The Food Stamp Program, now called SNAP, was first conceived and used back in the 1930’s and has evolved over time. It came into common use in the late 60s to early 70s. The purpose of SNAP is to provide people in need with food. The service looks at a person’s income and provides a monthly allowance that can only be spent on edible products. The program, while flawed, has helped to keep hundreds of thousands of people from going hungry. Unfortunately, a certain stigma has developed around the program and its recipients.
In our current time, many SNAP recipients live in a state of shame, due to the fact that society looks upon them as lazy and a drain on society. No matter what the circumstances are that caused them to need the assistance, many people look down on SNAP users and automatically assume that they are freeloaders and thus treat them badly. There’s no excuse for this kind of behavior, but it exists none the less.
One example that’s currently being brought to light is the fact that around 900,000 veterans are currently on the SNAP program. These men and women have fought for our country and our freedom, and could not possibly be considered lazy or a drain on society. A large portion of SNAP recipients are either disabled or elderly. These people are physically incapable of earning the money to pay for food and typically their retirement, disability or other payments aren’t enough to pay ever-growing bills and buy food as well. The rest of the recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance are comprised largely of people who have at least one working person in the household but not enough income, or people out of work due to downsizing, layoffs or temporary health issues.
The number of people “milking the system” and staying on it for extensive periods of time is far lower than people think. Granted, there are instances where a person relies on SNAP for several years, but there are often extenuating circumstances that cause this to be true, like ongoing health issues, lack of available jobs and so on. It’s unfortunate that this stigma ever developed, but like many other things in society, the few bad apples got a great deal of press time and sullied the image of the whole group. I’ve personally known numerous people who relied on Food Stamps at one time or another, and I never met a single one who wasn’t eager for the day when they could stop receiving those benefits.
We currently rely on the SNAP program because of various factors. We don’t like it, but it’s a necessity. We are in no way lazy. We do all that we can to raise our income so we can reduce and eventually eliminate our need to be part of the program. And contrary to what many people think, SNAP doesn’t offer a lot. Our benefits provide $6.15 per person, per day. That’s only $2 per meal. Luckily, we’re very smart shoppers and make what we get last. It’s also a misconception that people who use SNAP all eat unhealthy foods. While unhealthy foods are less expensive and households with multiple people may have to resort to eating them, it is possible to eat healthy food while on SNAP, it just takes savvy shopping and the desire to do so. It’s poor nutritional education and poor education in general that causes people to choose unhealthy foods.
I really believe that the stereotype of people on SNAP being lazy drains on society needs to end. It simply isn’t true for the vast majority of recipients. Many SNAP participants are just trying to make ends meet. If there was a better education system, less outsourcing and more jobs, there would be fewer people on the program. Costs are rising but incomes and job opportunities aren’t, so the number of people dependent on Supplemental Assistance continues to grow. Instead of having preconceived (and typically wrong) notions about people on SNAP, our time and energy would be better spent improving the education system and bringing jobs back to America, particularly ones that are accessible to those who have not attended college.