Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hunger Challenge: Week 4 (We Cheated!)

We survived week three with flying colors.  Partly because I found great deals last week and partly because WE CHEATED.  Yup.  One night we went to Costco and bought pizza.  Even though I had the ingredients at home to make one.  Lucky for us, we are not really on food stamps.  And not really on 1/2 food stamps!

Since this is my last week on the "hunger challenge,"  I thought I would spend a little time writing about what I have realized and felt since going on it.

I started out doing this challenge because I read an article about people doing a similar "food stamp hunger challenge" for just one week in the month of September.  The people who had tried that challenge mostly complained about how hard it had been and how very pitiful the people who are on food stamps must really be.  But I was surprised at how MUCH money was allotted for the average food stamp user.  Then the news of the riots in Greece regarding their austerity measures only furthered my desire to see what a certain amount of austerity measure would do to our family.  And how such a thing would affect our country if we ever came to that.

No one likes to have their standard of living reduced.  No one does.  But if you are out of work, or living off of someone else's generosity, or if you need to save money for another purpose, or if your entire country is having financial difficulties, reducing your standard of living is necessary.  It just is.

One of the most heart-wrenching concepts that people can think of is a child going hungry.  We are just terribly upset about that concept.  With good reason.  If we are told that children are starving somewhere, we are apt to do everything asked of us to relieve that suffering.  It is an emotional trigger button to turn on our charitable feelings.  It can be used to manipulate our donation decisions and our votes.

But ARE children really starving in America?  The answer is yes.  But who are they?  Are they children in families that are receiving food stamps?  Perhaps.  But is it because there isn't enough "money" given through food stamps?  I think not.

When you also consider that children in families with low incomes also receive free breakfast and lunch at school and that mothers and babies can receive WIC food and formula, (all in addition to food stamps) then the amount of food possible really starts to add up.

Why then are so many children and families going hungry?  I do not know.   I cannot address illegal immigrants and the plight of children in those families.  I cannot address those who are not eligible for food stamps for one reason or another but also have no or a low income.  I cannot address those who are mentally ill and/or homeless and somehow falling through the cracks of the system.

But for those who are IN THE SYSTEM, I do not believe there is any reason to worry about their ability to obtain healthy and adequate food.  There is plenty of money there.  Our family has been living on HALF the average food stamp allotment.  We are not going hungry.  Not at all.

I feel like this challenge has left me with the ability to not be manipulated by politicians who want to use the "hungry children" card to push their agenda further.   More and more social programs and higher and higher taxes is not the answer.

When you look at how in debt our country is and how our economy is is trouble--I wonder if some reduction or redistribution of funds would be better.  I would rather see families receive 1/2 the amount of food stamps and better health insurance.  Or maybe 1/2 the amount in food stamps and transportation help.  Or 1/2 the amount of food stamps and safer and more affordable housing.  Or whatever else is needful.

The future goal would be for the family to get OFF of food stamps.  There are those who must be on food stamps and social programs for life.  But for many families, it should be a temporary situation.  If people become spoiled on a program and never learn to shop carefully, prepare their own food, or plan ahead, they will be very disinclined to get off the program.  It becomes a golden handcuff.  It is just too hard to get off the program.

As things are currently, our family would eat easier and better than our norm if we were to go on food stamps.  Lucky there are some other things we enjoy about being employed and making our own way.

These are my thoughts and discoveries.

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