Why I’m Not Ashamed to Be A SNAP Participant

I see it all the time via social media “Those people need to get a job,” “I am paying for those people to eat,” “Those people are lazy and sell their food stamps for drugs,” “Those people spend my money to buy junk food.” I could go on forever, really. However, these remarks do not speak for the majority of SNAP recipients. Before I continue, here are some fast facts:

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that “the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work, do.”
  • They also state that of families with children, more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.
  • Furthermore, The number of SNAP households that have earnings while participating in SNAP has been rising for more than a decade, and has more than tripled — from about 2 million in 2000 to about 6.4 million in 2011.

A few years ago my husband and I were (and still are) struggling to get by but finding full-time work wasn’t an easy option so we had to make a choice: pay rent or buy food. Not sure if you have ever been in that situation but both are equally important. So, we decided to investigate food stamps. It didn’t take long to realize that these benefits were set up for this issue (among others) and they were much easier to come by than housing assistance in our overpopulated state. Our quality of life improved almost instantly, being able to buy food like we had never been able to before. Instead of buying a bunch of those cheap $1 microwave dinners, we could make meals for our family. I cannot truly explain to someone outside of the box what this benefit has meant to us.

However, I am not jobless, nor am I on drugs. My husband works two part time jobs and I work part time while attending college. We pay taxes. We both have since we were 16 years old. We aren’t selling our food stamps and we don’t know anyone who does. These stereotypes are outdated and need to stop. Yes, I am certain that there are people cheating the system, but the majority are not. But every time someone on social media talks about “those people” I cringe. It’s an uneducated, overgeneralized way to address an issue you know nothing about. I encourage those who do take this approach to research the application process, the eligibility requirements, the quarterly updates required, and the ages of the people on food stamps. Don’t attack an entire group of people based on an old stereotype.

I will not be ashamed. I refuse to be ashamed of myself for making sure my children have food in their bellies. However, I also don’t think of myself as “less-than” you because of my situation. I pity those who have no concern for the well-being of others. I know that when I am in the work force full-time, I will be satisfied knowing that a small amount of my taxes go to people in the same situation I was in: poor, starving, and trying to get ahead in life. And on the day when I no longer need food stamps, I will gladly walk into the benefit office and say “Thank you, because of this benefit I was able to pull my family out of poverty.” 

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