26 Members of Congress try to live on Food Stamps Budget

[deleted account] ( 25 moms have responded )

First off, I do NOT want this post to turn into a "Bash welfare moms" thread, so if you have nothing to contribute, please leave it alone. What I DO want to do is open a discussion about how we can help women who have to feed their families on this budget make healthy choices and move forward with their lives so that they are not confined to a life of social dependence forever.

Here is a link to the story: http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/2...

As most of you know, the Republican parties are proposing cuts to the SNAP program that would eliminate eligibility for about 2 million families.

The budget is about $4.50/day per person. I can feed myself fairly healthily on this budget without too much thought until it comes to those expensive items that we use without much thought, like butter, olive oil, sea salt, and many of our spices. If you run out of one of those, you risk skipping a meal or two for the week. Also, feeding a child on this budget is a whole other story. My kid is PICKY, and I'm told this is pretty common among children. You can't buy a whole lot of healthy foods a picky child will actually eat for $4.50/day. My son loves roll-ups, for example. If you aren't familiar, these are fruit gels stuck to plastic that you peel off and eat. They have pure corn syrup & preservative versions for about $2/10 at my local supermarket. Made with real fruit, actually worth eating, they are over $6/10.

I know the system needs reworking. I know there are large areas of wasted funds. What are your recommendations?
Surviving on a diet of foods purchased at $4.50 per day, most women would not be able to maintain their best mental and physical performance, which can make it very difficult to remove themselves from social assistance.

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Julia - posted on 08/24/2013

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Has your program considered partnering with local colleges. You could likely use the facilities as well as have access to resources such as students willing to volunteer because it looks good on their resumes. Additionally our career counselors have always done some workshops each year for local agencies as part of our commitment to the community. It sounds like the population you work for might be a group that local colleges could help with. And many schools have community action days. Also, any schools that have service learning requirements (start with religious institutions then at state and private schools look to departments like Student Affairs, First Year Experience Programs and Career Services) may be able to help you recruit volunteers from the student populations. Good luck! Sounds like you are doing good work.

Denikka - posted on 06/18/2013

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I think that just throwing people money (or in this particular case, food stamps) is a complete waste. It solves none of the long term problems that generally accompany the need to be on assistance.
It's one thing when assistance is truly just a stop gap, bandaid measure to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head when things unexpectedly and quickly go down the tubes. But let's face it, that's rarely the case. I would venture to say that most of the people on welfare and using assistance like food stamps were pretty close to minimum wage, living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, etc, in the first place.
That usually indicates some sort of other problem. Whether it be a lack of education (college, university, finishing highschool), lack of initiative (let's face it, it's pretty easy to be lazy in general), lack of education on how to handle money (which includes much more than just basic budgeting and/or saving), or whatever. It's still an issue that should be addressed instead of how it's currently handled.
I would personally love to see all assistance come with required classes that would address an individuals issues.
If they lack a higher education, help them into a program that will allow them to get their GED while they're on assistance and then go from there and potentially look into trades, management positions, etc.
Budgeting and general money management should ALWAYS be included with assistance. Most people, even those who have enough and live decent lives (financially) could use some extra tips on how to handle their money better.
Food prep is another thing that I think should be included in most cases. There are SO many complaints out there about people who load up their carts with crap food and pay for it with food stamps. There's really no need for it. There's tons of stuff that you can make at home or save money on just by knowing A) HOW to cook (a HUGE block for many people) and B) knowing how to shop. It may not solve all the problems that people on food stamps face (in regards to food), but it would definitely be a HUGE step forward.

Nothing changes when you just treat the symptoms, which tends to be exactly what assistance does. You have to get to the root of the problems and deal with that accordingly. In the case of assistance in general (and I don't include disability in that, just things like welfare and food stamps), I firmly believe that the biggest issue driving A) the amount of people who use the service B) the struggle to get off assistance and C) the multi-generational families on assistance, is, plain and simple, a lack of education in certain areas. You don't know what you don't know, and the system has a tendency to keep people reliant instead of educating them and sending them off with the ability to do for themselves.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, and becomes reliant on people giving him fish. TEACH a man to fish (and how to prepare and cook that fish :P) and he can go and feed himself.

As much as I think it's nice that the higher ups are attempting to walk in the shoes of those on assistance, I don't think it'll do any good in the long run. At best, the may throw more money at the problem, just one more stop gap measure, instead of actually addressing the real issues.

I think I may have to side more with the conservatives on this one (I don't actually have a political standing) The current system DOES create government dependency, not because it's being done at all, but because of HOW it's being done.

[deleted account]

"I say if they want to live like a real Americans live then do it right....come down from a 6 figure salary to min. wage and not have the benefit of the taxpayers buying your food cause that is how it is for the majority of us!!!!" --America

Americans supporting families on minimum wage DO have the government buying their food. Most Americans are also NOT living on minimum wage. Currently 59% of Americans are hourly workers--that means they get paid for each hour they work as opposed to a set salary. Of that 59%, 4.7% earn minimum wage--less than 2% of Americans over 16 are earning minimum wage. That is far from "the majority".

Minimum wage jobs are not meant to support families. They are meant to keep prices low while helping students and retirees supplement their income. I do understand that a lot of Americans are working in minimum wage jobs right now who shouldn't be, but they do have assistance from our government.
Minimum wage is about $18,000/year.
The Federal Poverty level for a family of 4 is $23,000/year. SNAP benefits become available on a sliding scale to all families earning less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (150% in some states). So a family of 4 could earn up to $31,322/year and still get SNAP. The less they earn, the more SNAP they receive.

There is cash assistance for people earning less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Level who have dependents. The cost for household items like laundry soap and tp are very small, someone earning above 100% of the poverty level should be able to afford those if they are managing their money properly. That is where our problems are--most of the people in these income brackets do not know how to properly manage their finances.

[deleted account]

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that there was no government money available for these programs--there is a shitton--but rather that it would be near impossible to get the people in our government to spend the money on these programs. I have actually learned not to rely on government money AT ALL when I budget for the programs I run. I rely solely on charity and fundraising money, and any extra we get from the government is a bonus.

I love the idea about using the soup kitchens to teach the SNAP participants to cook. Unfortunately, in the states, we cannot make classes there mandatory and link it with the SNAP program because SNAP is government run, and the soup kitchens are run by private charities which do not receive federal funding or provisions. That said, it is still a good idea worth implementing because I have learned from my past experience working with the underprivileged that if you provide a service, people will use it. We may not be able to reach as many people as we'd like, but it would make a significant dent--I think we could help a lot of people out of their holes.

I also agree that the donated food in our food pantries is pretty awful, but the idea behind SNAP is that it should be enough money to cover all of your food needs. People on SNAP should not be taking food from the pantries. The pantries are meant to serve people short term while they wait for their SNAP benefits or disability to be approved. Once approved, they shouldn't need the pantry anymore.

The shelters I work with try do have to focus some on just maintaining our population--keeping people alive--but in the past 7 years, we've implemented several programs that aim to reduce dependence on our system. I headed the supplemental education program for homeless children. Thus far, we've focused on basic academics because children who are homeless struggle to keep up academically with their peers. I am realizing through this conversation that implementing a focus area for tweens and teens on life development could be just as important for keeping them from following in their parents' footsteps as helping them with good grades. I am going to hold a meeting Monday with some other members of our board to brainstorm ideas about how we can work this in.

I do hope that you might reconsider volunteering, Denikka. You have very good ideas that I think could make a big difference in the way charitable services are run, and what they are able to do. You don't have to settle for scooping soup in a kitchen, you can take an executive position, you have the mind for it.

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America3437 - posted on 08/29/2013

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Yeah Right! I just wish I could get them! In the mean time we are starving!!!!! We make to much money for help but can't afford food! They need to include allowences for HBA items and household items like Laundry soap and TP or how about the fact that gas is almost $4 a gallon and if you live in the country gas money adds up fast! They don't care about us they just want to look good for the American public for votes in the next election. I say if they want to live like a real Americans live then do it right....come down from a 6 figure salary to min. wage and not have the benefit of the taxpayers buying your food cause that is how it is for the majority of us!!!!

Julia - posted on 08/24/2013

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It would be wonderful if these women could maintain benifits and go to school. I am a career counselor at a university. My family was willing to pay for a local single mom we knew to attend nursing school at the community college near by. She was working poor and receiving assistance. But after her calls and mine to the child care program that paid for her kids Childcare while she worked they would not pay for child care while she attended classes. It derailed the whole plan so now 7 years later she is still on aid instead of off aid and making a good salary as a nurse.

Denikka - posted on 06/28/2013

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I can absolutely agree with you Kate. It can get so difficult to keep slogging along when you can't actually SEE the improvement.

I would LOVE to see produce and healthy foods become more easily available. Community gardens, travelling stands and drop offs, car pooling, they're all fantastic ideas that I would LOVE to see implemented, at least on a trial basis, to see how effective they would be :) One more small and simple solution that may go a LONG way in making a HUGE difference.

I also totally agree with you on the money waste. It's most definitely not going towards the right places. But as I mentioned before, money is still just a bandaid solution. At the very least it needs to be coupled with MASSIVE doses of education. Throwing more money at this particular problem is not going to solve anything long term. It's a quick fix, and the government tends to like those, instead of putting the proper resources towards actually fixing the problem they prefer to just apply maintaining measures. Bandaids have their place, absolutely, but temporarily. This particular issue needs more than a tourniquet, it needs some massive surgery and some major recovery time.

In a way, the government is a lot like a pharmaceutical company. If they actually CURED your problem (without a dozen horrible side effects), they'd be out of money pretty quickly. So instead, they manage the symptoms and any medication that may actually make you better with what you have, will kill you or cause you great discomfort in a dozen other ways that you need MORE pills to counter act.
For the government, fixing poverty is self defeating. So, instead, they keep throwing bandaids (money) at the issue...seeming to help without actually fixing anything.

Kate - posted on 06/26/2013

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Kelly- Honestly my thought is why do THEY need to go to the store- why not have the store go to them. A traveling fruit and veggie stand? Volunteers to drop off groceries ordered online? Car pooling with an agency van? Just a thought.

As far as the kids go IDK. maybe it's burnout, but sometimes I feel like its an impossible battle. We offer love and logic parenting classes. The parents tend to respond better to that then pure positive approaches. But I have to say I've been at the preschool functions that we have and the ones at my daughters private preschool- there is a marked difference in the kids. Obviously individual kids fall various places in behavior BUT as a whole the kids in our preschool behave worse then the kids at the more "privileged" (I don't like that word, but I'm not sure what else to call it) Preschool. I honestly think the only thing to do is to keep lobbying for high quality child care. I also think that moms shouldn't have to send their kids to awful day care, that the state pays say $600 a week for three kids, to make $300 a week. But that's a whole different argument. :)

SNAP is administered, to the best of my understanding, through DPW. I don't see SNAP budgets; but I do see ODP budgets- also administered by DPW. If the toe are at all similar then I'd say at least 2/3's of the money spent is in overhead and administration. Such a waste.

Kate - posted on 06/26/2013

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Denikka- I gave the comment as my perception, but possibly I should have mentioned that I am a social worker :) so although the comment is unquestionibly my perception it's based on working with this population 40+ hours a week. I think the big difference between these individuals and your grandmother is that she (I'm guessing here) felt like what she was doing had purpose. She likely saw her struggle and sacrifice as a way to advance, if not for her for her children. Most of the people I work with do not have that mind set. They don't think past tomorrow so there is no motivation to experiance hardship for a long term gain. I had a supervisor who put it this way to me once; it's like dieting. You know you shouldn't have a cookie. But it's so much easier to say no to the cookie when you've already lost the first five lbs. Becaise now you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You've started.

I can't get some of my individuals to loose the first five lbs. They can't see that there is a light at the end. That's been my personal experiance. Maybe others have had different experiences- and I would love to hear about them. So I could try some of those techniques.

You make a valid point with the poor diet causing fatuge though. It's something to think about because I'm sure you are correct that it dosnt help.

** please excuse any spelling mistakes/ typos I can't see what I'm typing on my phone so I'm just hoping that I did it right :)**

Denikka - posted on 06/25/2013

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Kate
This bugs me, but it seems to be a pretty common perception.
1)You have to wonder WHY the moms are so tired all the time. I think a fairly large chunk of it is lack of proper nutrition. Which is addressed in the OP and is so true. Most packaged foods are missing vital nutrients, minerals, vitamins and all sorts of stuff that I bet we don't even understand or know about yet. If you're putting subpar fuel into your body, it's just not going to run at optimal levels. So you are going to feel more run down, more tired, less able to concentrate and function.
2) I know moms do a lot. Especially single moms. And ESPECIALLY single moms on assistance. But lets face it, moms have always done a lot. I just can't accept that going off to work one, or even 2 jobs, is so much more difficult than when women were out at dawn working in the field with half a dozen kids (instead of the 1, 2, 3 that are common today), coming home at dusk, doing the housework, cooking dinner, etc.

Just as an example, my Great Grandmother was a seamstress. She not only mended clothes, but also laundered them. She raised 2 children pretty much completely on her own (the kids dad died when they were very young and she eventually married a man who wanted nothing to do with kids and was an alcoholic who drank their extra money). She was up at dawn, baked all her own breads and pastries, made all her food from scratch (including killing her own chickens and preparing them) and still found time and energy to sew clothes for her daughters on special occasions (like prom dresses, etc) She didn't have electricity or a phone until her children were grown (my grandma was 18 the first time she used a phone) They had no family at all (My g-gma immigrated from the Ukraine). So EVERYTHING was done by hand. No dishwasher, no washer and dryer, they had a wood burning stove (so add in chopping wood and stoking the fire to everything else). They didn't even have a radio until my gramma was 14 or so.

It's just our perception of what we're capable of that's changed.
And on that note, one of those womens' saving graces was knowing how to make stews and soups. Short amount of prep time, very filling and packed with all the good stuff. I can throw together a good soup or stew in less than 20 minutes. And for less than what it would cost to buy food from McDonalds.
Happy Meals cost roughly $5 each (after tax and whatever). If you have 2 kids, that's $10, plus whatever the mom gets for herself. I personally tend to get Happy Meals too, so even just add another $5, for $15 total.
For roughly just that $15, I can buy a pack of bacon ($4), a few potatoes ($3), some leeks ($2), some chicken broth ($1.50) and a jug of whole milk ($5) and taking the time it would take to walk to McDonalds, stand in line and walk home, I can make Potato bacon and leek soup and make enough to last at LEAST 2 meals, not to mention still having half a pack of bacon and most of a jug of milk left over.
For the cost of a few boxes of cereal and a single jug of milk (roughly $20), I can make homemade granola bars (time from start to finish is roughly 30 minutes and that includes a 20 minute bake time) that will last at least twice as the cereal would have and is 10 TIMES (easily) more nutritious.
It's all perception on how easy or hard, how expensive/cheap something is.

I do agree that the cost of administration and all the crap spending needs to stop and would make a HUGE impact if they focused on the necessities instead of lining peoples pockets. But you really can't rely on others to do for you. Whenever anything's involved with the government, you're going to have financial issues because they're not there for the people, they're there for the money (most of them anyways). You have to do what YOU can do to make a difference in your own lives. Learning to cook is not going to have the sweeping impact that funneling more funds into the programs might have, but I firmly believe that it would be a much farther reaching impact than just extra money. As I said before, putting more money towards the problem is just giving the man the fish. Teaching them how and what to cook is teaching that man to fish. There may still be lean days, days without fish, but overall, it's going to make a much greater, long term impact. Throwing money at the problem is short term and short sighted at best, if those who receive that money don't know what to do with it to use it to its greatest potential.

[deleted account]

Denikka, I would love to keep you updated. The meeting yesterday went well, everyone is excited about the program. I meet with kitchen and fundraisers later today.
Unfortunately, turning of wheels in the bureaucracy of charitable organizations can be very slow, but they will turn! Don't lose hope if you don't hear anything for a few months at a time. We can't do anything until we have solid funding (stupid insurance issues), and it can take months to get over that first hurdle, but once we have $$ we can move pretty quickly, provided we have enough volunteers....

[deleted account]

I completely agree, Kate. I know administrative costs for SNAP could be made more economical, unfortunately, I don't even have enough knowledge of the system and how it is run to even make viable suggestions to give to the executives in charge of it.

I also get what you are saying about why they cannot find the initiative to make a more dedicated effort to stay afloat. In my area, transportation is a HUGE barrier as we do not have a public transit system that services a lot of the suburban and outskirt areas of our city, and due to a "Downtown revitalization" project, a lot of our underprivileged live outside of town. I am happy about the project, downtown is wonderful now, but it is also very expensive to live there. The only place to live within walking distance of stores, launderettes, schools, and workplaces is filling up with people who have 3 or 4 cars each....

What you say about childcare and behavioral issues is true and important as well. Do you have any suggestions or ideas that we could implement that would help us on these fronts? We did get a grant to expand bus service, but it is still a long way from where we need it to be. We've also been able to add bike lanes to a lot of our suburban roads through private donations (in reality, these were paid for by the pro bikers who have chosen our lovely town as home as a benefit for themselves, but they've helped us as well), but it can be difficult to take two kids to the store on a bike--and we live in a hilly place (thus the draw for the bikers), so unless you are well fit, even pulling just two kids behind you would be very difficult.

Kate - posted on 06/24/2013

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Education in school is a good idea; however in my experience it isn't that people don't know how to cook- it's that they have no ability to. They are single moms working 40+ hours a week at minimum wage with no help. They pick up the kids at subsided day care and are just tired- as many of us are. But add to it the stress of having to try to figure out how to keep a roof over your head with no money. Additionally, frequently (not always!!) subsided day care is not all that great. Children in less than ideal child care situations tend to have more behavior problems. Children with behavior problems are more stressful to deal with. Parents who are younger or low income tend to have a harder time managing behavior from their children. So the kids are acting up, mom can't handle it, there is no money.... Then the problem becomes transportation. You can take the bus, but lets be serious, trying to hold groceries, a stroller, a baby and a toddler is just about imposible. A lot of them have apartments with out a washer and dryer, so at least once a week it's off to do the wash. So I fully understand how walking into McDonald's with the last $10 you have becomes the "only option." It's an awful cycle where the only goal for the day is to make it to tomorrow.

It seems to me that the real problem with all of the government programs is the cost to administer. SNAP is the same problem. There are so many things being funded with SNAP money that the actual benefits are nothing. Eliminate the overhead waste and the program will run just fine- on a fraction of the budget.

Emma - posted on 06/22/2013

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BTW completely agree @ basics being taught at School. My daughter is being taught how to cook Tart Au Citron , but can't fry a bloody egg.

Emma - posted on 06/22/2013

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Incidentally, if a govt of any country is going to offer 'welfare' could they at least make it so that the welfare of the beneficiary is at least met!!!

Emma - posted on 06/22/2013

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I can't imagine how one could feed their family on 4.50 a day. There is the obvious solution 'go to work' , but then if you are in the quagmire, how do you begin to do that? Childminding fees would need paying upfront, it would be a month before you get a pay cheque, how do you buy clothes for interview let alone if you get the job, money for transport upfront, and the list goes on. After pondering that whilst changing nappies and worrying about the next meal, it's no wonder these women just think ' its hopeless' .

It would make more sense for the govt to say ' look, we get it, here is a months worth of funds, to include transport, child care fees, money for clothes, etc etc, maybe this money could be in the way of an interest free loan, payable in small affordable chunks after the first year of employment, the finer details could be calculated BUT, ultimately, they would save themselves money, and ensure that the children of these Mums and Dads have a batter chance of getting out of the cycle of poverty , it is a proven statistic that most children of poor backgrounds, will grow up to be poor themselves, this has to be stopped.

Denikka - posted on 06/21/2013

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I've really glad that something I said could help you in helping others :) Hopefully it won't end with your program, but others will see it work and in a few years, it'll be one of those *duh, why didn't I think of that* type of things and become common place.
I'm almost as excited as you must be :) and I would love to be kept updated on this if you could and would :) Just so I can see the progress and see how successful it really end up being :)

[deleted account]

You know, MOST ideas are not feasible in today's society at their onset--if they were feasible, people would be implementing them already!!! But just because they are not feasible in their original form does not mean they are worthless--we just have to figure out what parts of the idea ARE feasible, and how we can use the resources we do have available to make the same (or at least some of the same) impact on society.

Your soup kitchen idea for example. Given my position and the resources and connections I have, I cannot force SNAP members to attend mandatory cooking classes even though I know it would be a wonderful solution to dependence on social services. However, I know that most of them would attend a class voluntarily if it were available to them, and I CAN make it mandatory for them to attend in order to receive some of the charitable/non government funded benefits they depend on from our program, but I could never figure out a way to make the class available. Using the already existing commercial kitchens from our soup kitchens is so flipping perfect I seriously can't figure out how it evaded me for so long. SERIOUSLY--YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE! The program I run helps homeless women, mostly mothers, to get back up on their feet, and we succeed in getting them up, but fail in educating them about how to stay on their feet, so they are back with us in just a few months. I've already scheduled a meeting for monday with heads of our kitchens, heads of my program, and heads of programs that provide financial assistance to discuss how we can make the program mandatory once we've established it. If our kitchen leaders are willing (and I see no reason they won't be), I already have a preliminary meeting set up with our kitchens and fundraising volunteers on Tuesday to work out what additional funds we'll need and how to get them--it really shouldn't take too much. Once we have finances and cooperation in place, we can start recruiting volunteers to teach and fine tune the curriculum to best benefit our target audience. I'm excited.

Denikka - posted on 06/19/2013

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I have more than a few plans of my own that I intend to implement as I get a little older and have a little more free time and ability to do so :) I just currently have 2 children (4yrs and 2yrs) and one due in less than a month, along with no transportation :P So I feel pretty full up on the responsibility aspect of things at the moment.

I'm glad that you aren't one of those who argues FOR the government and their so called *lack of funds*. Many people listen to the general news and see *oh, we have a deficit, oh there's no money for schools, there's no money for health care, etc* and assume it's because there's not enough money instead of the truth that there's MORE than enough money, it's just being VERY badly spent.
As I mentioned before, it has to be a system wide overhaul to really create the country wide differences that are needed. So having programs like SNAP and different soup kitchens connected could be potentially part of that overhaul. Although, while making it mandatory may not be an option, you could still potentially talk to soup kitchens and church run food programs and the like and talk to them about being involved in that. Volunteers are always needed, and if your people can learn and benefit from that while helping someone else, it can make a big difference. Even something as simple as knowing how to make soup from scratch is a big deal (omg, HUGE money saver!!)

I've talked about similar topics before and expressed my opinion, and I'm usually met with *that's just not feasible in today's society*, I'm *not living in reality* or something similar. It's nice to see that someone who is actually involved in this stuff is A) taking me seriously and B) being encouraging and telling me my thoughts are actually realistic. I've stretched my thinking to the limit as to why these ideas wouldn't or couldn't work the way I imagine them and the only REAL obstacle I see standing in the way is the higher ups who have no idea about realistic budgeting and are too selfish to be willing to take any kind of pay cuts/not get raises and perks in order to really get the ball rolling. It may be a largish jump start cost, but if you think about it realistically, if you could reduce the amount of time that people are on welfare or using other assistance, I think the spending in that sector, even allowing for these new programs, would be reduced dramatically over the course of even the first 5-10 years.

Denikka - posted on 06/19/2013

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Lady Heather, you are SO right.
And what's so sad is that, in reality, it's not the little guys who should have to bear the brunt of it. Something like 20% of produce in the grocery stores gets thrown out. Not donated, just dumped. And not just dumped either, many stores will make their employees defile the produce in some way so that it actually becomes unusable.
These are the large scale issues that need to be rectified before we're going to make any real difference in the world. There is NO reason for people in the USA or in Canada to go hungry. Ever. Period. It's pure and simply a mismanagement of resources, not a lack of them.

Denikka - posted on 06/19/2013

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Well I'm in Canada, so obviously things are run a bit differently over here :P
I didn't know about the correlation between home-ec phasing out and the beginning of the spending problems. You're right, it IS an interesting correlation and I wonder just how connected it actually is. I think there were a lot of things going on during that time frame, but it would be interesting to see just how closely linked the two are.

I don't think that it's nearly as unrealistic as you may think. If done in a reasonable, logical way (hahahahaha. . government XD) The government in both our countries seems to be more than able to find money to give themselves giant pay raises, assorted bonuses, and all those little extras. Not to mention the crap that goes on within the school system with their budgets. One of the last times I heard about the numbers, in colleges and universities, 75% of the money that goes into the school is then used to pay salaries. Nothing else, JUST the salaries for those within the system. The way that the money is being spent within multiple systems is crap. If a lot of that was fixed or shuffled around, and a lot of unnecessary crap was cut out (just off the top of my head, a lot of scientific research grants-do we REALLY need to have the government funding the investigation of the fact that men like boobs? Or the velocity of penguin poop?-yes...real studies apparently)
The point is, there's so much unnecessary, crap spending within the government and the system that I just can't buy that there's *no money* for these necessary services.
Not to mention that there are SO many people involved in volunteer work that I'm sure that more than a few would be willing to change their roles a bit and instead of maintaining the problem, start working towards a solution. For those who work in soup kitchen as an example, instead of having it be purely volunteers, have a rotating schedule of those on food stamps come in and learn how to cook by actually cooking for those in need. Many volunteer positions could be filled and/or expanded by requiring stuff like that. And I'm sure that the real volunteers, for the most part anyways, would be glad of the extra set of hands.
There are many ways around the obstacles in situations like this, especially when you integrate the systems and have people work together.
I don't know if you've ever seen the show, but Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was pretty much exactly that. Teach a group of people to cook and have it turn into a cascade effect (you teach a few, they teach a few, and so on) Granted, in that situation, it didn't work as well as he'd hoped, but the idea is sound, especially if it was made mandatory for those on assistance.
I think we would be surprised to see how many more people would be interested in volunteer work if they knew it was actually going towards solving the problem instead of perpetuating it. I know that's one of the reasons I don't volunteer. I can't currently see how what I could do would make any kind of long term improvement. I have my own plans for the future, but right now, volunteering at a soup kitchen or something like that seems more like banging my head against a wall than anything else.

Lady Heather - posted on 06/19/2013

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I definitely think we need life management classes at high school. Clearly there are many people who simply aren't getting that at home. Financial planning, food prep, mending and basic repairs, etc. I had plenty of wasted time at high school that could have been filled with practical pursuits. Actually we had a whole class called career and personal planning. It was basically spent taking career and personality quizzes and talking about our feelings. You know what would boost my self-esteem you fools? Knowing how to change my fucking oil. lol.

I always put nice quality cooking oils in the food bank things for that very reason Kelly. I'm like damn - the poor folk should have some nice EVOO right? I can't believe I just said EVOO. But really, when you look in those food bins, I'd be effing picky like a kid too. Basically on that budget and with donated food you are not going to be eating a lot of fresh produce. At least not where I live. And I don't know about anyone else, but I fucking HATE canned vegetables. If all there was to eat was canned carrots or something I'd think I didn't like carrots. Why would I even want to eat healthy if everything tastes like effing slime? And then you're right - lack of nutrition = lack of optimal functioning. And that goes for the kids too, who might do better at school and be more focused on digging out of the poverty hole if they were getting all their nutrients.

I like the idea of community gardens a lot. Maybe not all kids would happily munch on the fresh veg, but I do think many would if given the chance. We have one teeny garden here. We need more. It's not like many of these families have land on which to grow their own food. My grandparents kept an allotment and donated what they couldn't eat to soup kitchens and stuff. I think a wider scale version of that in which the folks on the receiving end were able to participate in the growing would be helpful. At least that would get some vitamins and minerals into people.

It's a complex problem though. So many things to think about.

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I agree, actual classes would be wonderful, and definitely more effective, but I think funding would be a major problem. It would be very expensive to hold classes for that many people.

A long time ago, we had Home Economics classes in high school. Unfortunately, it was an elective, and over time, it was phased out completely, but it was a valuable class. It focused mostly on basic household finances, but there was also focus on sewing, cooking, and time management. I read somewhere that there was a direct correlation between the decline of Home Economics classes and the beginning of Americans over spending problems. I don't know if the correlation is coincidence or not, but it is interesting that the timing worked out that way.
Even if we only focused on bringing it back to schools, and scaled down the focus to just nutrition and finances, it would be very expensive. First you'd need a kitchen big enough for 20+ students to cook in, liability insurance would be difficult to obtain, and time (which is already scarce in many schools) would need to be cut out for it.

I still think it is a good idea, and we should work toward it, I just think it is unattainable at this time, and we need something more cost effective in the meantime.

Denikka - posted on 06/18/2013

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Recipes aren't the only thing needed. Unfortunately, learning the basics of HOW to cook is also a necessity. Just looking at shows like *Worst Cooks in America* is enough to show you that. There are plenty of people out there who can't even follow a recipe right in front of them.
It would be easiest if you could just send out a few booklets with money managing tips, recipes, etc. But that won't work either. Especially in the long term and multi-generational situations. What is really needed is mandatory classes. You HAVE to participate in order to receive the benefits. Then there is no excuse. You would have the knowledge, but then it's up to that person what to do with it. Ignorance should not be an excuse in anything. If you don't know something important, there are MANY avenues through which to learn it. Those who are on assistance especially should have as few excuses as possible as to why they need to stay on it long term.

Realistically, these classes should start (and be required) in highschool, but for now, it's a little late for many people as they are past that stage of their lives. I think prevention is the best choice instead of maintaining a problem that's there. Pinch of prevention worth a pound of cure and all that (wow, just busting out the old saying today :P)

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Denikka, those are some really good insights.

I completely agree that we need to be giving people the education they need to be fully competent. I have been heading a program in our homeless community that helps homeless mothers get jobs. I thought we were giving them everything they needed--we supplied a wardrobe, resume and interview training, transportation, even childcare during interviews--but after a few weeks or months, nearly 90% of them are back at our doorsteps needing to do the whole thing again. I couldn't understand why they weren't keeping their jobs we'd worked so hard to help them get. I know they're not lazy, I know they WANT to succeed....there are some lazy ones, but you can tell when you speak to the majority of these women that they want a better life, and they are just as confused as we are about why they are failing, and I think you just pointed it out.

These women don't know much about financial management. For people like you and me, who are educated and successful, money management is almost common sense: Don't spend more than you have. Put as much as you can back for savings until you have a couple years worth of bill money in your nest egg. It is so easy for us, that we forget that it can be very complicated for some--they forget to document that they bought coffee this morning, or accidentally tossed the electric bill in the trash, or put more on their credit card than they were going to be able to pay off. I think one of our answers might be financial training classes. I know there will be no government money to pay for it, but I think it will be relatively inexpensive to pull a program together for this.

The second thing you brought up was cooking. When I first got married, I couldn't cook ANYTHING that didn't come in a box or bag with simple directions, and those kinds of meals are expensive--way more costly than building the same thing from scratch. They are also less healthy, and we all know that missing nutrients in our diets can make it harder to fall asleep at night, stay focused on tasks, and even hinder our problem solving skills, all of which make it even more difficult for these women to hold onto their jobs and manage their households. I don't think anyone ever thinks about teaching people to survive on this amount--they just tell them it can be done and expect them to do it.
The ideal program would build a months worth of meals that fit within the per person budget. The shopping list, along with a menu or booklet of recipes for them to follow each day would then be distributed to the participants each month with their food stamps. How to distribute the information is an issue. I think now SNAP participants have a debit type card that is filled automatically on a certain day of the month. The shopping list and recipes could be emailed to them on an automatic mail system, but many participants will not have access to computers on a regular basis, so some would need actual papers, which could be expensive....

Also, before anyone jumps on me for trying to dictate what the poor should be eating, I want to make it clear that I am NOT advocating that they be forced to participate in the shopping list/menu planning program, but only that it should be made available to them should they WANT to use it.

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