My Food Stamp Experience

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.

106 thoughts on “My Food Stamp Experience”

  1. I never heard of anyone buying hair color, computer, etc. with foodstamps. Foodstamps do not pay for anything but food, not even prepared food is eligible. It must be food that you buy to cook or vegetables, canned goods, desserts. The person who said people buy computers and hair color is lying. And I can’t imagine anyone living on $160 a month for one person unless you’re getting fed elsewhere and using their paper goods, soap to wash clothes, etc. Foodstamps do not pay for paper goods or detergent, soap, etc. Now, I think that folks who need help should not be embarrassed but when they start giving them to illegal immigrants, that’s when I get angry. Foodstamps are to help Americans, not folks who crept across the border and had a bunch of kids here and get benefits.

  2. I think you’ve misread Meghan’s comment. Meghan’s premise is food stamp receipients should be spending their cash income on food instead of getting food stamps and wasting their cash income (that would otherwise be spent on food) on non-essential items like hair dye and computers. She does not say those non-essential items were paid for with food stamps. You can choose to read that into Meghan’s post but she did not state that explicitly or does she imply that.

    You are correct on what may or may not be legally bought with food stamps as described on this webpage http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/eligible.htm

    Re. “when they start giving them to illegal immigrants, that’s when I get angry. Foodstamps are to help Americans, not folks who crept across the border and had a bunch of kids here and get benefits”, don’t get angry. Illegal immigrants and their dependents (siblings, kids, parents, whatever) are not eligible for Gov assistance (Fed, state, local) of any kind (grants, loans, welfare, disaster relief, whatever). This is a lie the Far Right spreads to smear our Gov with helping illegal immigrants to get their illegal votes. Ever wonder why people have to wait so long between applying for and receiving benefits? That’s because the Gov is checking everything on their applications to make sure they are who they say they are and they’re not lying to get benefits. This fact-checking exercise takes time and money that the Far Right then attacks as wasteful Gov inefficiency. See how this works? Now, food stamps are available to LEGAL immigrants on a limited basis but illegal immigrants don’t stand a dog’s chance. It’s discussed at the bottom of this webpage http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm

  3. I know these are old comments are old, but I had to comment to correct Emily’s statement. People are not using food stamps as “cash” the EBT cards are also used for cash assistance that some people may get. In this case the cash is put onto the card and able to be used as any other debit/credit card. Ahh to be young again… at 18, you have all the answers to ALL the problems. Hopefully, at some point, you grow up and realize you have no idea “why” or “what” a person is going through. As a cashier at a store you can’t possible have any idea what your customers life is like, so maybe you should withhold judgement.

  4. People like you crack me up!!! Stockpiling food? Prepaying utilities?? It’s obvious you are one of the young ones with all the answers. I don’t know you obviously, but it’s safe to assume you have never had it “rough”. Be careful, life is unpredictable, you never know what will happen. IT, LIFE… can happen to ANYONE, no matter how prepared you are, things can happen. So GET OVER YOURSELF and stop judging people. You, and others like you, have NO IDEA the circumstances which led to others needing assistance.

  5. The link you provided even explains this info, NO ILLEGAL aliens cannot get assistance, BUT if they have American borne children, they can get assistance for them. The link you provided as well as many other informative sites regarding food stamps explains this and even states that applying for this assistance (FOR THEIR CHILDREN, OF COURSE) will not interfere with their “status” at all. They will not have to give any info about themselves. So see how this works? No essentially illegal immigrants can’t get assistance, but their children (borne here=american citizen) can. Seems to me the lie the government is telling us is quite the opposite of how you see it. This article explains how a family who is all citizens of the US may be denied for assistance due to income, but a household making the same amount, which has illegal immigrants included would be approved. How can that be? Well you see, the illegal’s income would not be factored in. http://cis.org/north/food-stamp-program-rewards-households-illegal-aliens
    I don’t know about anybody else, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the “parent” who is NOT getting the assistance, is still benefiting from their children who are.

  6. The US-born children in lucy’s “Foodstamps are to help Americans, not folks who crept across the border and had a bunch of kids here and get benefits” are US citizens (“Americans”) by virtue of native birth and are eligible for food stamps. lucy appears to think that food stamps go to “folks who crept across the border” but they are actually going to their US-born children and not the illegal immigrants themselves. My post was to assure lucy that food stamps are not available to anyone illegal including illegal family members of illegal immigrants. If you’re illegal, the Gov will not give you food stamps. If you’re legal, the Gov will give you food stamps if you qualify (varies by state). What lie in “the lie the government is telling us is quite the opposite of how you see it” do you mean?
    That illegal immigrants may benefit from their US-born children’s food stamps is secondary to the help the children will get from the aid. The situation is less than ideal but life is sometimes messy. A similar potential problem exists with child support payments in divorced families. There’s no guarantee that payments will be used solely for the children’s benefit but the children will certainly be worse off if payments are stopped.
    http://watchdog.org/31494/shno-new-food-stamp-rules-draw-more-fire-in-kansas/ is the original story your link discusses. It appears the loophole has been closed in KS as of October 2012. I am guessing that this discrepancy in eligibility rules came about inadvertently and that illegal immigrants aren’t entering the US solely to take advantage of this loophole. If we find a problem, we should fix it. We don’t destroy the whole system just because we found something wrong with it. Feel free to lobby the Gov to close this loophole.

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