foolish countrymen. WIC will let you buy Welches white concord grape juice, but not some hi-falutin’ organic stuff (did anyone tell them about the inherent bioflavonoid advantage to the red fruits & vegies?.. about carotene & pink grapefruit, etc? hell, no…). Ditto milk- eg you can get the stuff from the “traditional” dairy that’s using rBST on their “traditional” herd- but not Organic Valley (or, heaven forbid, “raw milk”!)… and it has NOTHING to do with the nutrition enhancements for Women, Infants & Children- and EVERYthing to do with “Market share”. Ok… enuff outa me (because I can rail with the worst of ’em- and no walls have come tumbling down, as yet…) chow ^..^

  • Ah, You just reminded me that when I worked at a day care – an emotionally rewarding but miserably low paying job – we did have the fringe benefit of taking home as much government cheese as we wanted. It was pretty good cheddar cheese. I mostly lived on Quesadias. Tasty and quick but it was way too easy to put on weight with cheese as my primary protien source.

  • herbert browne

    Heh… just think how “bad” it might have been if you’d had these wonderful, sprouted-grain organic tortillas that are around today… w/ a little diced garlic… YUM! ^..^

  • Those that took the food stamp challenge cheated. They went to Taco Bell and White Castle Hambuger. You can not use food stamps to get “HOT” food like fast food. So this challegene was not like living on food stamps. Sorry so you had to live on $21 try living on $21 and buying your food at only the grocery store.

  • plnelson

    “We all understood that the food being distributed had been purchased by our government to keep commodity prices up above a certain point, so that farmers wouldn’t “crash” because of overproduction. The USDA still does this- and the food ends up at schools & institutions. If it weren’t for the subsidies in the Farm Bill, there wouldn’t be a solvent wheat farmer in all of Montana.”

    Could someone please explain WHY this is the case?

    Why do farmers INSIST on producing more food than there’s a rational market for, or insist on being paid to NOT produce food? If there’s a town with 10 plumbers and only enough business to keep 6 of them employed, you don’t pay the other 4 just to sit around. You assume that the four least competitive ones will seek other work.

    These farm subsidies are costing taxpayers a fortune and grossly distorting the markets. If we got rid of them some wheat farmers would go out of business UNTIL the supply of wheat declined enough to drive up wheat prices to where the remaining farmers could make a buck at farming. The current situation is irrational.

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  • herbert browne

    Re “These farm subsidies are costing taxpayers a fortune and grossly distorting the markets. If we got rid of them some wheat farmers would go out of business UNTIL the supply of wheat declined enough to drive up wheat prices to where the remaining farmers could make a buck at farming. The current situation is irrational..”-

    Well, it’s only a Small fortune… and it’s perfectly rational. The “multiplier” effect of all the jobs and general hubbub produced by agricultural output is absolutely grand- especially when compared to something like, say, the Defense budget (which converts a host of precious resources, at a cost of half a trillion or so, per year, into useless artifacts in order to produce FEAR, mostly). Think about the alchemy of farming- ie “something from Nothing”- and remember that the “something” is the first and foremost of the “3 necessities”- food, shelter & clothing. It’s the only one that one can’t live without. If the U.S. didn’t subsidize farmers, then we would be alone among the developed world in Not doing so- because every country realizes the importance of food production. If we got to the point of economic “tough love” for Montana wheat growers, the Canadians & the Aussies would see to it that the marketplace remained well-supplied. As we all should know, there will be more & more consumers for the foreseeable future… so the importance of farm production- especially with the “bio-fuels” market opening up- is assured. The ways that we’re encouraged (or “driven”) to go about it, however, leaves much to be desired- socially, emotionally, & economically… ^..^

  • Why should our government give food money to poor people when they cannot afford to pay for maintaining our military. As one of the worlds wealthies nations we have no excuse for this treatment of our more unfortunatel citizens. I do not believe in a large welfare government, but many honest and hard working families fall on hard times. Anyone who has purchased groceries in Europe (where food and fuel is not subsidized as much) would not complain about the prices we pay in the States.

  • heather21230

    I have to address some comments I found quite appalling from member “rc21.” First… you said something about people on foodstamps are on other government-funded programs? Where’d you hear that? Sorry to burst your IGNORANCE “bubble,” but that is not always the case! Believe it or not, there are MANY MORE people out there on foodstamps who WORK, and simply cannot afford to pay for groceries… in addition to all of the other, many bills they pay! Secondly… you talk about people “just getting jobs?!” Why don’t YOU put yourself in poverty, living life as a single parent, with no help from anyone other than YOURSELF… then, MAYBE, you’d be “entitled” to judge a bit! NOT!!! I can only say, that… most of what you say if obviously born out of complete ignorance of other people and the way we all live. We are NOT all the same. We have different backgrounds, different values, different upbringings and so on. Being on foodstamps or any other government-subsidized program does NOT make anyone “less of a person,” as you presume. Believe it or NOT… many people on foodstamps, and other government programs, are actually intelligent, college-educated, functioning people in society who just happened to have fallen on bad times! Educate yourself on these matters, please, before you go out assuming everyone/everyone’s situation is the same/should be treated as such!!! This is how IGNORANCE is bred and I, for one, would not want anyone with ideas such as yours coming within 1,000 feet of me/or my family!!!!!

  • rc21

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Could you please point out where I said being on food stamps makes someone any less of a person.

    I’ve been poor. I work 2 sometimes 3 jobs. That is how I support my family. Please you know nothing about me.

    I’m entitled to judge just like everyone else. Who gave you the right to decide who may and may not comment about this issue.

    I am educated bout this subject certainly as educated as you.

    Why are you afraid to discuss ideas with people who do not agree with you. You seem a bit close minded.

    I certainly would not want myself or my family to be around someone who is so intolerant of others. Have a nice day.

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  • plnelson

    Well, it’s only a Small fortune

    The 2002 Farm Bill (that authorized the current subsidy prgram) was $180 billion. That’s a Big fortune in my book.

    Think about the alchemy of farming- ie “something from Nothing”- and remember that the “something” is the first and foremost of the “3 necessities”- food, shelter & clothing. It’s the only one that one can’t live without.

    . . . which is precisely why you don’t need a subsidy. Food IS a necessity so the demand guaratees that someone will grow it.

    If the U.S. didn’t subsidize farmers, then we would be alone among the developed world in Not doing so- because every country realizes the importance of food production.

    That’s not why they do it. These issues come up for debate regularly in many countries. If you look at recent debates over farm subsidies in Japan and France, you see that the real reason they’re hard to defeat politically is sentimental. Most nations – France and Japan being good examples – identify with their rural past. Th small family farmer embodies the virtues of honesty, goodness and self-reliance that they romatically connect to.

    I FULLY UNDERSTAND THIS – I wrote a blog entry on the moral virtues of cow manure recently – http://peterography.setupmyblog.com/?p=7

    But the reality is much of the money goes to corporate farms, not small family farmers, and the very idea of accepting government mony (to grow or not to grow) flies in the face of the very virtues that we claim to admire about farmers.

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  • Dick King

    Yes, $21/week is the average food stamp benefit, but the reason the average does not equal the significantly larger allotment from this table is that almost all food stamp recipients have incomes high enough that the formulae assume the person will spend some money from other sources to supplement their food budget. There are food stamp recipients that are only getting $25 per month, but these people are suffering a lot less than the ones who are receiving the average $21/week or the maximum $35/week because their incomes are higher.

    I find the food stamp challenge to be disengenuous for that reason alone. The people who promulgate it are in a position to understand the fact that nobody is expected to feed themselves on $21, and they don’t recalibrate it to match the lowest amount with which anyone is expected to feed themselves, or even explain this issue.


  • KentuckyMom

    I am married.

    I have 5 kids.

    My husband works 40 plus hrs a week(at the same job for 12 yrs now).

    I work 40 hrs a week.

    We still get food stamps and have a hard time making ends meet.

    How much food stamps do you think we get?

    About $89 to $149 per month to feed a family of 7.

    Lazy? Don’t work?

    Frankly we did better when I didn’t work and we got around 240 a month on food stamps. We ate better(I only used food stamps…didn’t buy extra, but made everything myself).

    We had fewer bills.

    However when the kids got older we wanted them to see both parents working and doing everything we could to take care of ourselves and them.

    Better paying jobs would certainly help. But in eastern KY there isn’t many of those to go around.

    So before some of you try to get rid of the food stamp program try walking a month or two in our shoes.

    Working more then full time, take care of your children, spend time with your children(not your buddies at the bar complaining how lazy we food stamp people are) Try washing your families clothes out by hand because you would rather buy your kids food then pay a repairman to fix the washing machine. Go without air conditioning in KY summer heat because…..you guessed it, you choose to buy your kids good food instead of paying a repairman. Cook the food yourself.

    Only go out with your husband/wife once a year because most of the extra money is going where?(yep food). Oh and you can not go out for steak because that is to expensive. Be married for 20 plus years. Don’t ever go out for drinks. Don’t ever take illegal drugs. Be true to each other for the whole 20 plus years.

    Don’t go to the doctor because you can’t afford it.(I haven’t in 12 yrs).

    Do all this and then maybe you can complain and whine about how lazy and stupid food stamp people are!

    This is NOT directed at anyone here except those that think they know all about people who happen to have to use food stamps.

    Hoping at least for us, the stigma of food stamps will be leaving us.

    I have a new job that will more then likely knock us out of food stamps.

    However for a family of 7 we are still gonna be far below what most people take for granted. Being able to buy the food they need when they need it(not the extras). Between us we will still only make under 2500 a month. Plus we will more then likely not have food stamps or free lunch or medicaid.(the kids have/had medicaid…not us)

    We still think its better to be working.

    It could be worse.

    We could be one of those lazy welfare people!


    Or maybe a better word would be the working poor.

    Which isn’t gonna change with this new job….not really.

    So those of you that are judging. Please don’t unless you walk in our shoes and not in yours alone.


  • rc21

    Kentuckymom. I enjoyed your story. Am I supposed to feel bad for you? Listen This is a free country and you have plenty of options. Let me address a few of your points.

    First you say that there are not alot of high paying jobs where you live. MOVE. Relocate to an area of the country where the job market is better,people do this all the time.

    Second. What is the education level of you and your husband? In all the years that you have been togeather working low wage jobs did you ever give consideration to going back to school and upgrading your skills or training so that you could make more money?

    Third and this one really pisses me off 5 kids. Do you not understand that children are costly. When I was young and had my first child I loved it but we quickly realized how expensive raising a child was. We had originally planned on having a big family, Our circumstances were not unlike yours I was making 6 dollars an hour working construction my wife was making slightly less as a secretary. (This was 1984 In Mass a very expensive state) We understood right away a large family was just something we could never afford. We had one more kid and then went to work at bettering our circumstances through increased job training and cotinuing our education. (many long hard days and nights. Many sacrifices) In this way we never had to go on food stamps, welfare,medicade or any other type of government hand out program. In so doing I missed out on the big family,but at least I wasn’t making other working Americans help pay for my family.

    You made the choice to have 5 children. Now you want me to help you feed them. Is it ok if me and my wife decide to continue our family and I send you the food bill?

    Your story is pretty much what I see wrong in this country. people no longer want to take any kind of responsibility for their decisions. They feel that there should be some sort of govt program to help them. Why is it people feel they are entitled to all these programs? Why do they get so upset when someone advocates for personal responsibility over govt handouts?

    I applaud the fact that you both work and have stayed togeather for 20 years. I’m sure you are a fine family who tries there best. It’s a tough world that I will grant you. I’m sorry if I sound so harsh but as I said we all are free to make decisions and with these decisions come consequences,and responsibilities.

    You are correct it could be worse. You could live in a country where there is no chance to better yourself. Instead you live in a country where oppertunities for success are everywhere. People risk death just for the chance to be part of the American economic system.

    So yes you have my sympathies and understanding. I just don’t want you to have my hard earned money. I would rather spend my money on my family. Is that so hard for you to understand?

  • So those of you that are judging. Please don’t unless you walk in our shoes and not in yours alone.

    A pox on that. I’ve been poor – I’ve washed my clothes in the bathtub and all the rest of that crap you mention. I won’t go there and mention that woe is me laundry list – it’s boring and tedious and no one cares.

    You don’t have to be fat to tell an obese person how to diet and exercise. You don’t have to be poor to have an opinion on poverty.

    You improvise and adapt. You move to where the jobs are. You get an education. You get ambitious. You try like hell to make things better for yourself. No promises that you’ll make it but you do have the opportunity here to elevate your social class and position.

  • KentuckyMom

    We stay here because it’s a very good place, a very safe place to raise children.

    Yes a bigger city would have better paying jobs, but it would also have higher crime and higher prices on housing.

    We own our own home.

    It also cost a lot to move anywhere.(we’ve moved five times over the years)

    Now here is something I’m sure will make some even more upset then they already are…we had six kids but our oldest died 4 yrs ago. He would be 26 now(from my first marriage).

    We have one car. I walk a LOT. I’m not obese.

    I would rather companies choose to locate in smaller communities and thus bring better paying jobs to Americans(at least American companies) but they don’t , they choose to move these companies overseas so they don’t have to pay higher wages…but that is their choice.

    I just got a new job making more then I ever had. This job has the possibility of upward movement.

    The job my husband has has health care insurance, profit sharing(12 years worth), life insurance etc.. He has pre-existing health problems so just droping this job would be foolish.

    I’m sorry if having a large family makes some people angry but we felt it was important.

    I have a question for those who are against things like medicaid or some sort of national health care.

    If its ok for us all to pay taxes for public schools, roads, bridges, police, firemen….things we all pay into and all reap the benifit of, then why would it be wrong to have something like national health care?

    Ok that was off track.

    Washing clothes in the bathtub. Boy was that a trip! Done it several times over the years. Found that its easier to wring the water out of the clothes if you have one of those wringer things on your mop pail(just make sure its clean!).

    When our dryer was busted found out that that a clothes line indoors(winter time) with a fan blowing on it works real well.

    I have two years of college. I was going to transfer to a four year school after my first two years at a local junior college but I got pregnant with twins and was put on bed rest. We had been trying for over 2 years to get pregnant. Didnt happen.

    So we thought I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant….wrong!

    It couldn’t have happened at the worst possible time. My husband had just been hurt in an on the job accident and had to have surgery. He also had to go on workmens comp. The doctor wanted him to not work for 4 months. But he went back to work after two. He worked Three different part time jobs(about 60+ hrs a week) when he went back to work(could no longer do the job he had been doing due to his injury). I couldn’t go right back to work..I had an emergancy c-section with the twins. They are now 18 and have both graduated.

    Both have plans of college and one of them plans to go into the Air Force in about six months to a year.

    My younger ones, 12, 14 and 15 are all good kids. NONE of my kids have ever been in trouble at school or with the law.

    My youngest daughter at the age of 13(last summer) spent all summer with me at my former job(Infant-room teacher at a daycare) as a volunteer. this was her choice. My former boss said she had more work ethic then most of their employees.

    She has also put in her applications at many places in town but no one wants to hire a 14 year old.

    Can you tell I’m proud of my children?

    I could go on and on….but that would be boring and tedious.

    We havent always had government help but when times got hard yes we did have help.

    I don’t believe the help should go on and on and on without end but it should be there for times when people need help getting on their feet. Yes I believe there should be limits.

    My husband and I also pay our hard earned taxes into the system.

    We own our own home…well we are paying on it.

    We own our own car free and clear.

    We eat little meat, we go out rarely.

    We spend at least one day or night a week with the kids doings something together as a family…….

    My point in all of this rambling?

    I guess I don’t understand the anger people have towards people who are trying to elevate income and become better able to take care of themselves?

    Why not direct that at those who work the system so they dont have to work?

    Why not direct that at those who have drinking problems and because of that can get on SS or SSI?

    I have know of women who have had 5 or 6 kids by 5 or 6 different men, married non of them, dont work, not in school trying to better themselves, those men not paying any child support because she can get away with saying she dont know who the fathers are. Her rent was payed for, she got over 350 a month in foodstamps. She got free medical for herself and her kids(because my husband 13 years ago, after moving here in the first place for a promised job that didnt happen, took any job he could get, he and I couldnt get medical because he was working). She was not required to work, or go to school.

    She left her kids all the time, she partied all the time…how do I know this? I lived next door to her.

    We moved to the other side of town to a better area so the our kids would have a safer place to be.

    Yes we’ve made lots of mistakes, but have always worked(husband). When the kids were little I stayed home and cooked everything from scratch. I made most of the girls dresses. I read to them all the time. I went on long hikes with them. I went to ALL of their parent teacher conferences. I helped them all with their homework. When our oldest, who was blind, was still alive I had to read lots of his textbooks out loud to him because every time we did move(five times in our first 8 years of marriage…for better jobs for my husband) the new schools didnt have those textbooks right there waiting for him….so I had to improvise and adapt. There were many times I have to hand enlarge math pages for him to see to do himself. I have even home schooled him when the local schools we were in were horrible for him and would not comply with federal laws for the handicapped.

    Then we got to Eastern Kentucky and decided no more moving around. We wanted to give the kids a good place they could grow up in that was safe. That had good people to grow up around. We saw how it was for my son(5 when we married) to move around so much and how if effected his relationships with others and didnt want that for the others.

    So….like I said before, before anyone judges all foodstamp people and put them all into one lump….please, please try to see all sides first.

    It really is hard to have a opinion based on fact when you havent been there yourself.

    You may not have to be fat to tell an obese person that they should diet and exercise…but how to?….better leave that to their doctor. They could have an underlying health condition you nothing about.

    You may not have to be poor to have an opinion on poverty but can you really understand it without having been there?

    I’m not going to change anyones mind on this.

    Those who think no one should ever get help are those who more then likely never had to have help(temp help, not life long).

    I wouldnt wish that on anyone.

    For those of you that are angry with us would it make you feel any better to know that my husband and I are considering becoming foster parents so we can help not only children but to give back to a system that helped us out when we needed it?

    Because of my new job hopefully we will no longer be able to get food stamps!

    This is wonderful! Right?

    This has been our goal for a long time….it’s just taken us longer then we thought and has taken us down a different road then we thought.

    I wanted to be a teacher/or infant caregiver, but my new job is in a hospital.

    I wish I could express my self better(or shorter! LOL).

    I wish we could live in a world where just working hard would make everything alright…but we dont and because we dont we together have to figure out all these

    complicated problems together.

    Oh here is another oh woe is me for you….

    both my husband and I were raised in alcoholic homes.

    We both choose not to drink at all.

    We both wanted better for our children.

    I am sick and tired though of those who dont try at all to better themselves.

    But what is the solution?

    Should we go back to the days when people did starve to death in this country?

    Should we go back to the days before child labor laws went into effect and children worked in the mills and the mines and the like?

    I dont have the answers. I dont think there are any that will fit all situations.

    Maybe instead of a federal foodstamp program it could be more local. With more local control.

    Because the needs of those who need help may be different for someone who lives in say rural Montana then say someone who lives in Detroit. If there was more local control then maybe those people could get the kind of help that would help them get on their feet faster.

    I just dont think there are going to be any easy answers.

    Thanks for listening/reading



  • Greta

    KentuckyMom, many thanks for sharing your story. And thanks to everyone on this thread for keeping things within the commenting guidelines — as ever, when there’s such a fundamental disagreement about economics, social programs, and the role of government, tempers are going to flare.

    Conventional wisdom right now says that the culture of anonymity on the web torpedoes fruitful disagreement. On our best days, this community proves that wrong.

  • lotek0000

    Let’s continue to bring awareness to this issue. I have begun journaling our experience as we participate in this important challenge:


  • 1st/14th

    Here’s an idea, get a job and pay for your food the same way I do.

  • KentuckyMom

    “# 1st/14th Says:

    June 26th, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Here’s an idea, get a job and pay for your food the same way I do.”


    I do have a job. 40 plus hrs a week. Took a higher paying job over a job that I loved.

    My husband does have a job(as always had a job). He’s been at the same job for 12 years. It has health benefits and a retirement plan. He has pre-existing health conditions which would make dumping his current job just dumb.

    Like I said judging others is just well………just not right unless you have been there yourself.

    I would not wish what I have been through on anyone just so they could understand, just so they could walk in another’s shoe’s.



  • alabama_mama

    RC21…if you are not forced into using food stamps to survive then you have no idea how little the goverment gives for a person to survive on. The fact that no one starved last month in the Us (your words) is not the issue. We are a family of four. My husband became disabled on the job, and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I was forced to leave my job to take care of him because at this stage in his recovery he requires full time care. We have two small children in the home that were here before his injury, and going on fod stamps to keep them fed was our only option. Our current monthly allotment is $340.00 a month, so you do the math and tell me what that averages out to per person for a week. A bout 20 bucks. SO yes people are actually having to survive on that. The issue isnt that it is not enough to survive on, people can survive for onths on bread and water, the issue is that it isnt enough to survive good on. My children have went for a week without a single peice of fruit or vegetables. They are so expensive that to make sure they have them we have to sacrifice other things they like, like cookies. now you tellme that is fair, or better yet, try it yourself before you judge. I doubt you could do it.

  • Our current monthly allotment is $340.00 a month, so you do the math and tell me what that averages out to per person for a week. A bout 20 bucks

    $19.83 per week, assuming a four-person family and a thirty day month.

    If you’re going to say ‘do the math’ it helps if you do the math as well.

  • alabama_mama

    brian, if you’ll notice, i said “about”…

  • brian, if you’ll notice, i said “about”…

    Sure. I’m used to the phrase ‘do the math’ being followed by hard numbers. Probably just the company I keep.

  • KentuckyMom

    rc 21

    “For all others there is a funny concept called a job.”

    Most on food stamps do work. We do. 40+ hrs a week.



    relocating cost a lot of money if you have a family.

    Where is this money going to come from.

    relocating to a larger city would not be good for the kids.

    Besides we have moved 5 times across country for better jobs.

    It didnt work and because with every change we lost our friends and people who knew us the job possibilities went down.

    We’ve learned that sometimes staying put and developing your contacts within the community you stand a better chance of landing a better job.

    This works in small towns.


    “upgrading your skills or training”

    This also cost money and time…..where is this money going to come from?

    with working 40 plus hrs a week there would have to be some extra time to go to the training.

    We are older and we do need to sleep at least 5 to 6 hrs a night(we don’t always get this)

    Need time to do the cooking from scratch.

    Need time to wash the clothes out by hand.

    Need time to WALK to my job from my husbands job and then back(only one car)

    Need time to spend time with the kids, even though they are all above 12 yrs old now they still need and want time with us(strange huh?, teens that want to spend time with their parents!)

    My husband is disabled.

    He has ADHD and diabetes

    His ADHD is really bad enough he could more then likely get disability but he does not want to. He wants to work.

    The job he has now does not pay a lot not with the health insur. that comes right out of it and the life insurance.

    But it does have health and life and a retirement plan.

    Also with his ADHD he had a horrible problem keeping jobs in the first half of our marriage.

    However because of the nature of this job he as been able to stay on task for 12 yrs and keep this job..

    Oh yeah, he also had to herniated disk in his neck about 19 years ago and had to have surgery on them.

    He can not do heavy lifting.

    And me?

    Well I have ADD but not any where as bad and others.

    I did try nursing school when I was just out of high school and couldn’t make it.

    I got a B average on all of my classes but at the time I was so shy I could not talk to my fellow students let alone the patients. I had no self confidence at all. So I was dropped from the program.

    Since then besides raising the kids(my first from my first marriage was handicapped(died 4 yrs ago) and after the age of 6 my ex did not pay any child support at all!) I’ve worked at low wage jobs.

    Before I had all of the other 5 kids I did get a 2 yrs degree with the intent of going to a 4 yr school in Utah(elementary special ed) but got pregnant with twins.

    This was a shock because we had tried for over 2 yrs to get pregnant.

    I had every complication you could think of while pregnant and was put on bed rest. They tried to come 10 weeks early but with bed rest we gave them another 5 weeks. While they were born 5 weeks early by emergency c-section they were healthy enough to come home when only 4 days old. (4lbs 6oz and 5lbs 6oz).

    I never got back to college after that.

    I know you don’t agree with us having had five kids together but it is a very deeply held religious belief that I really don’t want to get into a debate over because it would only cause hurt feelings.

    Once the kids got older and could watch the younger ones I was back in the work force…but once again for low paying jobs.

    I did try to get my CDA(child development associate) but the daycare I was working at closed before I could finish. I could have worked at another daycare but the pay around here for it is under $6 an hr.

    So when I was offered a job at our local hospital making $8 an hr full time I took it. Been on this job for about 4 weeks now.

    With this job there is the option of moving on to other jobs(higher paying) within the hospital when openings become available.

    This is a house keeping job.

    I still want my CDA and run a daycare out of my home but that is not in the picture right now as we need the money.

    rc21 can you see that no everyone on food stamps is lazy and haven’t thought things out? Can you see that most work? Most have an education?

    Most are not on it for a living but for survival?

    Most are trying to get off.

    Thanks for listening


  • rc21

    alabama mama,

    I guess you like responding to people without even reading or comprehending what they have written.

    Go back and read my posts. I believe I stated at least twice that people who are mentally or physically handicapped should be helped by the govt. In my june 14 5;28 post. I even state the govt could probably do more for the disabled.

    By the way are you trying to tell me the govt gives you and your family only 320 a month. My guess is you are recieving much more in aid from the govt.

    Has your husband applied for disability? Can you get on welfare? Do you recieve any subsidized housing? You also may be eligible for sec 8 assistance. Have you looked into WIC. Do your kids recieve any aid from the govt?

    Ther are many govt programs out there that you can take advantage of.

  • rc21

    Kentucky mom, wev’e gone over this, People have moved from the begining of time in order to better their situation. You seem to make poor choices in your your attempts to relocate. Is that my fault?

    You say relocating to a bigger city would not be good for your children. So instead of going where the jobs are you would rather have me help pay for you to stay in an area that is nice for your kids to grow up in but not condusive to better employment. No problem let me get out my check book. I’d hate to see your kids have to move to a different town.

    Job training and upgrading education. Once again you seem intent on blaming others for your lack of education and job skills. This is no ones fault but your own. School is free up until grade 12. College is pretty cheap when you use the JC and state school route. There are also all types of trade schools for young men and women. If you did not follow this path when you finished high school it is your fault. There is also the service. This is how I was able to get some of my education. It is free. It seems you had a great chance of doing something with your nursing program but you were dropped. This is your fault not mine or the tax payer.

    Yes your having 5 kids knowing you could not properly take care of them is a big issue. It speaks to personal responsibility. and accepting consequences for ones actions.

    As I said earlier I think your a good person who is doing their best to raise a family, I’m not totally against you recieving govt aid seeing as to how there seems to be some health issues.

    But go back and reread your posts. You seem to have a reason for all the things that have put you in the situation you are now in. With the exception of you and your husbands health issues,All came about through your actions.

    You seem to have fallen prey to the liberal socialist brainwashing of the Democratic party.

    Go out and do whatever you like. If things don’t work out don’t worry the govt will take care of you.Personal responsibility does not matter. We will provide welfare, housing, free education, free medical, food stamps, WIC, Head start, etc etc. The list is never ending. Just make sure you vote DEM come November.

    The problem is none of these programs and entitlements are really free. They are paid for by the tax payer. People like me who try and act responsible and make decisions based on what they can afford and what they can’t. I call it common sense.

    Sorry to sound so harsh but this sense of entitlement that people seem to have come to expect drives me crazy some times. It would be one thing if this was Cuba or some other country where oppertunities are limited, but in the US If you want to make it you can. I understand you have some health issues but honestly go back in time do you think you always made the right choices when you were younger and even more recently. I know I didn’t and have had to live with the consequences,

    Good luck I hope things get better for you and your family.

  • whatamess

    I agree with RC21 100%. I would love to have more than one child, unfortunately, I have only one because that is what I can afford to support ON MY OWN. In our situation my husband has another child from a previous relationship he pays support for. No problem, I agree 100%. Problem is, the mother (same as kentucky mom here) seems to think it’s ok to continue to have children (she now has 2 more), and then go after my husband for more money because she doesn’t have enough for her first daughter. Well, go figure. Yes, my husband and I chose to have a child together, but it was based on what was left after he supported his daughter…and we never took away from her, or attempted to lower CS based on a new child. On the other hand, she, receives public assistance and gets all kinds of credits, etc…and expects us to support both her daughter and HER lifestyle with her other two children.

    I support my son 100%. My son has autism, and even though it is difficult for us, I cannot justify getting SSI and not selling my house in order to give him the best of what he deserves. I also throughout my son’s diagnosis have found out that I am on that same autism/adhd area…(my son has both), yet I have had a job for 18+ years! Do I love my job? No! I don’t! But as a responsible adult, I know that what I like, what I can deal with and what I need to do in life, are very separate things…therefore, I stay…It is very hard to focus…Sometimes it takes me an entire day to “do nothing” because my mind wonders, but I think of my son and soon realize that whether I like it or not, I have to do it for him. Period.

    We moved out of our comfortable area, where my parents were, my sisters/brothers, etc…just so that my husband could get a better paying job and bring us out of the whole his ex-wife put us under…we did and sacrificed because that’s what parents do. It is hard for us. We have nobody to take care of our son, therefore, we are with him 24/7, no adult time to think of…period. And now with his diagnosis, it’s even more difficult…but we do what we have to do. That’s what parents do. With that said, we understand that care for our son might be better where we used to live and therefore, we might have to go from a nice house to a one/two bedroom apartment because my husband’s ex-wife ruined his credit…is that our fault, no. Is it our son’s fault, no. But it SURE ISN’T the TAXPAYER’s fault! Therefore, we do what we have to do…and if it means we go to an apartment, that after working full time for over 18 years, making over 65K a year, just so that I can ensure a better future for our son, then that’s what we do.

    By the way, it never ceases to amaze me when people complain about not having money to eat, want the tax-payers to pay their way…but have a computer and internet service…lovely…just lovely. Before you speak, I have it because my job pays for it, as it is required for my job…it’s not a luxury I chose to have.

  • herbert browne

    I am reminded of some “words to live by”- from the Bible- something like “O Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner”… I got food stamps for my family & me for about 10 years (& welfare for a month of that time)… and WIC, too, for a few years… rented, all that time… never had work that lasted beyond a season, other than “self employment” (cutting wood to sell, fishing, harvesting mushrooms, selling produce from the garden- stuff like that). We lived with as little dependence on cash as possible. I “paid rent” by working for the owners of the properties we inhabited (reroofing one place, and digging a drainfield for the septic system that had never been “completely installed”… and pulling noxious weeds at another place- a farm- weeds that could kill cows & horses that grazed on them). We had no health insurance- and figured the best way to stay healthy was to learn about it. Our last four kids were born at home- no doc, no midwife- and that “saved” a little money. We made our own flour, our own bread, our own beer & wine, canned up several hundred quarts a season, dined on roadkill and fresh fish, crabs, mussels, berries, goat’s milk, eggs, apples & pears from old abandoned homesteads, grocery store dumpsters, wherever there was food. We “bought” Special stuff- frozen juices, nut butter, raisins, dairy products (cheese, yogurt, butter, etc), bananas & “foreign” fruits & vegetables, brown rice, condiments (tamari, etc), ovaltine, and the like, with our food stamps. Oh, yes- we got free inoculations, via WIC & “well baby” clinics, of the measles/mumps/pertussis variety… and eventually the polio vaccines, too- all on the government dole, bless ’em! The most money I made in a single year from 1969 to 1982 was well within 4 digits… and my wife worked as mom and homemaker all that time- for us- (although she sold some crocheted hats & socks, through consignment, sometimes). So, it was a one-paycheck family, when there were checks.

    It’s true that there’s so much opportunity, and so much wealth in this country that it’s hard not to accumulate stuff of value. Look in any of the myriad dumpsters around… simply overflowing with value & abundance! But the idea of “bettering” oneself, class-wise, by the “make more money, own more stuff, commune with successful people” route is, in my humble opinion, highly over-rated. (How much do you want to know about someone’s golf game, and wine preferences?) The poor, especially those who manage to achieve what the former president of Haiti sought for his countrymen, ie “Poverty with Dignity”, are more interesting, more likely to wax philosophical, and more grounded than the majority of those who are “well-off”… and quite likely more honest, as well (you know, that Dylan line about “to live outside the law you must be honest” is based on a shrewd observation).

    There were no “vacations” in those years (unless activities like sitting by a beach fire while you extracted sea salt, and roasted mussels & potatoes counts as “vacation”)… and not a lot of unnecessary travel, either. (I realized, upon flying to a conference in SF in 1999 that it had been 32 years since I’d last boarded a plane.) There was also no household electric power- so no tv, refrigerator, baseboards, lightbulbs, etc. There were always a couple of flashlights that worked, and a car radio (hooked to a 6v battery) for “news from the outside” (we discovered NPR on AM in 1971, and CBS Radio Mystery Theater, too). We had kerosene lamps, water from the roof, an outhouse, a pantry, wood cookstove that also made hot water, wood heat (still do), a 20+yo pickup truck, a VW Beetle that got 37mpg… life was OK.

    Am I repentant? Yes- for a fair number of actions & omissions… but not for making use of food stamps… not at all. Quite the opposite: I recommend to anyone that they take what the government has to offer in order to create enough ease in their lives to experience something that may be more essential to the pursuit of their personal growth than going to a “job” in order to take part in the cash economy. If having food stamps means being able to spend more time with your children, or learning to paint, or being able to volunteer for some non-profit whose goals match your own heartfelt desires,or studying a foreign tongue, or going fishing… whatever- go get the stamps- and more power to you.

    I want to thank rc21 and others who have made possible my life of being able to raise my children while teaching them something, myself… and do it without depriving them (or me) of buttered toast & hot cocoa. But there are people who have EVEN MORE to thank rc21 and other hard-working Americans for- people at Boeing & Raytheon, Lockheed, Bechtel, GE, DuPont, etc (and their Stockholders!)- including a lot of folks at the Pentagon. I heard this morning that the annual Defense budget comes in around $700 billion- a year- & NOT counting the Iraq War budget (which is around 1/2 trillion dollars, at this juncture). If there are 300 million of us in the country, that works out (just the Defense budget) to around $2300 apiece- counting infants & schoolkids and everybody- not just from “taxpayers”. I imagine that the taxes that the government collects back from all the “gravy” that they provide to the Military-Industrial Complex amounts to more than is spent on the WIC & food stamp programs (but I don’t know that- just a guess). Maybe the only way that military spending will ever come down is if a great number of folks simply opt to make enough to cover their basic needs (& art supply habit, cello strings, etc)- and No More. This whole “Defense” & “Security” fetish is really about those with a lot to protect being able to feel safe to pursue the joys of wealth & prosperity. So, they should pay for these military & security ventures- not you & me. There are individuals in the country with billions of dollars (and that’s just counting the Money)… so they have billions to protect. What have I got to lose? Do I need “protection” from people 12 time zones away that our government has bombed back to the Stone Age? I don’t think so. I’d rather send them the contents of our industrial dumpsters, and let them rummage, like I have done, and build themselves a better life… or maybe they’re capable of coming up with “a better life” without any intrusion on my part. But I don’t need $2300 worth of “protection” a year from anybody- because I don’t have anything that valuable to lose. And I certainly don’t support the use of the tax money I send to the IRS (which is self-employment tax- bound for the Social Security pool) to be used to fund Pentagon spending, by using it as collateral against which the M-I Complex may borrow. Do you?

    It’s all “the Government’s Money”- ALL of it. They print it, they decide how much, they defend it- and we simply use it. If the collective use of food stamps has deprived Boeing of a couple of Cruise missile sales per year, or bumped a single B-1 out of the Defense plan, well, so be it. I’m for more subsidized nut butter allotments and fewer battleships (which could be useful, maybe, as housing for the homeless- with playfields upstairs)… ^..^

  • I’m with you herbert browne!

    I have a bit of a confession of my own. I once paid 180,000 dollars in a single year in income tax. I owned (without mortgagee) a 27-acre estate in a national scenic area. I was under 40 and “retired”. I won’t say I wasn’t happy; I was by any contemporary cultural measure or sense. I was self-medicating, alcohol mostly, not heavy, just enough to “relax” at night and “loosen up” to enjoy the companionship of my co-patriots, but enough to keep my conscience soaked and my most of my dreams at bay.

    However, I made a few mistakes, I got rid of my TV. I turned off the radio and starting playing music. I stop taking the paper. I started getting up early to watch the sunrise. I began traveling to remote locations on the globe to walk in beautiful places, and meeting “impoverished” natives of many cultures (in their eyes I saw a spark and on their faces a genuine smile that was so unusually rare “where I come from.”). I began a descent into the recesses of my heart, a search for soul. I started reading, but mostly I just started listening to the wind, and bird songs, and watching deer graze. And I began to feel something stir inside of me, to awaken.

    I don’t care much for “institutional” or organized religions. I prefer finding my own path. I think the bible makes great poetry, good literature and bad history.

    Gradually, things changed in my life, mostly values. I took an inventory of my values and measured it against how I spent my time. I accepted personal responsibility for every thought, word and action in my life.

    Today, I have a small house, a garden, and a beautiful, loving woman in my life. I’m the director of marketing and communication for a non-profit organization. I live in an urban area surrounded by the most awe-inspiring, amazing beauty one can imagine. I don’t make much money, I don’t pay much in tax, but I dwell in a place of deep contentment. Of course there is the odd moment of frustration, emptiness or confusion, but invariably each moment quickly morphs into instruction regarding power management (the power of intention, the power of imagination, the power of intuition, the power of now). In my life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are irrevocable and inalienable. Real happiness, real liberty.

    Who was it that said, “seek and you shall find”?

  • I’d like to add the power of integrity to the list.

  • rc21

    So Herbert, You don’t have a problem taking my hard earned money so that you may lead the lifestyle that you desire.

    You see this is what I find wrong with so many people, They really don’t care about anyone but themselves.

  • Potter

    Thank you Herbert and Flow.

    RC21- I don’t see how leading the lifestyle one desires a la Herbert Browne, which includes much that ultimately benefits society as a whole means that one does not care about anyone else. And if you are not leading the lifestyle you desire- why not?

    Herbert Browne’s history is admirable. First of all he did not take your hard earned money. When the government takes your money it’s no longer your money. It’s what you pay to be part of society.

    The government provides you as well with what you need.

    it seems that Herbert Browne took minimal advantage of what the government offered him while living mostly independently and very productively during that period. I would bet he paid back in spades, over the years, what he took.

    What I find wrong with so many these days is that they expect the government to provide all sorts of things but don’t want to pay their share.

    As far as vaccinations go ( and preventative health care in general)- it’s in everyone’s interest, the common good, to prevent illness and disease.

  • rc21

    Wrong. First it is my money. It is the money of every person who works and pays taxes. The Govt takes my hard earned money and spends it. Herbert has decided he would like to have some of my money and asks the govt if he may have some.

    It is not admirable to live the type of lifestyle you desire if it requires stealing money from other people, be it simple robbery or through a third party IE the govt.

    Just because the govt has set up social welfare programs does not mean that you should be looking to take advantage of them.

    They are supposed to be for people who have come on hard times through no fault of their own.

    They are not supposed to be for people who wish to lead a bohemian lifestyle because they think it is more spiritualy rewarding than the typical 9-5 grind most of us have to put up with.

  • Potter

    No sir! You pay for your government just like your employer pays for you. Your employer does not come to you and say “what are you doing with my money?”

    On the other hand your representatives are responsible to you and others. If you do not like what your reps are doing, then you can be heard. You can pressure or petition them or not vote for them. You can protest your grievances. But the money is no longer yours. It’s what you pay to live here- travel on roads, have your borders protected, your air cleaner,your public parks and reserves, wildlife protected, your laws of conduct, banking and corporate laws, enforced, your social security, your air and airwaves regulated, so on and so on – so that you can live your life. Your quarrel is with the majority in this country who want to have social programs out of conscience to help the less fortunate.

    How can you blame anyone for taking advantage of what they are offered by your government?

    Your problem and mine is we are not happy with some things that the government is doing in our name. I am with Herbert Browne about spending money on war and giving breaks to corporations and the wealthy.

    And when he says “It’s all the government’s money”. He is right.

  • Potter

    RC21 says:

    You see this is what I find wrong with so many people, They really don’t care about anyone but themselves.

    Speaking of selfishness:

    It was Ronald Reagan I believe who began this “it’s your money” mantra and did us a great disservice. “And we want to give it back to you” was added. And so other Republicans since, including Bush1 and Bush 2 have repeated and rallied around that cry. How incredibly irresponsible! The mantra should be “it’s YOUR government.” In that “it’s your money” cry I find a lot of what has gone wrong in this country… we are a lot more selfish and uncaring about the good of the whole society, indeed the world. And this gets rationalized in phrases like “trickle down” and “lifting all boats”.

  • herbert browne

    What I remember about Reagan and his “It’s your money” mantra was that, when he came into office, the takeout for FICA on my paychecks was 5.85%- and when he left office it had nearly doubled. This was a tax on all of us at the “bottom” of the economic pile (since there’s a cap on how much is taxed) with a greater effect on the working poor than on anybody else. And his deficit budgets essentially took that money to pay for arms programs- and left IOUs in the Social Security fund. So much for “it’s your money”. It ‘s Your Money when Your Picture is on it!

    To avail oneself of a government program is simply doing what’s expected, no? If you’re a farmer, and USDA will pay you NOT to grow something, do you tell them “No, thanks”? If we had a national health care guarantee of service, paid for by our taxes, would we resist going to see a doctor because it wouldn’t be right to burden the government? At a time when corporations Pay people to go and GIVE MONEY to congresspersons, in order to encourage reciprocal “good will” on some level, just how selfish is it- if one legitimately qualifies, according to the rules- to take part in a government program? Is it “selfish” for someone who doesn’t pay property taxes to send their children to the public schools?

    The principal motivation for me in those “days of wine and food stamps” was actually to be more self-sufficient WITHOUT taking the “More money is better” path- ie to pursue a kind of “subsidized pioneer” approach to living and raising a family. One reason that I took the wires off the house and had the meter removed was because the head of the Bonneville Power Authority was predicting huge energy shortages- and was instrumental in pushing for a consortium of public & private entities into floating bonds to build 5 nuclear power plants out here in the NW. (It was called WPPSS). I wanted to do my part to reduce demand (albeit an infinitesimal part). The plan was a colossal failure- one functioning plant was built- and the bonds became a joke. It was “conservation” that eliminated the “crisis” (eg insulated hot water tanks, thermopane windows, etc)… but the alarmist official went on to become Reagan’s Energy Secretary. Anyway, the best education I ever got was the 12 years without AC current in my happy home. It forced a lot of adapting and rethinking on us- for the better, mostly.

    Having temporal constraints that were different from those imposed by a “9 to 5” job meant that I could exercise my curiosity about events in my neighborhood- like going to “public” meetings- which I wouldn’t have been able to do, otherwise. When Nixon’s administration promulgated the community planning mandates for places near the coast, the meetings were purely for the “self-interest” crowd- big property owners, commercial business people (marinas, sawmills, etc), realtors & county commissioners… & maybe someone from the regional weekly paper. There weren’t any “ordinary” citizens- at first. When I showed up at one I was really the “odd duck” there… and when I asked a question, it was obvious right away that I was considered an idiot, to the 15 or so participants there. I wrote a “letter to the editor” of our weekly and said that the future of the area was being planned- and that if people couldn’t make it to the meetings, that maybe they ought to send their high school aged children to the meetings, because they were the ones who would have to live with what was being planned. There were 49 people at the next meeting- and 21 of them were young people. (This was part of what became the Coastal Zone Management Act, nationally.)

    If we get obsessed with establishing a paradigm that monetizes EVERYthing, even morality, where does that lead? Does it create a corollary to “Might makes Right”, eg “Rich is Right”? I saw a quote today from EB White that really spoke to me, that I’d like to share… (from E B White) “Just to live in the country is a full-time job. You don’t have to do anything. The idle pursuit of making a living is pushed to one side, where it belongs, in favor of living itself, a task of such immediacy, variety, beauty, and excitement that one is powerless to resist its wild embrace.”

    You have lived in the country, rc21… and I bet you understand what he’s talking about… ^..^

  • 4gr8kidz

    I can’t believe some of the attitudes and comments like RC21. My family is on foodstamps. We hate it. We never thought we’d be in this situation. My Husband lost his job, and we had a new house, 4 small children. (Not like we can just sell the house, and move to a area with more jobs.) Then this year, in ONE month, our only car broke, my husband had knee surgery, my infant had health crisis….and here we are. My children are on Medicaid. We get WIC. Let me tell you, you have NO IDEA what your’e talking about rc21. There are people out here, who have an education, have worked since we were 14 yrs old…and thru no fault of our own, have to use this program. We get $400 a month for a family of 6, and this and WIC are our ONLY source of food. We have a child that had to be on a gluten-free diet for several months, and we could not afford to feed her. Thank God, she is ok now and we can stop gluten free food. You can not get much on $100 a week with good nutrition, but we manage. You can get 3 boxes of crappy powder mac n cheese for .99, but you can’t get apples, bananas, lettuce, lean meat for less that twice that. Honestly, it’s no wonder people on welfare and food stamps can be unhealthy!! You are forced to stretch your money as far as possible, shopping at places like ALDI’s and Save-a-lot, where all they have is canned, processed, salt/sugar-free stuff I don’t want to feed my kids! Do you realize you can get 2 liters of soda for 60c but you can’t get a gallon of milk for less than $2. Spaghetti-o’s may be 4 cans for a dollar, but have like NO nutrition at all! Luckily we have enough yard to have a nice garden. We make our own bread, I have a pasta maker for homemade pasta, I sew most of our clothes, diapers, house things like curtains, napkins. I consider myself lucky. At least I KNOW how to sew, cook, clean, can, garden etc. You have no idea how hard it is, when we can’t find any jobs, and our children are there looking to us to care for them. If it was not for food stamps, we would not be able to do this. We do not get assistance, only food stamps, and we work our butts off EVERY DAY to scrape by on what jobs we found. We have to listen to our kids asking “Do we have money for fruit snacks? granola bars?” and have to say no. They see their friends having all sorts of ice cream, chips, snacks and colorful cereals, that just is not an option for us. How sad when my 7 yr old can tell my 4 yr old what we can and can’t choose, and what stores we can or can’t shop at. No, we didn’t starve TODAY. But I have certainly lived on one meal a day so I can feed my children 3. There have been MANY weeks this past year, where we had nothing but cherrios, eggs and peanut butter for more than two days in a row. We do not drink, smoke, do drugs, we went to college, we got jobs, we still work. We still keep looking for better jobs. You best hope you never have injury, illness, job layoff, company fold, because then YOU will see how easy it is, and maybe YOU can go to bed hungry and walk in our shoes.

  • 4gr8kidz

    RC21, I think you in particular are really getting kinda slammed here, I was too harsh, and I read your further posts…..I agree on the “owe me” attitude SOME people have, along with those who abuse the system and milk it for anything they can get. ( My DH and I had our children when he was making PLENTY of money to care for them, by they way, after 8 yrs of infertility!) I agree also, that we should do everything in our power to better ourselves, and our education to get out of a bad situation. (We certainly do!) I too, use oatmeal, yogurt and other cheap healthy foods, and I like I said, we do make it. None of my children are obese/overweight. I am out in Upstate NY, so I dont’ know about this congressman or his agenda. I don’t have regular internet access, we only have 5 bills (Morgage, electric, propane,phone, water) We have no huge debt, credit cards etc. We ONLY get food stamps and WIC. We certainly don’t intend to have them forever!! What I struggle with is the stigma, and attitude that EVERYONE blah blah blah. I differ from you, in that I DO feel bad for those worse off than we are! You can’t always just pick up and move. First of all, houses are not selling here. No way to get a new place, if you cant’ sell the old one. Second of all, some people have obligations, such as elderly family care, they can’t move away from. If we could sell and move to find better jobs, we would. You do what you have to do! If it takes 3 jobs, well, you work and don’t sleep. And sometimes, that still just isn’t enough. I try not to feel bad about getting food stamps, but its’ hard when there’s so many people out there who want to make you feel like a lazy, slob who doesn’t want to work. I think you present your arguments well, but I also think it’s hard for some to take. And that’s ok too, right!? Anyway, I just wanted to apologize for being harsh to you in particular, as you have many valid issues, just as those of us in this situation do as well.

  • rc21

    First I also feel bad for people who get into tough situations,and if you read some of my earlier posts you will see I said people who have phisical and or mental disabilities should be helped by the govt. You and your family fit that criteria. Your husband had knee surgery which I’m sure prevented him from working, and your child has health problems. So I would have no problems with you getting help from the govt.

    Don’t worry about being to harsh On this forum it’s fairly common.

  • rc21

    Potter, I think the ”It’s your money mantra” was actually started by the founders of our country way back in the 1700’s culminating in a little thing we called our war of independence.

    But why get caught up in little inconsequnuential details.

  • Potter

    RC21- The war of Independence was not about being taxed per se, but being taxed without representation… no inconsequential detail.

    The founders of our country conceived of taxes as part of a citizen’s duty and responsibility so that the elected government could promote and provide for the general welfare. Says so in the Constitution…..

    Of those who greatly influenced our founding fathers, those who wrote the Constitution by which we live together,ratified by all states:

    John Locke said:

    ‘Tis true that governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit everyone who enjoys a share of protection should pay out of his estate his proportion of the maintenance of it.

    and this:

    The subjects of every state ought to contribute toward the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state ….[As Henry Home (Lord Kames) has written, a goal of taxation should be to] “remedy inequality of riches as much as possible, by relieving the poor and burdening the rich.”

    Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776

  • rc21

    I can give you just as many quotes supporting the opposite view. The fact is, and this is really not in dispute, that our country was founded on the belief that there would be a limited amount of taxation and that we would also have a very limited amount of central govt regulation in regards to our personal lives.

    What we have now is a far cry from what was originally envisioned.

  • herbert browne

    Re “What we have now is a far cry from what was originally envisioned..”-

    That’s true… on so many levels. We started out being free to make our own liquor, grow what we liked, and to move Westward with impunity (and to buy & sell human workers, & some other less savory social options). We have come a long ways… and discovered that the physical “freedoms” we once had became conflict zones between “free” individuals- and that government became an arbitrating force. We also felt, in general, that roads should be a common concern (not just a private one)… and that schools should be inclusive-and paid for by those who were taxed (land-owners, mostly… males who also had the right to vote). Many changes… with a general tendency to favor the greatest number with what was considered the greatest good, at the time… I don’t imagine that the early founders of our country really saw a continent-wide settlement of 300 million people, or could have embraced wars with people halfway ’round the world with whom we shared no language, few customs, and virtually no physical contact (other than that encountered by the armed forces that we sent to those places). Lots of things have changed… and I’d certainly embrace a return to a number of the beliefs held by the early Americans… though not all. ^..^

  • Potter

    RC21- Just as many quotes would be two to match what I gave you. I would like two quotes from founding fathers that hold the “opposite” of the views that Locke and Smith express. Remember “opposite”….( stating what that opposite view might be please).

    Please be so good as to concede as well that this country fought a revolution, not to be relieved of taxation ( paying for their government), but to HAVE a government of their own, for citizenship in it, for representation, which meant independence.


  • When I was at jury duty recently a judge came out to give us all our inspirational civics lesson. In it he reminded us that our founders did not fight to end taxation. They fought because they did not have a say over who got taxed how much and what the taxes were used for. Particularly, they were enraged because there was a jury system in England, but here in the colonies, the Crown sent over a judge who had unlimited power. The colonists were refusing to pay their taxes in protest to this unjust system. They would pointedly refuse to pay their taxes and then protest when a judge would make a unitary ruling. Not because they didn’t see the need for everyone to support a government and a social system.

    The first point made in the Declaration of Independece is about consent: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” They go on to say they have the right to “throw off” a Despot. It goes on for quite some time outlining the despotic actions of King George.

    But also, early on, it claims that a government is supposed to be “laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    In this statement, it leaves it open for the People to decide how the government can effect their safety and happiness. (Not just safety.) As a society, we are charged with continually determining what we need from the government to best ensure our safety and happiness. There is room here for this to evolve. As Potter stated, our founders at first thought it best to have the government enforce the ideals of slavery. I’m glad we’ve moved on from there. It makes sense that we would also look at ways to ameliorate the sufferings of our citizens, since we are supposed to be considering how our government can effect the safety and happiness of everyone. Those with more resources – financial, health and emotional (which can directly effect the body’s physical makeup and a person’s ability to function healthfully) need less from the government, those with fewer resources need more help.

    It also makes sense that, as a society, we will eternally wrangle over where the lines are drawn. But the Declaration of our founders is pretty clear. They are not upset over the concept of taxation. They are upset over the abuse of the King and his unwillingness to provide for their safety and happiness.

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  • alwyzjas

    Above is my Food Stamp Challenge documented. Now I’m sharing my experience with as many people possible so that I can make a change! It wasn’t an easy project…but it def. opened my eyes!

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