I’m not here to argue politics! I’d just like to describe what it’s like for a conservative Catholic to be on welfare–a lot more welfare than she’d like.
1. WIC is nuts. Imagine me, 9 months pregnant, in the grocery store aisle, trying to find three WIC-approved cereals, each at least 12 oz. but adding up to not more than 36 oz., that my kids will eat. Now help me find the orange juice that is 64 oz., because for some reason most of them come in 59 oz. Now look for an approved bottle of 100% juice that is not apple juice, because you’re sick of that, but don’t get Juicy Juice, because that’s made by Nestle, which does that horrible formula stuff in Africa. You’re not even sure if the government money goes to Nestle, but you feel bad anyway.
2. As aggravating as WIC is, I think it’s a good model for welfare; you can only buy super-healthy things, it’s based on nutritional need (e.g. pregnant women get extra protein, and young kids get full-fat milk), you have to buy the cheapest brand available, and you have to show an ID and sign your name.
Food stamps, on the other hand…
3. Food stamps do not cover alcohol, restaurants, or non-food items. (If you hear about someone using their EBT for strip clubs or whatever, it’s because they’re using cash benefits–Temporary Assistance for Needy Families–not food stamps.) They do cover soda, candy, and junk food, however. But I’d feel bad using the government’s money for that. Well, what about tortilla chips? What about whole-grain tortilla chips? How about chocolate syrup, for my kid who won’t drink milk otherwise? How about those weird chocolate straws, for my other kid who drinks lots of milk, but has been a very good boy at the store? What about chocolate chips? It’s better than buying cookies, right? Well, what if I buy the cookies in a separate purchase? What if I buy beer for my husband in a separate purchase? What if most of my groceries are healthy, but I hid a carton of ice cream in the middle? Will someone yell at me?
4. I used to separate my junk food purchases, until a couple of check-out ladies told me not to bother. And when you’re already making 5 separate purchases, believe me, it’s a big bother.
5. I’ve never been yelled at or shamed for using food stamps. (Well, except online.) However, I am THAT LADY who harasses the poor teenage cashier with three separate WIC vouchers, an EBT purchase, and a regular purchase. My record is 6 different employees called to my register at the same time. I’m pretty proud of that. On the other hand, when you happen to work at that grocery store, and several of them recognize you, that’s not so fun.
6. We got on food stamps so we could afford the extra $200 a month to move to an apartment where there weren’t drive-by shootings down the street and gang symbols spray-painted on our porch. I’m okay with that. Now I’m thinking, we really shouldn’t spend all these food stamps we’ve accumulated, because we don’t eat that much. But if we do, we can save money to pay off our student loans! Oh wait, not sure if that’s okay.
7. I haven’t even mentioned the fuel assistance, medicaid, and free tracfone, but you get the idea. Welfare is a LOT OF WORK. Think going to the DMV, times 10. Every few months there’s a new round of frantic searching for paperwork and documents, phone calls, chasing down the landlord, getting a doctor’s note, photocopying everything, and trying to make an appointment that I won’t have to bring all three kids to. This isn’t an easy way to make money. I don’t know why you’d do it if you didn’t have to.
Join Kelly for the rest of the Quick Takes!