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A Paycheck Doesn't Mean You Won't Go Hungry in America

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- 1905 days ago -
Working full-time in America doesn't guarantee you'll be able to feed your family.

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Barbara P (1069)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 8:42 am
Sad but true! Noted.... Thanks for posting!

Sue H (7)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 8:44 am
Rather damning.

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 8:53 am
Despite widespread enrollment in the federal food stamp program, nearly one in eight Americans still uses a Feeding America food bank. (Photo: Jim Young/Reuters)

Imagine this scenario, if you will: You’re a red-blooded, hard-working American, busting your buns for eight hours a day, every day. When you get home at night—your hands gritty and callused from a day’s work—you kick off your boots, put up your feet, and, instead of enjoying a well-earned steak, like your grandpa might have had back in his day, you go to bed hungry. Payday isn’t until tomorrow and you’ve gone through your last check in a couple of days, paying off your rent, car insurance, and electric bill.

Sound impossible? No hard-working American goes to bed hungry at night? If you believe the current political rhetoric surrounding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as Food Stamps, you’d probably say: “Yes, only the lazy and shiftless are in need of assistance.”

If that’s how you feel, consider this:

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If you worked 40 hours per week at this rate, every week, without a day off, that would equal just over $15,000 per year—or $1,256 per month. That puts you well within eligibility for food stamps in most states across America.

In Pennsylvania, for example, any individual earning $1,490 or less per month is considered poverty-stricken enough to qualify for food stamps.

“The stereotypes about who gets governmental help, in our experience, that’s not the reality,” says Ross Fraser, spokesman for Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in America. “SNAP was created as a supplement for working people to help feed their families. The average monthly benefit is $134 a month. That works out to about $1.50 per meal. That’s hardly enough to live off of on its own.”

The simple fact is that many American jobs don’t pay people well enough to feed themselves and their families. The unemployment rate in America is just under eight percent, and yet one in seven Americans—more than 14 percent—currently live in poverty. According to data compiled by Feeding America, 83 percent of all SNAP benefits go to a household that has a child, senior citizen, or a disabled person. Forty-five percent of all SNAP recipients are children.

“The income threshold to qualify for food stamps for a family of four is $23,000 annually,” says Fraser. “The maid who makes your bed in the hotel when you’re out of town, the person who makes your coffee at McDonald’s, most of these people will qualify for food stamps.”

Even worse, despite the fact that SNAP benefits are being used by nearly one in seven Americans, people are still going hungry.

“We’re currently seeing a chronic use of food pantries,” says Fraser. “Once upon a time, we thought we would see poor people once in a while. Instead, people are showing up in droves because they’ve plum run out of food.”

Amidst this cycle of chronic hunger among working people, Congressional Republicans want to cut $135 billion from SNAP over the next decade. This could eliminate up to 13 million people from the program—by making income eligibility even more restrictive. This would of course punish the exact people Republicans claim to represent—hard-working Americans.

The cycle of hunger in America is simple math: Food stamps exist because poverty exists in America. Pay working people enough to feed themselves, and the government will no longer have to fill that role. Cut people off of SNAP without raising their wages, and Americans will go hungry in the streets.

By Matthew Fleischer | Take Part |

Tamara Hayes (185)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 9:08 am
Thank you for posting this Kit. As one who is completely dependent on foodstamps, I face the stigma all the time. I get $65 a month for food. It is nearly impossible to keep me going for a whole month. I barely clear $12,000 a year. It is always a struggle. The inequality in this country is sickening.

Christina G (11)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 11:23 am
i helped do a survey on Hunger in Sonoma County, CA (a vey rich county - "Wine Country") partly conducted at soup kitchens and we found that even when both parents worked full time they could not feed their kids! What does that say to the childred? Does it tell them the value of hard working, well meaning parents? What does it tell them about the society they live in when they see apple orchards being replaced by vineyards and all those advertisements about the good life and wine? What values are they to believe in? It is very painful for me to know that this is the society i live in.... i do not consider it civilisation,,,,

. (0)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 11:24 am
Although I agree with social assistance such as the SNAP program for example and raising the minimum wage there is a problem that never gets addressed. Every time there is a tax cut or minimum wage is increased the cost of living and especially food items escalates. This is due to commodity traders manipulating food goods like any other commodity. They only care about profit. Change the legislation and you go a long way to help the working poor and single income families.

Lynn D (0)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 11:55 am
Truly sad and then the college graduates can't find jobs...............not good at all!

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 12:21 pm

Oh, I dunno Michael, we have in the pasts dealt with these issues effectively. Though I do agree the commodities market is at the root of our price structure from gasoline to corn. Between the manipulations of Wall Street and the commodities market, the country is being taken down a dangerous path. We don't need total socialism to fix these problems, we do need a Congressional body more interested in the people, their ability to access food, housing and education which in turn makes for a stronger economy and the roots for the future.

This Congress is following in the steps of the last Congress. They offer a few bills that do nothing to aid this country, they talk in the language rhetoric and and side step the real issues.

Nancy M (169)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 12:52 pm
As I see it, right now companies are raising prices anyway. Health insurance going up because of the Obamacare scare. Beef prices going up because of the drought scare. All kinds of food prices going up because of the scare over the price of gas. There is some reality to it of course, tbut there is also a great deal of fear mongering.

. (0)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 1:10 pm
The problem with Food Stamps has always been its lack of regulation. For the deserving poor, this has become a necessity. For the thousands who abuse it, it's just pumping money into a federal program that has no bottom.
The corner bodaga that accepts stamps to buy cigarettes, liquor, chips, magazines are the people who are sucking this program dry. Obama can throw all the money he wants into it, it will always be abused.

Nancy M (169)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 1:15 pm
If you are right about those corner bodegas, it ought to be an easy fix. I know from various purchase cards I have had for various josb that it is possible to disallow certain payments and allow only certain other payments. EBT cards ought to be programmed that way.


Kit B (276)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 1:18 pm

Eligible Food Items

Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:
Foods for the household to eat, such as:
-- breads and cereals;
-- fruits and vegetables;
-- meats, fish and poultry; and
-- dairy products.

Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.

Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;

Any nonfood items, such as:
-- pet foods;
-- soaps, paper products; and
-- household supplies.

Vitamins and medicines.

Food that will be eaten in the store.

Hot foods.

Additional Information

“Junk Food” & Luxury Items
The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption by SNAP households. The Act precludes the following items from being purchased with SNAP benefits: alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption. Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

Christine Stewart (134)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 1:41 pm
Thanks for the article.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 1:53 pm

Winnie A (179)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 2:23 pm
Very sad and very true.

Beth M (138)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 3:06 pm
So true and so sad in a supposedly wealthy country.

reft h (66)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 3:16 pm
Choice: buy food or pay the rent = go hungry or go homeless. Not much of a choice.

jan b (5)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 4:11 pm
I often equate conservative ( especially proud and unfeeling conservatism ) with partial sociopathy, the type with no empathy. I have to wonder if it is genetic since the social defect is pervasive, even to the point of self destruction. Only social behavior can eliminate it.
Canabalistic Capitalism encourages greed, prefers gambling to investing and advances the economic interest of the top echelon. If things keep going the way they are...even the elitest might live to regret what they have accomplished. A great example is Mexico where young men growing up have aspirations of joining the Cartels because it's the only opportunity they have to acquire any wealth at all. Otherwise, their outlook is a life of poverty.


Birgit W (160)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 4:22 pm

JL A (281)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 5:00 pm
The original intent of the minimum wage law was to ensure that all workers were paid a living wage--if all were, then workers would not be suffering food insecurity and related hunger/health impacts.

Anne K (139)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 5:15 pm
I earn $8 per hour and there is no way I could afford both food and shelter. My paycheck would barely pay for an efficiency apartment. Fortunately, I am married, so I can have food AND shelter. We chose not to have children, but we try to take good care of our rescued cats.

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 10:05 pm
The state of our nation is shameful and tragic. Thank you for exposing the truth.

Kerrie G (116)
Monday April 1, 2013, 7:21 am
Noted, thanks.

Tamie R (0)
Monday April 1, 2013, 7:26 am
It is the shameful truth. I work full time, well what is considered full-time...6.50 hours a day. Make a pretty decent hourly wage, but because I work at a school and do not work June, July and August, we worry where our meals are coming from then too. I am not a teacher, so I cannot have smaller paychecks throughout the school year to help get through summer, I am just out of a paycheck. Could you live through 3+ months of no income? I work hard, and find summer employment, but it is never enough to get by. It is just my husband and myself, but we struggle most of the time to make ends meet. The country that is supposed to be the best is failing with some...

Tammy B (9)
Monday April 1, 2013, 7:48 am

Deborah W (6)
Monday April 1, 2013, 2:04 pm
Coonsider this ...

Selling benefit cards for cash (even on eBay and Craigslist), then asking for replacement cards-- some as often as four times a year (SD, Okla. Wash. DC and state, MN,among the highest abusers,

Last year some 2000 stores were "sanctioned" for illegal conduct AND 1200 were permanently removed from the food stamp program.

NO ONE is suppporting food stamp removal, people ARE starving ... or close ... but this issue, to be fair, should be presented from both sides, as with all things good and evil in the circle of life.

Lois Jordan (63)
Monday April 1, 2013, 3:57 pm
Thanks for the info, Kit. What really burns me up is that this program now issues cards to be used to pay for food. These cards are making money for the banks...Bank of America was one that I read about last year. So, after destroying the economy, and getting bailed out by us taxpayers....those banks are making money off SNAP. That sound you hear is my blood boiling.

Robert O (12)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 12:49 am
I remember the days when having a paycheck meant security and being shielded (mostly) from poverty. Those days are long gone and this is a new ugly reality that tens of millions of people in this country are facing. Thanks Kit.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 4:49 am
Thanks, Kit but you lost me at: You’re a red-blooded, hard-working American, busting your buns for eight hours a day, every day." and I say where can you find that kind of job anymore?

Ben O (156)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 5:42 am
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour...that is a bloody joke!!!

Ben O (156)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 5:43 am
Well, I know it is a fact, but to me it's un-freaking-believable!

Kit B (276)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 5:46 am

@ John S - Maybe working as a waiter/ess, collecting trash, farm workers, retail stores, and yes teachers. That's a few, shall go on? I am not being my characteristic sarcastic self. Even in my neighborhood, there are people working as bankers, lawyers and one guy trying to hold on to a private practice as as doctor; my neighbor is an architect that has to take jobs as a contractor to make ends meet. It's deep in the so-called middle class, the people just can not make it, the salaries are low, the competition from huge corporations are killing them.

When the minimum wage is that low, it permeates every thing else in society. Our food bank can not keep up with demand, and we can only give food those who meet the requirements of being 189% below the poverty level.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 6:32 am
I'm glad you or these people have never worked in developing nations, they would find out what poor is. I'm pretty certain that if you raised minimum wage, that inflation will only eat the extra money.

And you really see nothing wrong in this: "You’re a red-blooded, hard working hard-working American, busting your buns for eight hours a day, every day. When you get home at night—your hands gritty and callused from a day’s work—you kick off your boots, put up your feet, and, instead of enjoying a well-earned steak like your grandpa might have had back in his day, you go to bed hungry."

But I'm certain that all my nieces and nephews would love a raise.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 6:54 am

You are 100% correct, John. I have however, worked in a few inner city projects and have seen poverty, generational poverty in this country. It quite literally eats away all hope, there is sadness and a resignation to despair.

We can and have in the past raised the minimum wage without economic collapse or massive inflation. We do follow a consumer driven economy, logic dictates; better wages, increased spending. As I said above, this is
affecting people in all (except a very few) walks of life.

People do deserve a time after work to spend with family, have a good meal and seek some happiness from life.


Marilyn K (50)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 4:10 pm
Unfortunately, the money stays at the top. The only ones that get an automatic increase every year is Congress. They know what iti means to have security but they forget that they represent those that elect them as they take care of themselves. We can only stop this if we stop lobbying, unlimited donations to campaigns, insist they contribute for their health care from their salaries and limit time off from from work.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday April 2, 2013, 5:42 pm
Thank you so much for posting this Kit. I know plenty of people who are working 40+ hours a week just trying to get by and constantly juggling bills while trying to provide food for their families.

Sheri J (16)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 5:40 pm

Sheri J (16)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 5:41 pm
if you are hungry and your food stamps are not enough, apply to get food from your local food pantry. they always help.

Sheri J (16)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 5:42 pm
depends how much one makes working full time. if you make minimum wage, then you will need help from the government and other resources to help you survive.
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