After a frustrating ordeal with the application process, I officially have my SNAP worked out and I went grocery shopping for the first time this week. I decided to get up early Monday morning and go shopping at 9am because, honestly, I was really nervous about it. I figured 9am on a Monday would be a slow time so if something went wrong or if I accidently made a scene trying to pay there would be less people to witness. I’m happy to say that, to my great relief, there was no scene to be had. Unlike the old system where you actually shopped with coupons, SNAP is received on a plastic card. So I gathered my groceries, checked out, swiped my card, and instead of picking credit or debit I choice EBT. Everything went fine and I went home and made myself breakfast.
My first experience, however, was different than my second. Monday I found out StarMarket takes EBT and Tuesday I found out that Russo’s does not. I wanted to make paneer for dinner which I haven’t seen in most grocery stores. So on my way home from work I stopped by Russo’s which I knew carried it. I assumed the process would be the same so I got to the checkout line, swiped my card, and heard that angry buzzing noise when your card doesn’t go through. I asked the cashier if they accepted EBT and with a surprising amount of attitude, she told me no. I said it was no problem and took out my other card, but I couldn’t help but notice the vibe around me had changed. There were a few people in line behind me that hadn’t been paying attention to me before but seemed to be paying attention now. As far as causing a scene goes, it was pretty mild, but I still left with a feeling of judgment and disapproval.
The stigma attached to welfare is one of the worst parts. If you’ve never been a part of the system then you have no idea how hard it actually is. And if you have no idea how hard it actually is then you have no right to judge people that are a part of it. There is this idea that people receiving benefits are all lazy and want the easy way out. Sure, that’s true for some people, I won’t deny that; but it’s true for some people in any tax bracket. America has this terrible habit of blaming people for being poor. “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “You’re not trying hard enough.” It’s a nice idea, but it’s just not realistic. There is just now research coming out about the long term effects of poverty and it’s shocking. The American dream is people coming from nothing and working their way to a respectable profession. It’s a great dream, but in today’s world it’s only a dream. I recently finished reading Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis”. If you want to know more about the realities of poverty or if you think I’m just a bleeding heart liberal that doesn’t understand politics, I’d invite you to read Putnam’s book. I’ve also included some other resources. I will acknowledge that the sources tend to lean left, but they have reputable sources and statistics within the articles.
I realize my words about this topic are strong and my opinions are one sided. It’s something I care very deeply about and my understanding is growing with my experience. Being a part of the system is hard. I’ve been doing it for a week and I can already feel it taking a toll on me. I hope that my experience can help you understand the struggles people face. With the presidential election picking up speed, social services will no doubt become a bigger topic. I would encourage you to keep these realities in mind instead of taking politicians words at face value.
If you want to read about Robert Putnam’s book
If you want to read about SNAP and how the money is spent
If you want to read about people “getting out of poverty”
If you want to read aboout myths about welfare