This post by Ann over at Feministing reminded me of something for which I am very thankful.
From my sophomore until my senior year in college I used food stamps to feed myself, and often times my friends. Cornish is a private art school with no dorms and no meal plan, so I had to use whatever money I earned from my two jobs to pay for rent and bills (including the credit card bills I racked up freshman year before I had two jobs and was on food stamps). Unlike a lot of people (although, not unlike a lot of other people) my parents didn't have the resources to help me out with food money, except maybe $30-$50 every couple of months, so I was basically on my own.
I was told that I was being irresponsible. I was told that I was wasting other people's tax dollars. I was told to drop out of college and get a real job instead of being a mooch on the state. All of those things that have been pressed by the right wing of this country, especially Republicans. Those things were dredged up and pushed in my face.
Nevermind that I was actually being responsible with the giant sum of $150 I got each month (these days, the Schmoogie and I spent roughly $700-$800 a month on food), and helping whomever I could. My friends needed dinner? I would invite them over for pizza or salad -- once in a while we even did fondue. I spent my food stamp money on vegetables and fruit; organic meats, skim milk and yogurt. Yeah, once in a while I'd get something bad for me like Dorritos or something, but I don't really like that stuff anyway.
Nevermind that I pay taxes too. That my parents pay taxes. That the amount we pay between the three of us probably outweighs the giant sum of $150 I got each month to feed myself.
Nevermind that if I had dropped out of college and gotten a real job I would have been thrust immediately back into poverty and needing to use food stamps because I wouldn't have the degree necessary to get much better than a minimum wage job and would be unable to repay my student loans, as well as paying rent and bills.
Nevermind that the whole "Welfare Queen" thing was completely false; that most people on welfare are white women, and in most states you can't even get welfare unless you have at least one kid. Nevermind that food stamps aren't even considered welfare in the first place!
When I was on food stamps, $150 was a huge sum of money. I could feed myself for three weeks on that money. Now, I can't seem to make $150 last one week, let alone three -- thanks Student Loan Debt!
When I was on food stamps, I didn't have to worry about where my next meal was coming from (I don't now either, of course, I have a real job now). When I was on food stamps, I felt so lucky, and I liked to share my food with my friends who also had two (or more) part time jobs and went to school full time. We didn't have a lot between us, but there was always that opportunity to share, and it helped me to form life-long friendships, and show that even though our food budgets were determined by the electric bill, we could still have a marvelous feast -- remember the spaghetti?
People who have food take it for granted. People who have money to buy food take it for granted. Forget that there are too many people in this country who are homeless. Forget that there are too many children in this country, this country, who are hungry -- 50% more in 2007 than in 2006. Just keep pedaling your ideas that people who get food stamps are mooching off of the state -- that that paltry $150 a month is irresponsible spending on the part of the state in the first place.
I'm thankful to the State of Washington, to the people in the Student Affairs office at Cornish, for helping me find the resources to feed myself. As someone who has always had issues with food, that was a really big deal. I am now far enough removed from it to know how lucky I was to have it.
I'm also thankful for beer (which you can't buy with food stamps). Yay beer. Yay 2.6 day work week.