My Food Stamp Experience

by Andy Hough on June 11, 2008

Last month I read a post at Living Almost Large titled “Still Hungry with Food Stamps“. It was in response to this CNN article about a woman who found it difficult to feed her and her baby on $280 a month in food stamps. LivingAlmostLarge thought that it shouldn’t be a problem to eat on that amount a month but some of the commenters disagreed with her. Since I’ve been on food stamps myself I wanted to do my own post on the subject and I’ve finally gotten around to it.

I was on food stamps in Texas for three months in 2003. I was employed at the time but not getting many hours and therefore not making much money. I was making just enough money to pay my bills but certainly wasn’t going hungry. Since I worked at a pizza restaurant I had access to free food several times a week. I debated whether to apply for food stamps but decided I should go ahead and take advantage of the program.

It was pretty easy to apply for the food stamps. I just filled out an application and dropped it off at the office. I was called about a week later and after a short interview I was declared eligible for $160 a month in food stamps. I don’t remember the exact details of documentation but I remember being surprised at how easy the process was. I was also surprised at the amount, $160 seemed like a lot to me for one person.

The food stamps were actually in the form of an EBT card which worked like a debit card. The first month I used my entire allotted amount. Some of this was due to buying food for a friend that visited and building up a supply of basic staples. The second month I didn’t come close to using all of my allotted amount. This amount rolled over to the next month resulting in me having much more than $160 to spend on groceries for the month. The third month I got a new job and canceled my food stamps. However, I was still able to use the amount remaining on my EBT card and used it to buy my groceries for the next couple months.

Overall, I would say my experience with food stamps was a positive one. I found a $160 a month to be plenty of money for groceries and I actually bought more expensive foods than I normally would have. I did occasionally get dirty looks when using the card but for the most part no one seemed to care that I was using them.

If I were in the same position again though I wouldn’t apply for food stamps. I was eligible for them so it was legal for me to do so but since I could have easily got by without them I don’t think it was ethical to do so. So far this year I’ve been averaging $100-$150 on food including restaurant food so I’d have to be pretty poor to not be able to afford food without food stamps.

{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

101 LAC January 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I know people on food stamps who still don’t have enough to eat. When I see what they are eating I can understand why. Too many are buying processed foods instead of foods that they can cook themselves. Yes it takes longer but in the end it saves money. Where I live a 10 pound bag of chicken legs goes for about $7.00 yet the person I know buys the already cooked and then frozen chicken legs in the plastic bags for $6.00 for 5 lbs. Mac and cheeses at about .69 cents a box that feeds maybe two people where the person can make their own and feed more cheaper. Spaghetti and meatballs goes a long way if you make it from scratch and you can also serve spaghetti and lentils in a tomato sauce if you can’t afford the hamburger. Lentils can make all kinds of dishes from salads to veggie burgers which are healthy and delicious. I also see people at the store buying tons of soda and junk food on their food stamps which is another reason why they run out of food before the month is up. Also they can use coupons and thus save money on their stamps.

102 C May 22, 2015 at 11:18 am

I think it depends on where you live and what you eat. If you want any fresh produce $160 isn’t going to cut it in New Mexico. The same $160 though would easily cover produce in California.

103 exhuasted June 4, 2015 at 4:07 am

For way too long now I’ve been more than ashamed that I’ve had to depend on government help. I’ve worked since the age of 14. Unfortunately circumstances have forced me into a situation where no matter how hard I’ve tried not to need food stamps I just haven’t been able to provide for my family on my own. I can’t sleep because I don’t know where my next meal will come from or how I will pay my next bill. You got $160 for yourself only. Guess what. I receive $140 for a family of 4. Go figure? Should I really be ashamed when I have worked practically all my life? I don’t know but I do know I want to get completely out of the system. If there is some help for me to work while my children are at school or help paying for child care I definitely would get completely off the system. It’s not like I don’t appreciate the help either because if I’d ever make enough I would like to give back. No one knows what desperate needs have brought many of us to ask for help. Just today I saw a musician outside of sprout’s playing for money trying to feed his 2 children. It’s not like he was just sitting there bumming money from people. There are many situations that put us in unfortunate situations. I’m not about to spill mine out here. All I know it’s about high time people stop being so judgmental.

104 A. Salter June 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I totally agree that the judging needs to stop – we are here to help each other, not criticize!

Obviously, $140 per month is not enough for 4 people – no matter where you live in North America. I spent that much per week for 4 (and we eat mostly non-processed food).

Good luck – hang in there.

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