SNAP Judgements: Living on Food Stamps

English: Logo of the .

English: Logo of the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last two years have been a blur. Days have run into months and before I knew it, a year had passed. Three months after I had my daughter, my husband lost his job. And we lost the security of our middle-class life.

For six months, we qualified for food stamps. And we used every last penny that the government so kindly granted us. What I thought about being poor, about the federal food stamp program, and about social services like food stamps and WIC dramatically changed. Because I was no longer an outsider looking in. I was an insider, wishing to get out.

I debated even publishing this post or writing the story about my experience for the Texas Observer. But over time, pride fades. And perhaps, my story will make another woman in my place know that it’s all going to be okay.

Here’s my story published in the Texas Observer:

I’m a snotty 16-year-old with a crush on Reed, the dark-haired, fair-skinned dreamboat who bags groceries in my line (when I’m lucky). My feet hurt from standing at a Winn Dixie cash register all day.

Weigh the bananas. Type in produce code 4011. Take bananas off scale.

“Have a nice day,” I say, sincerely insincere.

A heavyset mother of about 25 trailing a rowdy brood of kids steps forward and hands me a sheet of paper with a government logo across the top.

WIC. I hate WIC.

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a federal program, similar to food stamps, that provides assistance specifically to mothers, pregnant women and their young children, paying for essentials like baby food, formula, bread and milk. It also educates mothers on nutrition and the art of breastfeeding, which is much harder than it looks.

But for cashiers, filling out the forms and processing the paperwork takes forever, and I can’t seem to get it right. So my line gets longer. Customers get irritated. And my feet hurt.

Why can’t the government come up with a better way to help people without making my life miserable?

Two thousand dollars a month. That’s the income cap to qualify for food stamps in Texas. Two thousand dollars a month for a family of three.

My parents were teachers, no big paychecks or buyouts, but they were smart with their money and paid for everything with cash. I don’t think they started using credit cards until I was an adult. They instilled their zero-debt policy in me as well, and the Discover card my mother put in my name when I graduated from high school still gets paid off every month.

We’re standing in line at Target. My husband pays for our groceries while I coo and cuddle my baby girl, who’s gazing up at me from her expensive car seat in the front of the cart. My husband takes a white card out of his wallet, slides it through the machine, enters his 4-digit PIN, and looks down. The receipt prints. Niceties are exchanged. Plastic bags are gathered. I doubt the overworked cashier even notices we’re not paying with credit.

Last April we joined the 46 million Americans living on food stamps, more accurately known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Four million of those people are Texans. The federally funded program provides food assistance to people who earn less than $24,000 a year for a family of three.

Continue…

Writers On Food: Southern Influence

I’m a Texan. And I must say, without too much bragging, that Texas is a delicious place to live. Fort Worth, Texas especially.

Southerners are almost as proud of their relationship with food as they are with that slow-moving melodic twang. Like, “Hey Pop, bring me a biscuit and some gravy to soak up my grits.” It’s music to my ears. Really.

I love the relationships and memories that good food creates around dinner tables from here to the Mississippi. In this last post about writers on food, I’d like to dish out a little food for thought on the somewhat new (and already award-winning) magazine Garden & Gun.

Its October issue highlights great southern foods, and makes me want to stuff a buttered biscuit into my mouth every time I see that mouthwatering cover. Food aside (just for a tiny, itty-bitty second) this magazine artfully combines literary excellence with lip smacking, finger licking, lovin’ of life: food.

Here’s that recipe from the issue’s cover. And please make enough to share with this always-hungry writer and sinfully sad cook.

Blackberry Farm‘s Rolled Buttermilk Biscuits with Sorghum Butter
Serves 12

1¼ lb. White Lily all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. cream of tartar
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. salt
¼ lb. shortening
2 cups buttermilk
soft butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture with your fingers, two knives, or a pastry blender.  The lumps will be very small, but still visible.  As soon as you feel the texture of the flour become coarse, stop.

Pour the buttermilk into the dry mixture all at once and combine. Incorporate the buttermilk as quickly and as gently as possible using a folding motion.  Adjust the consistency if needed.  The dough should be sticky, but manageable.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work lightly (with the hands, use a folding and patting out motion) until the texture begins to smooth out.  Pat the dough out with your hands into a large rectangle (about the size of a baking sheet).

Spread 2/3 of the dough with soft butter.  Fold the unbuttered side onto the middle 1/3 of the buttered side, then fold the other outer 1/3 buttered side onto the top of the unbuttered dough.  Turn dough ¼ turn and repeat, buttering 2/3 dough and folding.  Repeat once more.

Pat out dough to ½-inch thickness.  May finish lightly with a few strokes of a rolling pin.  Use a 3-inch cutter (keep dipping in flour to keep from sticking to the dough) to punch out biscuits.

Place 6 by 4 on a  parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 14 minutes.  Turn once halfway through the baking at 7 minutes.  Tops should be a light golden brown when finished.  Brush tops with butter.

Muddy Pond Sorghum Butter
½ cup Muddy Pond Sorghum
1 cup soft butter, unsalted

Stir together and eat with lots of warm biscuits!  Lather it on thick.

Writers on food: Sweets, treats, and always something to drink.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll examine what foods some of our favorite writers have found comfort in cooking, and just maybe, helped fuel their creative fire.

Let’s start with the late (and always great) Eudora Welty and her potato salad. The Atlantic writes about it and how to prepare it here: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/10/05/a-southern-writers-poetic-potato-salad/57028/

Welty, in her fabulous flair for language and all things Southern, said “Mayonaise had a mystique.” But of course, her mayo wasn’t loaded with preservatives or found on aisle three. Regardless, if it’s good enough for Welty, it’s good enough for me.

Eudora Welty

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