Originally published September 4, 2013 in the Jackson Free Press
I started to write a post after seeing yet another poverty shaming meme in regard to food stamps or SNAP and healthy eating. Then I remembered I had written about it already on Natural In A Snap a few years a go. So here it is.
As I sit to write this post I think back to the first posts that I wrote. How idealistic I was. How I thought that if I just tried hard enough if I just pinched my SNAP pennies eating healthy would be, well a snap. It is possible to live differently. It is not easy and having a dose of privilege is a big help too. Now as all this controversy swirls around regarding the proposed cuts to food stamps I want to share some simple truths with anyone who is willing to read them.
My family eats as healthy as we can. It’s not because I have some high ideals or because I’m morally better than other food stamp recipients. Frankly, it’s because I’m sick. I started on this journey because one day while sitting in my doctor’s office after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia my doctor said “I can’t guarantee that what you eat causes what’s wrong with you but you need to start eating as organic as possible”. This wasn’t totally new information to me, by then I worked at a natural food co-op. The question was how do I afford it? We were having a hard enough time just trying to have balanced meals (that was something we had committed to years before). Now people will tell you that that’s a fiction. That if poor people really want to they can eat healthy even vegetarian or vegan. They will point to studies and week long experiments that say people can eat ‘healthy’ on a food stamp budget. I am telling you my lived experience says that they are wrong.
Here’s why- good food costs money! I have always said that on this blog. Yes there are ways to maximize your budget. However, when you are working with three dollars per person per day for your food budget please explain to me how you are supposed to have a healthy balanced meal three times a day with snacks. Not to mention meals devoid of processed foods and unhealthy foods. (Please don’t say coupons because while helpful just nope and in Mississippi we pay taxes on all food purchases which means if you use coupons you must pay tax in cash on them)
The reason I say devoid of processed foods is because I keep hearing and seeing people say poor people who were on SNAP should not be “allowed” to buy “bad food” or “junk food”. Let me share a secret in order for my family to eat healthy I have to be strict about how much we eat, what we eat, and no junk snacks. That means literally telling my kids they can’t have second helpings or giving them my food meaning I don’t eat (people are probably surprised by that because I’m fat but my kids eat far more than I do). That’s because a healthy food budget doesn’t allow for the cheap things that keep poor people full.
Something I thought about the other day while watching liberals on Facebook discuss how people like me shouldn’t buy this or that is how often the fights my kids have are about food. I mean that. My kids often fight about food. Don’t get me wrong my children are not starving they are often still hungry (starving and not full are two different things). This is what happens when fruit is a luxury and second helpings can be too. Candy in our house can start a riot not only because it’s rare but because once it’s gone it really is: gone. Someone actually thought I didn’t feed my kids once because my youngest often begs for the junk food she sees everyone else with.
I’m not sure if people realize that with three dollars a day people on SNAP who have food restrictions and dietary needs cannot meet them. People like my children who have food allergies. Which means food stamp staples like tuna and peanut butter are out of the question for them. People like my mother who has such complex needs I can’t even list them all. People like me who have fibromyalgia, interstitial cystitis, rheumatoid arthritis and may have other autoimmune issues suspected whose very illness is impacted by diet.
We are the people who some people seem not to have compassion for only shame and contempt (epic side eye to you Eric Cantor). Thing is with the country in an economic downturn the likelihood of you knowing someone on food stamps is really high. The likelihood of you knowing someone who has benefited from food stamps in their lifetime is really high.
Far from the caricature of the “welfare queen” we are normal people most of us have jobs, we are good parents, we are caregivers, we are productive members of society. I am not sure what kind of people write off whole groups of other people as unworthy of having food. I will say if you are one of those people I’m not sure I want to know you.
So basically I just don’t want to hear nonsense. I don’t want to hear tired references to “welfare queen myths”. I don’t want to hear how if undeserving people weren’t on the program than deserving people could be. That’s not how it works. If you’re angry that the government hasn’t expanded of eligibility then say that. However, that is not the fault of current recipients that is governmental failure. Every time you blame other struggling people you are falling for the exact trap those in power want to use to divide and conquer us. The more they can get someone who is struggling to hate someone like me the less they will question our current systems failures. I don’t want to hear about how there is rampant fraud in the food stamp program because there’s not. I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t factually based or productive in the SNAP debate.
This debate can not be had devoid of facts and context because I am not a stereotype, my friends are not stereotypes, my children are not stereotypes, my disabled mother is not a stereotype, 45 million Americans are not stereotypes. We are people with names, families with needs. We deserve the minimum respect that people will have an honest fact-based debate about this issue impacting our live.
I wrote this when Phil Bryant made these comments in 2013 now in 2015 as he is adamantly refusing to fully fund education in Mississippi the video that prompted this letter is making the rounds on social media again. Thus I have polished it up and posted it her on FeministUppityandBlack.com just for y’all. Enjoy!
(This open letter is in response to comments Governor Phil Bryant made on June 4, 2013 saying that the decline in education is due to women working outside the home)
Dear Governor Bryant,
Those cookies everyday after school and perfect laundry came at a cost. Not every 50s housewife was happy. Some women enjoy staying home many do not. Even those who feel joy in staying home need support and outlets outside of home and hearth. Women do indeed like to have options and choices beyond being baby factories who are tethered to the kitchen. We have identities beyond wife and mother. We are individual people. In fact that’s a big reason why second wave feminism happened Governor. I don’t know maybe you skipped that part of history.
Perhaps you also skipped the part of history where some mothers never had the option to stay at home or not to work. The legacy of Mississippi’s agricultural and slave holding past is that whether in the fields or as domestic help poor women-especially poor women of color have always worked. Many white 50s housewives you so adore Governor, and let’s be real white women are the women allowed to stay home in your reality, couldn’t have had it all together without the assistance of their black housekeepers and nannies. Black woman washed their clothes, cooked their meals, and helped raised their kids so they could attend to things like improving public schools and playing bridge. At the same time black women then and now are seen as incapable to care for our own children and blamed for being gone “too much” when working. Yet when low income black women stay home with our children we are labeled as “lazy” and teaching children “bad values”. (Then again we know how much you know about race relations in this state which is nothing)
Yes once upon a time some women stayed at home-mostly middle class white women. Now those days are gone and do you know what studies show? Children are fine. Children of working mothers are not worse off Governor. Children benefit from having mothers who are happy. Do you know what does harm children greatly though? Poverty! Poverty really harms children. Having two parents both working two jobs to get by and STILL needing SNAP that hurts families sir. As the Governor of one of the poorest states in the country I would think you would take some responsibility for that rather than blaming mothers for attempting to better their children’s lives by working to provide for them. If parents staying home is your concern what about your failure to provide better government supports for families that would make it possible for parent to be home more? What about YOUR failures to support working families so they can do more for their children? YOU could support things like a living wage, paid family leave, medicaid expansion, LGBT worker protections, FULLY FUND SCHOOLS and many other family friendly policies to make lives for Mississippi families better.
Lastly I must say I am confused because our state wants women to work,right? Poor women women that is. Mississippi believes poor women should always work. The state can’t seem to force poor women back to work fast enough after giving birth . In fact women on TANF have 6 to 12 weeks to go back to work. So much for that needing to be with your child thing. So which is it? Do you want women to work or not? If you want to stick to the myth of the 1950s housewife then you should go back to the old rationale of aid to single women with children, which was to ensure she could care for her child’s basic needs and stay home if needed.
See Governor it’s not easy to stick to outdated sexist ideals is it. So I am asking you to please stop. Stop scapegoating women for the failures of the state of Mississippi. More than that stop promoting an America that never was.
A Black Mom Who Doesn’t Wish To Be In The 50s
Warning: This Blogger Writes While Black, Smart & Poor-Sarcasm & Sharp Critique Of Oppression Expected
Welcome to my new blog! I hope to post far more regular content on here than I did on my previous blog The Intelligent Statistic Speaks (I’ll be reposting some of the posts from there). Let me introduce myself I’m Laurie I go by the smartstatisic. I’m a black, queer, disabled, feminist activist, writer, doula and low income mother of seven living in Mississippi. I do several other things if you hang out here I’m sure I’ll write about them.
The point of this blog is pretty simple. It’s me commenting about the world using a black feminist reproductive justice lens. You probably won’t like my blog if you’re a TERF (Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist), if you think intersectionality is too much work, if you don’t like talking about classism and if you don’t like talking about racism or oppression. I write about those things A LOT. I also write about the “a word” often; abortion, abortion, ABORTION! I’m not scared of it or ashamed. So if you are this isn’t the blog for you. If you’re squeamish about sex and sexuality you might want to leave now as well. On this blog unlike my old one I will be exploring sexual topics a lot more. Basically if it’s a topic that can be considered a feminist or reproductive justice issue I will likely write about it.
If none of those things bother you, in fact if they are your kinda of thing and you’re not adverse to the word fuck (I almost forgot to add I curse often and creatively) please join me!