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.

{ 108 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.

105 Tracy Tice August 5, 2015 at 7:41 pm

I am 51 yrs old. I am disabled (I have MS). I applied for food stamps almost a year ago and at first got $140mo, I was able to eat almost every day. Then about 7mo ago I received a letter telling me that my amount was dropped to $93mo. I go for days without anything to eat because $93 isn’t enough. I tried food banks but 2 boxes of jello, instant mashed potatoes when you don’t have milk, usually a can of peas or green beans which I have gotten desperate enough to eat. I get $980mo in Social Security (I worked all my life till about 12yrs ago), my mortgage is $700mo and my electric is $100 and my water is usually around $130. This does my whole check in like for instance this month I paid my bills and have .76cents lefts for the rest of the month. I’m not trying to whine but a few weeks ago I was diagnosed with ANL leukemia and started treatments and now I’m drowning in doctor bills and the money I have to give someone to take me for treatments is impossible. I live in Pennsylvania and I’m just wondering if anyone knows anything I can do? I can’t walk unassisted anymore and I’m at the end of my rope.

106 A. Salter August 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Hi Tracy;
I live in Canada, so I don’t know about Pennsylvania rules and resources. However, I’m wondering if you can take in a boarder – or share your lodging in some ways. Since housing is typically the highest expense for most people, cutting that (even by only 10%) is a huge chunk compared to reducing expenses on anything else. A shared house here would be at least $500 a month (with a private bedroom – not a private bath) so it would bring down your costs quite a bit.

Another way to reduce your spending would be to move. If you moved to an apartment, you may be able to get down to a lower amount that includes water and heat.

Around here, we have a couple of places that offer free meals once a day. Of course people have to get there, which isn’t easy for some. They are located in some neighbourhoods that have more needs, but it still doesn’t reach everyone.

Hang in there!

107 ingrid August 20, 2015 at 11:03 am

I submitted everything they asked me to, example, I had to make copies of my birth certificate 2x my social security 2x, bank statements 2x my social security 2x my pension 2x , I had a phone interview 4pm the scribe faxed everything 2x I went to the office my information was in the computer, I called a 1-800 number the lady said the clerk did not put my information on time hence the reason they rejected my case. I complied with everything they asked for. I am on a fixed income. Everywhere I went (2 different pharmacies) wanted to charge me 30.00, next one wanted to charge me 32.00. I had to get on a bus by the courthouse the next pharmacy charged me 11.00 . I worked for Medicaid for 19 years and this is the treatment I got!!!!!!

108 ingrid August 20, 2015 at 11:34 am

I worked for Medicaid for 19 years I did not want to retire but due to pressure on the job from the director. (she did not want to send me to training, I had transferred to the helpline. Everybody else had training. She called me in the office and asked me how long did I work, I informed I did not deal with clients. She told me that I should know how to answer clients when the calls came in. My co-workers had four months of training, I wanted to transfer out she called me in the office and she told I will not get any training and to put it in my head I will not be transferred out!!! My co-workers were shocked that she refused to let me go to training. I was very stressed out because I did not know how to answer the clients. My pressure went to 190/90 my sugar went to 300. All the supervisors including the director monitored the workers all day long they timed how long you were on the phone. I left my desk one day because one well-trained worker called me to her desk to show me what I did wrong, a supervisor came to the worker’s desk to let me know that I have been away from my desk for 10 minuets. Some days I would feel my left hand getting numb
With stinging pain on my left hand. I was getting scared that I would sit there and get a stroke so, I decided it was not worth the struggle!!! I applied for food stamps, submitted everything twice anthe same with scribe and was rejected!!!!!

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