Revisiting EBT EtiquetteThis weekend I traveled to Los Angeles for a work assignment. Calling it a “work assignment” makes it sound stuffy and hard which is amusing when the assignment involved going to an advance movie screening and interviewing movie stars and people involved with the film.

I do not think I will ever be able to convey just how much I enjoy writing about entertainment news. I know a lot of it is fluff and not exactly change-the-world news, but there is a place for this kind of news. Think of it as the small bite of Halloween candy you allow yourself to enjoy after an intense meal.

All of this is to say that while I was enjoying myself eating popcorn, and watching an animated film about turkeys, once I was able to take a break I still found myself instantly pulled back into the world of WTF news when I logged into AP reports.
{A system failure with EBT cards instantly caused a large group of people to begin an attack campaign against the people who use and depend on Food Stamps. The system has been restored, thankfully, and the 17 states that were affected now have their EBT access restored.}

It has been years now since my family depended on SNAP benefits (food stamps) and yet we are not so far away from a disaster that I don’t fear the bottom dropping out ALL OF THE TIME. I panic about money daily. I worry about my family’s future so often the corner of my brain that is occupied with these thoughts now has an arm-chair.

  • What if I can’t save up enough money to move my family out of this rental and into another rental in a better school district?
  • What if the startup I work for fizzles away?
  • What if I no longer get any more writing assignments?
  • What if I can’t afford to send W to his Pre-K school?
  • What if I can’t afford to buy him the food he wants for his lunch?
  • What if he resents me for not having money like other families?
  • What if he starts to panic about money the way I do now?

These fears aren’t special or unique to my family. I know many out there are worrying about this stuff. This is the stuff on the worry plate of some families in a specific paycheck-to-paycheck demographic. This is the stuff that you work through when you are working your ass off to better yourself, to work ridiculous hours to make sure your son has health care and is able to go to the dentist when “shark teeth” happen. This is the stuff you push yourself through when you see EBT and health and human services in your rearview window.

If I could ever properly explain just how demoralizing the process is to apply for state benefits… If I could ever show you what it is like, for just a moment, to feel that shame, that degradation, the humiliation that works its way into your very core and then stains every single thing you touch…You become covered in a film of stigma when you join the world of EBT and SNAP. The film makes your grip slip, makes it hard for you to reach up, grab ahold of something, someone and climb.

I always knew I needed to keep climbing the moment I got my first letter letting me know my family qualified for food stamps. This was not the final destination. Food stamps are not meant to be the answer or the solution. They are meant to be the tool to help families reach forward. If a family is stuck in the mire of fear and dread over where the next meal is coming NOTHING can be done to move forward. No job searches can happen, no training classes can be signed up for, and oh my heavens will parenting be stressful.

When a family qualifies for SNAP benefits they need help. End of story. Your seeing someone out and about with an EBT card and making a judgment call on them is ridiculous. The person holding the card had to go through tons of paperwork, interviews, a screening process. They have a card = they need the card.

I can not imagine what our life would be like if we had not had the help of SNAP benefits when we needed it. I was able to remove the food stressors from our day-to-day life while we worked to climb out of poverty.

Please be on the side of compassion and kindness. I know politics play a huge part with SNAP benefits right now, but at the end of the day please know there are families who are alive because of this tool, families from all political parties. That’s the thing; hunger doesn’t give a shit who you vote for.

I wrote Food Stamp Etiquette nearly two years ago; it’s still needed today.

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