Everyone has been there: you reach the check out line at the super market only to find that you've come up a few dollars short. What do you do? You're employer has cut your hours to 20 a week and you have children back home to feed. So you skip on a few items like milk, eggs, or bread to come up even leaving you utterly humiliated in front of complete strangers. Sounds almost unbearable right? Unfortunately, for millions of American's, this is all too real.
An astonishing 46.7 million Americans, or roughly one in five adults, are estimated to have been on food stamps as of June of 2012 according to a recent report from the Department of Agriculture (USDA). So why such a high amount of people? And, how easy is it to actually receive food stamps? The answers may shock you.
To better understand the reasons behind the increase of food stamp users, we must first clarify the false accusations surrounding these staggering numbers. In recent years, there have been many negative stigmas and false claims surrounding the use of food stamps. The negativity from many Republican leaders has caused some of the worst backlash from Americans on each other this nation has ever seen. Pictures circulating Facebook & Twitter show just how misinformed on the qualifications of SNAP benefits some Americans are. A lot of these pictures paint the estimated 46 million users of food stamps as lazy, unwilling to work, and troublesomely, un-American.
The truth is, the only people who qualify for food stamps, who are without a job, are people on disability and senior citizens. People can only receive SNAP food stamps for three and six month intervals, and have to work a minimum of twenty hours per week, or do unpaid community service for a certain number of hours each month. Some unemployed workers can qualify for food stamps, however, if they show they legitimately are looking for work. But this usually only applies to people out of work with children to feed. Food stamp offices require recipients fill out and bring in three job applications, of the recipients choice, per month, in which the food stamp office sends them in for consideration. However, a lack of a job for an extended period of time usually will limit the time frame for receiving food stamps. Adults with children face less strict requirements for finding work while receiving food stamps, although they still must make an effort or they will loose them.
It is a sad reality for America as country to have so many Americans hungry and needy for food every day. While it is true that there are many people who take advantage of honest Americans tax dollars, there are thousands more who desperately need their fellow Americans help. In light of this fact, CNN Money noted a nonprofit organization called Angel Food Ministries, which supplies food to over 6,000 host sites, including churches and faith-based organizations. Families can pay $30 for about $60 worth of food that provides a week of meals for a family of four. So if you or a loved one knows a family truly in need, yet you are not able to help, information like this can save many families from going hungry.
What would anyone expect in a country where the cost of living is high and a family cannot exist on a minimum wage salary? Depending on the "charity" of others is easier said than done. Which is where government assistance programs like SNAP come into play. The segregation of the classes is quite profound now going into 2013. This is why the U.S. citizens need government assistance. And it is this assistance that separates us from third world countries. Indeed, it can be bet that, if the countries south of the U.S. border had food stamps and assistance to help the myriad poor, the U.S. wouldn't have so many of the "hated illegals" in this country; though arguments can be made as to how bad that problem actually is. So back to the beginning; why so many people on food stamps? The answer is the record number of low wage jobs over the past few decades are finally taking a toll on the system. These low wage jobs only serve to benefit the wealthy corporations and their shareholders. We have witnessed time and time again large corporations lay off thousands of workers for the sole purpose of short term profits for the CEO's and white collars within them.
Let's set aside the baseless claim that the government can help people achieve financial independence by giving them a violent shove off the food stamp rolls. The reason for the explosive growth in food stamps isn't fraud from illegals or a sense of entitlement from lazy people, as many conservative pundits have claimed for years. It's because people don't have enough money. Most households on food stamps, 75%, either have children, seniors, or disabled citizens. And most households, 85%, have income that is below the poverty line, which is $23,050 for a family of four in 2012.
So many average Americans are too busy pointing fingers at food stamp users for the poor state of the economy, that they are blind to the fact that the real offenders are the corporations that take advantage of their employees. More concerning, is that demand for food stamps is almost certainly more than what it should be. According to the Social Security Administration's Average Wage Index, the median annual wage for 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, was more than $26,300. That means half of the nation's 150,398,796 wage earners made less. That means 75 million live under, on, or just above the poverty line. Yet, here we all sit, "united" blaming those who do their best to make ends meet for the problems caused by nothing but pure greed on Wall-Street.
As always America, I say to you, please put down the remotes and pick up a book.