Monday, June 25, 2012

Ignorance is Never Bliss

As I have mentioned before, I am unemployed and collecting unemployment benefits. I am also receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps)  which  I had applied for before I  got fired due to a lack of income while on leave of absence from work (my request for short-term disability got denied). I didn't want to apply. There was always a stigma  to being on food stamps, but when you're poor and have no money for food, you have to do what you have to do. When I went to DHHS I had no idea what I was doing, what I was going to get or how much they would even issue. I thought I was going to be denied on principle, so when I was granted $130 for one month, I was shocked (it was a provisional month, eventually I was granted $200 a month). I left the office with copies of the paperwork I signed and a form to report to them if my income changed, but I left, completely ignorant.

I usually am pretty well educated about a lot of things, but I didn't know shit about food stamps. I've been on them a year and I didn't even know they were a program of the US Department of Agriculture until a few weeks ago when my brother in-law, who works at the USDA, was spouting off about how much food stamps cost. Another thing I didn't know until this Spring? Food stamps can buy plants and seeds. Motherfucking plants and seeds. Had I known that last summer, I would have taken advantage of it. I didn't know! How hard would it have been for DHHS to print out this page of the USDA website about eligible food items to hand out to people receiving SNAP benefits? I would have appreciated it! They're doing people a disservice. I'm sure more people, if they knew about it, would like to be able to grow their own food.

I found out totally by accident. I had budgeted some cash to buy two heirloom tomato plants, two basil plants, a rosemary and a thyme plant and some radish and beet seeds (mmm... beet greens) at Wal-Mart but I also had to buy some foodstuffs and some non-food. So the cashier rang me up, I swiped my food stamp card first, cashier hit subtotal, and it was... ten dollars? I looked at him/her funny, but paid and left. Really? Food stamps just paid for my gardening stuff? I thought, wrestling the impossibly heavy bag of dirt into my trunk (never again). It did.

So today, as my aunt helped me stake my huge tomato plants, I was thinking, we're really doing a disservice to people on government benefits if we're not properly educating them about what they're getting. It took me literally one minute to find that information on the USDA website, but I had to know to look. Ignorance of what people on any form of assistance can receive is only adding to the tension and class division that we're seeing in this country.

You know what I'd love to see with the food stamp program in particular? Workshops where someone from the USDA comes to the local DHHS office in the Springtime to talk about how to grow a garden, whether it be in the ground or  in containers. People, we need this kind of communication and education. I benefit from having grown up with gardens, I already know how to grow my own food, but so many people don't know, could benefit. Why aren't we providing this education? Right now, no information at all is being provided, and that's a shame. I know it costs money, and I know from talking to my brother in-law that there haven't been raises in years, but would it behoove someone to maybe do this as volunteer work in conjunction with DHHS? It's just a thought.

They were so small back then...


  1. Best post about Food Stamps I've seen EVER.

    1. Thanks Ben. I just think it's ridiculous that it took me a year and finding out by accident that I could use them to grow my own produce, which is something I would much rather do. There has got to be more education and more communication or society is just going to implode on it's own ignorance.