So a couple of weeks ago, I responded on the comments page on a story about poor people, and the “entitlements” they so luxuriously receive. There was this guy named Scott Wilderman who was doing his pious churchly duty and dropping off some food to the church pantry. He made the incredibly insensitive comment that “you know, food stamps are socialism”, suggesting that his charity-dispersing church was not socialist and entirely preferable to the food distribution our centralized government of our wealthy country has developed after years of experience.
I wrote a long response which I’ll attach to this post, mostly commenting on the wonderful freedom you get with the debit card-like EBT card to purchase your government granted food, the truly horrid quality of what was essentially bags of junk food handed out by my local Baptist church pantry that I used in an emergency (and the glum, sad line of shockingly fat adults and children waiting for their boxes of processed crap), and the ironic lack of freedom that church pantries force upon their users by curtailing any choice of what their customers might choose to eat, whereas EBT allows someone who cooks, like me, to make excellent use of my $200 monthly EBT dollars without making me feel like a down-at-the-heels charity receiving poor loser-which I have to admit I did feel whilst waiting in line for my food pantry box.
So the reporter noticed my comment and contacted me, and now, today, I’m going down to KQED to be interviewed as part of the Marketplace series on poverty. I must admit that I’m a little nervous at having my very recognizable name out there for everyone to hear, and thus hear about my current lifestyle of poverty and disability which I’m not ashamed of, but also don’t like to shout out to the rooftops. (Plus, my mum and dad, though they are very proud of what I’m doing, may be getting more than they bargained for.) I’ll let y’all know when this story will be aired, and here’s a link to the original story, and if you scroll down to the comments, you’ll find my rather long response under the name of “moderniste”, with the familiar picture of Mr. Siegfried Oswald Kittycat as my avatar. Tell me what you think!!
(Here’s my letter if you’re too lazy to link)
moderniste – Sep 13, 2012
I agree with everything Jesse Austin said above ^^. I thank my lucky stars that the ‘dreaded’ “Big Government” put into place during the Great Depression to successfully and spectacularly revive our economy is still an integral part of American society, though it’s been picked apart, misrepresented and mutilated by the trickle-down mafia like the ghouls at the Heritage Foundation.
Scott Wilderman’s flippant statement about the ‘socialism’ of food stamps boggles the mind. He appears to be that special type of conservative who wants to off-load complex and sensitive social welfare administration to well-meaning but often criminally inexperienced and incapable/unqualified church groups; the sort of “faith-based” agencies that our last president, George W, ideally wanted to entrust with about 95% of all government functions.
Mr. Wilderman, let me tell you about what it’s really like to receive those “socialist” food stamps and how sadly inadequate, though well-meaning, your church pantries are, as I am a current recipient of California’s EBT (Scott, they don’t call them ‘food stamps’ anymore) which is administered by the USDA, and I’ve also once had to reach out to my neighborhood Baptist church’s twice-monthly food boxes in a time of personal crisis.
I am completely and permanently disabled, and I’m pending in the application process for my SSDI benefits, but currently have absolutely zero income coming in. I receive $200 every month in EBT and I have no dependents. I’m able to use my EBT, which is an ATM-like card that eliminates having everyone in your checkout line know that you are using ‘food stamps’, at every supermarket, Farmer’s Market, health food store, Trader Joe’s and many smaller mom’n'pop stores to purchase whatever food I choose. I am an avid cook, and I buy next to zero processed foods, or pricey frozen meals, stretching my $$ by cooking everything from scratch. I eat very well because I’m able to plan my own very healthy and epicurian menus and then shop accordingly. I even have enough EBT $$ to occasionally have friends over for dinner and to bake my famous pies to share with my flatmates.
Last year, after my refrigerator broke and most of my food spoiled before my landlord installed a new one, I found myself at the end of the month totally out of EBT money and with very little to eat other than pantry staples like sugar and flour, spices and etc. I went to the neighborhood Baptist church which distributes boxes of free food twice a month. I was incredibly grateful for their charity in that emergency time of need–so much so that I felt like a real twat for essentially looking a gift horse in the mouth when I got home and saw what was in my box. My bounty included a box of generic brand Apple Jacks cereal, generic Pop Tarts, chocolate pudding cups, two loaves of Wonder-style white bread, a large jar of generic Jif-style sweetened/processed peanut butter, a large jar of grape jelly, 3 cans of beef raviolis in sauce, 5 boxes of mac’n'cheese, some fruit roll-ups, a block of Velveeta-style processed cheese, Uncle Ben’s style minute rice, 3 cans of tuna, a box of Tuna Helper, a jar of off-brand Miracle Whip, instant mashed potatoes, packets of gravy mix, spaghetti noodles, jarred marinara sauce and a package of hot dogs. Many would call me an ungrateful foodie snob, but with the exception of the tuna, every single item was highly processed, and exceedingly high in salt, sugar, high glycemic carbs and fat: an express train to obesity and Type II diabetes. And I remember looking at the line of glum people waiting for their food boxes and seeing an unusually high number of very overweight adults and children–we’re talking over 75%, and there were 2 morbidly obese diabetes sufferers who had to use a scooter/wheelchair due to the leg and foot circulation issues that plague people of that size.
As someone who really enjoys cooking, I would sorely miss the freedom of being able to plan and prepare my own menus and shop at my own favorite stores for quality healthy ingredients. It seems rather ironic that the anti-socialism church pantry crowd actually quite curtails my freedom to make my own consumer choices as they make the executive decisions of what their clients will consume. And though I was exceedingly grateful for the church getting me out of a very tight situation, I was keenly aware of my charity status as I stood in the rather sad, glum line. I actually love shopping for food, and when I slide my EBT card whilst paying at the supermarket checkout, I often forget that I’m a welfare-using, disability-having poor person–and now a dreaded socialist as well. The current slash and burn climate in regards to our federal government is producing too many Scott Wildermans who just aren’t thinking things through. There are certain things that centralized governments of wealthy industrialized countries do much better than the private sector, and administering food programs is definitely one of them.