This post was a very difficult one to write. It's hard to be stern and understanding simultaneously. It's extremely taxing to not let your emotions get the best of you when discussing societal changes of an oppressed people. Everyone's story is different, that's a given. My hope is that someone who has the power to change things will take something away positive from the post and do just that. I would love to hear your feedback and your opinion on the situation no matter how harsh it is.
Ever since I became a pescetarian and vowed to eat healthier managing my money properly has become an urgent necessity. I am clearly no expert on money management as I have a series on my YouTube page called Broke Bitch Chronicles and I am in the process of filing for Chapter 7 but I do understand the concept of necessity versus want.
Last night, I was talking shit on a video on YouTube, and there was a comment by a young woman whose ideologies perturbed me. She said that in America where it's $1 for a hamburger and $7 for a salad, it's impossible for anyone to eat healthy food on a budget. She proceeded to type about how she was on food stamps and it allotted her $200 a month and buying cereal, milk and chicken was a necessity so she did not have any money for frivolous vegetables. We all know you can't buy hot food with food stamps, so where the hell was she getting chopped meat for a $1? When I presented the idea of actually cooking food and freezing it or just cooking it period, she couldn't fathom a world where she couldn't buy frozen Stouffers and just eat that. This is a woman who said that she has a child.
There is a blurry line between wants and necessities and in our culture where we think that our wants are necessities and our necessities should be handled by someone else. We are totally privileged to have the ability to decide that we will buy a $1,500 TV and then two months later run downtown for assistance for bills or food. That one track mind of thinking is also our weakness in the same breath. There is no reason someone can justify spending $60 a month on rhinestones nails and turning their nose up at spending that same amount or less on healthy food. We can't say we don't have money for the dentist but then spend $700 on the newest iPhone or some bundles that are sewn into our hair.
Back to the young lady, the ideology that the only food fit for consumption is already prepared, packaged and pre-made is terribly flawed and toxic. It was historically taught that a "well balanced" meal was composed of things on some random ass pyramid that we later discovered was mostly bull shit. We discovered that there is protein outside of chicken and sufficient calcium without consuming cow's milk. The real world education about sources of vitamins and minerals has not yet reached a particular demographic. Why? We can conclude that not everyone has access to the same resources as the young woman said to me on YouTube, i.e. grocery stores and supermarkets are far beyond reach of normal measures but if we can travel 40 minutes to a clothing store or a mall once a month, is it so far fetched to travel to a better supermarket? Just like the young lady found that video and googled prices of items to dispute my claims, she could have easily googled another supermarket in her area or a fresh produce farmer's market and made travel arrangements. These pretenses are extremely common and have become rampant ideas and morals in our generation. Public assistance is glorified as a means of every day survival and it is something that contributes to the demise and steady decline of independence and freedom in our communities.
It's no secret that humans are creatures of habit and we have no explanation as to why we prefer Parkway butter over Country Crock or eat Welch's grape jelly other than that's what our parents did. And that's what their parent's did. These generational ideas and habits are problematic not only to our physical well being but our financial well being as well.
Public assistance was intended to be used as a part-time crutch for a family that has suddenly fallen on hard times due to no fault of their own. It was not intended for permanent sustenance and a large majority of a household's income. The cycle doesn't end because there are no measures put in place to end it. The Snap program in NYC has put into place Farmer's Markets where you can go to get fresh vegetables however, the majority of people on Snap don't even know they exist or it's too far from their reach.
This blog post is not intended to judge anyone, or dictate how people spend their money but just to offer an alternative way of thinking about a subject that has been viewed one-sidedly for decades.
I have some ideas on how to make the SNAP/ Eat Smart New York program more than just a program that throws $200 on a card and sends a family on their way but, forces an implementation of the tools to be fiscally responsible upon them to ensure that the cycle doesn't have repeat itself. A lot of the programs such as the Financial Education Network are volunteer programs hidden in the depths of the NYC.gov website that doesn't create a call to action with the people who use the services, the ones who actually need it. The problem is that it doesn't outright mandate or heavily promote fiscal responsibility. Every thing is passive and the pertinent information is available only if someone seeks it out.
- Being more visible in terms of social media with their Eat Smart New York initiative
- Sending frequent emails and newsletters to registered addresses with success stories and updates
- Free monthly shuttle buses to BJs, Costco's or Whole Foods
- Creating a finance department inside of SNAP which includes a liaison to Work Force 1 dedicated to reaching recipients of SNAP
- Mandatory monthly classes on how to be fiscally responsible with food money and demos/cooking classes (excluding the disabled/severely sick)
- Certificate of completion for financial courses that recipients can use when seeking employment
- Budget counselors in Food Stamp Centers who people can see monthly
- More accountability within departments to take responsibility and following up
- Discounts at local stores for people on Food Stamps without Cash Assistance
Please leave your thoughts/grievances below!