Food Stamp Challenge Day 30: I Am Not Lobster Girl, or the ABAWDs’ Last Hurrah

| September 30, 2013 | 6 Comments

It’s the last day of the challenge month, and there is still plenty of food in the house.  I’m making another loaf of bread right now while I type (thanks, bread machine) and I turned my potted basil plant into pesto last night.  Tonight being Meaty Monday, for dinner Mr. GH and I will enjoy a piece of fresh fish, a green salad, some roasted potatoes, and whatever else we can concoct from the month’s leftovers.

Although I’ve been living this month on a very limited food budget, I feel incredibly wealthy.  It’s a good sendoff for the final day of the challenge month, as we process what happened, and what to do next.   The month has been a good one, full of great food, fun times hanging out together, new things learned, and a major shift in how I view and appreciate what we’re been putting into our bodies around here.

Now, we avoid the mainstream news like the plague, but it’s been interesting to follow the bits and pieces of the debate over the U.S. Farm Bill, specifically the major roadblock to passing it: funding for SNAP (food stamps).  I won’t cross (far) into political territory here, because as a centrist I can almost always see things from the perspective of both sides of the aisle. But of interest to me is the scapegoat chosen by one political party in order to demonstrate how food stamps are misused. He’s the guy being referred to by the media as Lobster Boy.

Lobster Boy isn’t a freakshow denizen with claws for hands, but instead a regular surfer dude in Southern California. He has a name: Jason Greenslate. He doesn’t have a regular job, and isn’t working too hard (or at all) to find one.  He plays in a band, dude.  Unearthed by Fox News living this “slacker” lifestyle, he explained to the cameras that he gets $200 a month in food assistance. Worse, he occasionally spends some of it on fresh seafood.

I harbor my own thoughts about who should receive government food aid, for how long, and how they prove that they need it.  I think it’s hateful and ludicrous to base policy decisions on the assumption that all, or even most, of the 48 million recipients of aid in the U.S. are a bunch of lazy slackers that just need to nut up and work harder (the vast majority of recipients are elderly, disabled, or have children).  But that’s irrelevant to this post, as that’s what I pay my elected representatives to figure out. Yes, they’re doing a sucky job of it, but that’s another story.

What I find most interesting in this discussion is the same thing that started this whole Food Stamp Challenge: Focusing on the food, as though eating good, healthy food is a privilege reserved for those who have worked “hard enough,” followed a specific set of rules, and have somehow earned it, by whatever cosmic yardstick is being wielded.

This month, living under the maximum food aid benefit for two ABAWDs (able bodied adults without dependents…hey! we’re a government acronym!) we’ve enjoyed a little fresh seafood, as well as coffee, organic dairy products and produce, and other substances considered by mainstream America to be luxuries.  There was no lobster in our cart, because it didn’t fit into our budget planning, but there was salmon and other fish.  Even (horrors) wild-caught fish.  We  made that work by spending a lot of time cooking from scratch, but my “food stamp persona” didn’t live in the kitchen; she  also had plenty of time to look for a job, start a small business, and otherwise be a useful member of society.

According to one segment of America, I should be ashamed of myself for wanting to continue to feel human and worthwhile for the few minutes a day I sit down to eat.  “You there, pov, what’s that on your plate?  It had better be macaroni and cheese!  Seafood??? You’re using MY money to buy seafood???”

To my elected officials, if they asked, I’d say:  Debate the efficacy of U.S. food aid programs all you want. You’ve gotten my emails; you know how I’d like you to vote, and that’s as much as I can contribute to that little circus. For every poster child chosen by one side of the debate, there’s an equally compelling poster child for the other side. Use your brains and come up with something that is humane and fair.

But it’s no one’s damn business what I eat, or where I buy it.  I have lived through periods of my life where I was unable to find work, and the last thing I needed was someone making me feel like worthless crap, as I was doing a perfectly fine job of making myself feel that way, thank you.

Using some of the tips, recipes, and resources I’ve gathered in this month’s blog posts, someone who finds themselves in a bad way and facing a severely limited budget can still feed their bodies perfectly well, stay healthy physically, and feel as though they still matter, as they struggle their way — hopefully — back to a better situation.  We didn’t eat in the lap of luxury.  There is plenty we couldn’t afford (more on that tomorrow). But with a little planning, based on the enjoyment we got out of every meal, we felt like we were eating like kings.

Next month, I’ll even write about how to spend even LESS and eat even BETTER by branching out to the best sources for the foods that make up a healthy green hedonistic diet.  I’m excited as heck about it already.

I probably still won’t be eating lobster, but you can bet I’ll be eating well, and not feeling one iota of guilt about it.







Category: Food, Money Saving, Whole Foods Challenge

Comments (6)

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  1. Stacy says:

    I think you should submit this to the USDA to help people work with the pittance they are given! Well done!

    • greenhedonist says:

      Thanks! I’d want to work up all the math and make sure it “worked” in all areas of the country. But I believe it CAN be done – and we still have a lot left over (even with Italian Roast coffee in the budget… 🙂

  2. Florence says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed following you through the month! Well done!,

  3. Do food stamps “carry over” or do you need to used them all in a month? How do folks allot for the holidays?

    • greenhedonist says:

      Although states vary in how they execute food stamps or SNAP benefits, in general they DO carry over from month to month, so if we have $50 at the end of one month, the next month’s benefit is deposited into our account on top of that remaining balance. You’re given an EBT card (it’s what the groceries and farmers markets use to ‘swipe’ your purchase, kind of like a prepaid credit card works) and can check your balance any time by calling the number on the back. The only caveat is that you have to keep using them, because if you let a year go by without using any, they’ll turn off your account. As for holidays, I have to assume that people need to plan ahead if they can, and try to have a little left over.

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