I’m Not Ashamed to Use Food Stamps, But Trump Wants Me to Be

In a nation as wealthy as the United States, yes, we are ‘entitled’ to a basic standard of living.

Toddler drops box of crackers into a small yellow shopping cart in a grocery store
Toddler drops box of crackers into a small yellow shopping cart in a grocery store
Cropped Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash

This morning, I’m snapping my daughter into her car seat to go to kindergarten when she asks, “What does ashamed mean?”

I’ve got to say, it felt like a parenting win that she got to be 5 years old without learning the word shame.

Together, my husband and I explain shame is the opposite of pride. Shame is something others might try to make someone else feel, and also shame is something people can feel inside.

“Generally, shame isn’t something we want anyone to feel,” I say. “Though maybe if somebody really did do something bad, feeling ashamed about it could prompt them to say, ‘I’m sorry.’”

“But, like, let’s say I snap at Mama,” my husband adds. “It’s not shame that’s going to make me say sorry. It’s empathy. I don’t want her to feel bad, so I want to apologize to make it right.”

All of us have something society told us to be ashamed of: what you like, who you love, how you look. For me, I am acutely aware many people believe I should be ashamed our family utilizes government entitlements.

We receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); free healthcare through Medicaid; and until my daughter’s 5th birthday, we were on WIC (Women, Infants, and Children nutrition assistance).

I am not ashamed.

In addition to free groceries and healthcare, we also receive access to public schools and libraries, clearly marked roads to drive on, and — hopefully we’ll never need it, but —the protection of our local fire department. Hmm, are those things entitlements too?

Here’s a list via the Bernie Sanders campaign of government programs we are all legally entitled to. You may not think about public defenders and sewer systems as entitlements, but they too are government resources we as a society agree everyone is entitled to.

In a nation as wealthy as the United States, yes, we are entitled to programs that provide a basic standard of living. We the people have already decided this.

The main difference between sewer systems and food stamps is the sewer is easy to access, and food stamps are a total pain in the ass to apply for.

And the Trump administration is trying to make it even harder.

Public comment is open through September 23 on a proposed rule to limit categorical eligibility for SNAP. If this rule goes through, my family — along with an estimated 3 million other Americans — will lose our SNAP food benefits.

Today, 42 states and US territories effectively utilize broad-based categorical eligibility, using less restrictive income and asset tests to help people get the benefits they need, while cutting down on administrative costs. In all but a few states, people are not knocked on and off of benefits each month based on minor income fluctuations.

A switch to restrictive asset tests would mean families would not be able to both eat and attempt to save up money to afford first, last, and deposit on an apartment. This is because, without categorical eligibility, people lose food benefits as soon as their household saves $2,250 (or $3,500 for households with members who are elderly or have a disability).

This NPR story details all the Trump administration’s proposed changes to benefits like SNAP and whether they’re pending, challenged, in place, or just proposed.

The administration’s legal assault includes a rule to allow homeless shelters to kick people out for being transgender, denial of housing assistance to citizens/legal residents who have undocumented family members, and no longer allowing states to waive SNAP work requirements.

One challenged regulation is August’s ruling making it more difficult to get green cards or to extend visas if it appears likely applicants will use government benefits, such as SNAP. It’s set to go into effect October 15, but faces legal challenges from advocacy groups and over a dozen states.

When questioned about this new rule, Ken Cuccinelli — acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services —infamously told NPR Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin the Statue of Liberty’s poem should say, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

At stake is the conscience of this country. At stake is the safety, health, liberty, and happiness of millions of Americans.

I’m not ashamed my family utilizes entitlements. We all do, whether we see it or not.

I’m hoping to be off SNAP by the end of this year, but hopefully not because Trump took my family’s food away. Our time on SNAP allowed us to get to a place where hopefully we won’t need that kind of assistance anymore.

When I see what the Trump administration is trying to take from us, I think he and his supporters should be ashamed. But my husband’s right. People don’t make things right because of shame. For that, it takes empathy.

I’ve written about Food Stamps before:

Written by

Empathy for the win! Published in Gen, Human Parts, Heated, Tenderly —Feminism, Sexuality, Veganism, Anti-Racism, Parenting. She/They darcyreeder.substack.com

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