Gaming Magazine

Food Stamps Challenge Rant

By Dotchi Latham @DotchiLatham
Since I started the Food Stamp Challenge, I have noticed some things. This is my list. It isn't an extensive list, but it's the things that I really noticed the most.

I am cold. No, I am freezing. While this may not seem significant to you, I love the cold! I am a northern person and I walk in snow barefoot! But this week, at about the day 4 point, I got VERY cold! I feel like I am freezing to death. I'm not sick. I am not running a fever. But I feel like I am in the dead of winter. I now completely understand why my dear friends, who survive ONLY on food stamps, are always cold. This is horrible!

I am tired. Probably because, as Michy said in the comments, 

"You know, I can't help but look at this and say there is no way you are eating eating enough to sustain life. Seriously, put your food consumption into FitDay and you will see you are WAY below your RDAs and calories for health... your metabolism can literally shut down when this happens, causing weight gain, lethargy, illness and more!I think you are definitely proving the point of this challenge! It's really impossible to eat HEALTHY and sustain yourself on this low of a budget!"
And then I sat and thought about it last night. This is the first week I haven't lost a little weight. In fact, I gained a pound. Back in 2010 when I headed to Bremerton because I couldn't eat anything, my average daily calorie intake was 583 (second post down)... average... a day! Yes, that was redundant. I am trying to make a point. 

You should be consuming, on average, 2,000 calories a day. I was literally starving. Not the "Oh meh ger, I haven't ate anything in an hour! I am starving!" No, it was the real "We're about to throw your butt into the hospital" starving. And, weird thing, I gain weight when I am starving because every little bit I put in my body goes to storage because my body KNOWS I am starving. Guess what happened this week... I starved myself. I gained a pound. (I am working on a post to show the daily intake)

I am hungry. I kept myself occupied and drank coffee to keep myself from noticing this, but trust me, I still noticed. I was hungry. Although, oddly enough, I wasn't really hungry when I first woke up except for a couple of days. But the first time I ate for the day, I really noticed it! I was VERY hungry.

My stomach keeps growling. While I am lucky, to an extent, and can't feel hunger pains until I am seriously starving, BUT my stomach keeps growling... constantly. It's getting embarrassing. 

The kindness of neighbors, friends, family and random strangers. I have had several friends and family members offer to buy us food this week. My neighbor gave us veggies from her garden. A random stranger offered to buy me a sandwich. Why? You can tell when someone is hungry. Even if you don't LOOK hungry or stare longingly at every food in sight, the growling stomach gives it away. Each time I stopped and explained why I am doing this (and why I am hungry). Everyone felt the need to argue the points that

  • Most people have family that can help them
  • Most people go to the food bank
  • Churches will give you food
  • Some people have gardens
  • We have plenty of people who will just GIVE you food.
My reply to them? True. All very valid points. But I am not trying this challenge for those people. I am doing for the ones who don't have a support network. 
  1. I am doing this for the poor who don't attend church. 
  2. I am doing this for those who have an issue taking charity from a church when they won't go to one. 
  3. I am doing this for people who have no family, have few friends, are isolated in a rural area. 
  4. I am doing this for people who can't garden (or can't afford to). 
  5. I am doing this to make a point... That you can't eat healthy on food stamps. 
  6. I am doing this for every single mom who has gone hungry so she can feed her children. 
  7. I am doing this for every single dad who has gone hungry so he can feed his children. 
  8. I am doing this to show support to my friend, who I will not name, who rocked her crying child to sleep at night because his belly hurt and she had no more food to feed him.
  9. I am doing this as an UP YOURS to the politicians who cut the food stamps budget because they worried people are abusing it.
  10. I am doing to show support to my disabled friends who don't have enough food to feed themselves, who WE feed as a community.
  11. I am doing this to show support to Libby's Kids Kitchen who volunteers to feed children on the weekend because their parents can't afford to.
  12. I am doing this for the kids that live here who have celiac disease and can't eat the free breakfast and lunch at school.
  13. I am doing this for the people that don't have a food bank they can turn to (because of allergies)
While I really appreciate the kindness, there are many people who don't have that. 

I am not getting enough food. I am tracking my foods through sparkpeople and there is a definite lack of calories and food in my week. I can't think. It's like my brain has said "screw you" and left me on my own. I have serious brain fog. Probably because I am so tired right now.  I am craving salt. What gives? I am a salt-hating person. But this week on cabbage soup day, I was craving like mad! I can't get enough salt. Thank goodness I am on blood pressure medicine. I could give myself a heart attack with this craving! I keep shaking. For no reason whatsoever, I occasionally start shaking uncontrollably. It's like I am having tremors. I scared my dear friend with them too. Not fun! What is that all about? Ignorance is... well, I'd say bliss, but since I started this, I have run into people who think that food stamps is the work of Satan himself. You know, since people use them to get drugs and alcohol. I haven't met a person, IRL, that has done that. I would seriously love to punch these people but I have no energy from lack of nutrition. You cannot eat healthy on food stamps without being hungry. There is no other way to say this. You just can't. If you don't have allergies, I could see being able to add more to your diet but... Fresh fruits and vegetables become a luxury. No matter what diet you are on, eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a huge part of a healthy diet. You cannot afford these things if you are on food stamps and they are your only source of food money. They quickly become a luxury that you can't afford. When you have $4 a day to feed yourself, a $2 apple is out of the question. I'll be working on a week of what I really eat to show you how different it is for us. Food becomes your life. I noticed that I started staring at food, thinking about food all the time, dreamed about food... Food became a huge part in my life. I was in the store wishing I could buy that larger package of chicken, have gluten-free breaded chicken, a huge bowl of vegetables and an ice cream for dessert. I salivated when I saw someone buy a sandwich. I've seen children who live in poverty stare at people with food/ any food like they are starving... and now I understand why. Because they are starving. People are judgmental about those on food stamps. I didn't really notice it before until this week but people are very judgemental about the people on food stamps. I heard quite a few comments like "They should get a job!" The friends I have that do have jobs, are single parents, AND are on food stamps makes me wish those people could eat like this for awhile so they can see what it's like.  And also have them live on their income. They aren't just paying for food, they also have rent, electric, medical bills, gas, insurance, etc. I'll use a friends bills to show you the problem here. She asked to remain anonymous. She makes $9.50 an hour, works a 40 hour week with rarely any overtime. Her paychecks are usually about $760 every two weeks. She has about $1540 in income a month. Wow. I am jealous.  BUT then, she has to pay rent for $700 a month, electric is about $130 on average (winter months are higher. She says as high as $240), her medical bills are $200 (4 bills of $50 each), plus what she has to pay for medical supplies for diabetes and co pays and such. To drive to work each month is about $100 in gas, insurance is $44 a month, and her phone bill is $50 a month, plus internet is $50.  That's a total of $1270 a month leaving $266 a month for everything else. Clothes, food, school supplies, uniforms for work, etc. She gets $112 for food stamps a month. which means she gets LESS for food to feed her family of 3 than I get.

She is not lazy. She isn't mooching off the system. She works 40 hours a week because she can't afford child care. She works herself to death to make ends meet. She doesn't have a cell phone. Her only luxuries are the internet and new panties. But because she is on food stamps, people see her as a lazy mooch.

Food is too expensive! I generally love talking about food. I love eating food too! But I really noticed that living in a small town, the food is very expensive. It's cheaper for me to drive 53 or 89 miles away to buy my food for less. That $15 in gas makes the trip worth it when you are saving $200 on groceries. It not only makes my trip worth it, it feeds us more and we can have junk food that way. And by "junk food" I mean pizza, cookies, bread, and yogurt. We you are allergic to 54 foods, some foods become junk food!

Being on food stamps is not the end of the world. For a long time, we managed without food stamps. It was hard, but we made it. We weren't always eating fancy foods, but our bellies were full. When I finally decided to apply for food stamps, I felt like a failure. You are not a failure for accepting food stamps. You may feel like it, but I promise, you are not a failure.

I don't plan on being on food stamps for the rest of my life. Probably a couple more months while I get back on my feet.

Most people I know use them responsibly as a means to supplement their food budget, not replace it. They use food stamps to help them get on their feet and hopefully, not need more assistance. And, if it makes you feel any better, you earned these benefits by working. I pay taxes every year. I have seen some rude comments like "I work so people can buy junk food on food stamps." I don't look at it like that. I don't look at it like that.

I pay taxes and work (at home) to help people who need a hand up. I pay taxes and earned my food stamps benefits to help feed my family in a time of need. Just because a few people abuse the system, doesn't mean that everyone will.

We've only been on food stamps twice. Once for 6 months and then this time. I've been on them since June and my goal is to have enough income to get off of them in a couple of months.

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