I really, really, really (times) 100 hate the SNAP Food Stamp Challenge.
Before I delve into a more logical, reasoned explanation, let me give it to you off the cuff. I hate it because it’s fucking embarrassing to listen to people who have not even the slightest clue what it means to be POOR talk about how hard it is to stick to the challenge. I hate it because while others get to play the challenge like a fucking game, I have to live with the financial hardships long after the challenge has played itself out. I hate it because it feels insulting and patronizing. I hate it because people talk about it without realizing that the people they are talking to might actually include those who really need and use the SNAP Food Stamp system. I hate it because it strikes me as a fad, and I want to throw rocks at people for “playing dress up”.
Do you not understand, people? You are dressing up LIKE ME, and like countless others who don’t get to walk away to a better lifestyle once the challenge is up.
The SNAP Food Stamp Challenge is way out of touch with reality.
People who require Food Stamps — okay, screw that. I’m just going to say “Me” and “I” and “we” and stop referring to this mysterious third person perspective. That’s part of the problem in the first place, isn’t it? If we’re talking about “you know, someone OVER THERE-ISH”, it kind of keeps the downtrodden out of sight, and, therefore, out of mind. So allow me to start again.
I, as a person who requires Food Stamps, am not just economically oppressed in my pantry. It’s not just my stock of groceries that is suffering. Let’s go seemingly off topic for a moment here and talk about car maintenance. I know, I know. It seems completely unrelated to those who can afford… STUFF. Just hear me out.
We are down to one vehicle.
One might think we would baby the shit out of this car, have the tires rotated periodically, tune-ups and diagnostics performed on a regular basis, oil changed on a very tight schedule.
One would be mistaken. One would assume we have money to do that kind of thing. One forgets we are fucked. When there isn’t money, there simply isn’t money. When there is a choice between paying the water bill — by which I mean, paying the smallest possible amount which will keep from having that lovely utility shut off — versus getting your engine looked at “just in case” (not because of a funny sound, or bad breaks, or any number of other things which might send you to a mechanic)… water bill wins every time. EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH.
I used to be married to a car guy.
Not the salesman car guy, thank goodness. Those douche-bags are just grody to the max. I was married to a guy who worked the front desk with the fix-it people. He would come home with stories about car owners who didn’t perform regular maintenance, and bemoan the money they wasted “if they’d only take care of the problems BEFORE the car ka-sploded!” I totally get that. If you take care of your belongings properly, they will last much longer. But you have to be able to afford to do that.
I’m on Food Stamps. I can’t afford car maintenance. Flat tires send us into a tailspin.
The SNAP Food Stamp Challenge overlooks the emotional state of being poor.
According to the Food Resource and Action Center, the SNAP Food Stamp Challenge “gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans.” Except, no it doesn’t. How can it possible give ANYONE a view of what life is like for low-income Americans? Having a low income is much, much more than merely not being able to afford anything more for dinner than fucking Raman noodles. Having a low income means KNOWING you can’t afford anything more for dinner than fucking Raman noodles.
It’s one thing to walk through a grocery store, check prices, and realize you have to skip certain items this week because you’re taking part in a challenge. It’s quite a different matter altogether to skip entire aisles on a regular basis because you know you’ll never be able to afford anything in them. Not buying meat for dinner “this week” has nothing, nothing, nothing on knowing that, unless it’s covered by Food Stamps, or unless you stop at a food bank, or unless someone gives it to you, you will not ever have a nice steak ever again — if you’ve ever had one in the first place. I remember steaks. It’s been a few years, but yeah. I totally remember steaks. Maybe I’ll have one for my birthday dinner this year — but probably not since my birthday falls awfully close to Christmas. *sigh*
The SNAP Food Stamp Challenge is a way to assuage guilt.
I firmly believe this is a fact for most challenge participants. Financial hardship is a serious problem in this country, and as Corporate America continues to gain ground, it’s only getting worse. But that gets into politics and I can’t bear to yell about that topic when I’m already busy yelling about THIS topic. So I’m not going there. For now.
The SNAP Food Stamp Challenge makes a silly claim.
“While living on a food stamp budget for just a week cannot come close to the struggles encountered by low-income families week after week and month after month, it does provide those who take the Challenge with a new perspective and greater understanding.”
Really? Is this true? If you participated in the SNAP Food Stamp Challenge, do you seriously have “new perspective and greater understanding”? Maybe I’m just coming off bitter here, but I seriously doubt you have a fucking clue what it’s like to have to make choices between the following:
- gas for the car
- auto repairs
- new shoes to replace your child’s only pair of holey sneakers.
- school related fees (photos, yearbook, sports/clubs, dances/skating parties, projects, etc.)
Where would you put your money this week if you had to pick ONE of the above? I’m wondering because most of the time, that’s my life. I don’t think the SNAP Food Stamp Challenge can bring this kind of perspective.
In addition to participating in the SNAP Food Stamp Challenge, read this.
Look, I get that there are a lot of really decent people who honestly want to understand what it’s like to have to survive on a Food Stamp grocery budget. I know my bitterness is over the line when it comes to assuming the worst. Sometimes, people just really, honestly, and truly don’t know WTF they’re talking about. I think those people should probably just STFU about things they can’t possibly understand. But I can see that I’m just being a bitch here. If people honestly want to understand the plight of the poor, I urge them to be more informed about what being poor really means.
Of all places, I found at Cracked.com a really great article that I wish all SNAP Food Stamp Challenge participants would take under advisement before talking smack about how easy or difficult it is to shop for groceries on a closed budget.
Author David Wong urges,
“we shouldn’t, as a rule, get as angry at people for being oblivious as we should when they’re being intentionally evil. Besides, they can’t help it — that obliviousness is hard-wired, a product of evolution that, really, kind of explains all class tension in the world. The rich, along with all of us, are biologically programmed to not notice their advantages.”
So I’m going to calm the fuck down, per David’s suggestion. It’s not your fault you don’t get it. But if I have to read about the SNAP Food Stamp Challenge again this year, I’m going to lose my shit. Because seriously, you guys. I’m poor, and you’re not. And I don’t want to hear all about your endeavors in “pretending” to be poor like me.
Instead, can I “pretend” to be NOT poor like you? THAT WOULD BE FUCKING EPIC.