Young, Privileged, and Applying for Food Stamps

One recent Friday morning, I went to work. Not to any glass-blocked high rise, or a sprawl of windowless office buildings, but a corner cafe, four minutes from my apartment. With my $1.50 cup of coffee in hand, I dropped my bag and sat down next to my housemate, also a freelancer-slash-struggling-painter, and a new friend. At some point, our casual conversation turned to the stack of papers sticking out from my seam-busted bag: My application for food stamps. Turned out, this new friend had been on them for a few months. I hadn’t even noticed them tighten, but in a second, my shoulders slumped at ease.

“Go to this grocery store,” she said. “They let you buy beer and toilet paper.” I smiled slightly, less because of the beer, and more out of relief to be talking with someone who’d been through this sort of thing. I’d never been on any form of government assistance. I’d also never been more unsure of how I’d make rent in a few weeks.

As we volleyed ideas for the most obscene items to buy with food stamps (a cheese wheel from Whole Foods, we decided), a woman seated next to us leaned forward, her words darting out faster than we could dodge them. “Excuse me, but you’re all disgusting. And if I had time to spare, I would report you.” We were silent, which was her apparent cue to continue. She got on us about the starving people in the U.S., about the people who live in the projects just down the street from us, about draining resources that are meant for truly needy populations of people.

Our irony had fallen on the wrong ears. “But that’s what this service is for,” my housemate responded, relaying the simple facts of our less than part-time (mine) and nonexistent (his, currently) incomes. “How is it wrong?”

“Because you’re overeducated white people,”  she said. “Just get a job.” 

With a Bachelor’s in Sociology, “overeducated” felt generous. That sociology degree had fed many early curiosities, giving me the adequate chops for things like fighting cultural myopism, defending Marxism, and buying my professors’ books. But this empirical weaponry hasn’t been enough to command any victories on the jobs field.

Post-undergrad, my professional life has played out like a nursery tale. See how I’ve run into and out of dead-end office jobs, blinded more by naivete than bare entitlement. I’ve been an intern more times than I’d like to admit, as unpaid and underpaid as anyone I know. I’ve waited tables whenever I’ve needed to, like when I was three months out of school, jobless, and being considered for a job at Trader Joe’s. After the third interview, the manager called to say I hadn’t been selected. There were 400 applicants for ten positions, he said. Many of them had Master’s degrees or higher. Maybe that’s overeducation, but I can’t say. Three years of chasing entry-level work with Seattle nonprofits, and I decided to take my act to Brooklyn. That was a year ago. I wanted to work in media, but mostly, I’ve gotten really good at scraping the gunk off of ketchup bottles.

On this Friday morning in the cafe, my degree proved even more useless. I could have stared dumbly into my coffee, or attempted to explain three years of resume dumps, networking events and dark Craigslist voids. Instead I left the table to do the work that was to be my only source of income that week. A few strokes of my keyboard later, I realized it wasn’t indignation I felt, it was recognition. I agreed with her. That, with my college education and a working-middle-class-family background, I had somehow failed to keep up my end of the deal, and whatever implicit agreement my privilege came with: to work and contribute to society; to feed and take care of myself; to be resourceful and resolved enough to never accept handouts—especially not from the government.

Not until a friend was laid off from her restaurant job had I even considered applying for food stamps. The whole process had taken her only a few days before she had a shiny plastic card that automatically filled with money at the start of each month. It seemed easy. Smart, even. I knew I would qualify, but was hesitant, for reasons I can only relate to a Midwestern brand of modesty, one that had made the advent of Girl Scout cookie selling—a pinnacle moment for any girl in a green vest—cause for early-adolescent panic. When I was young, the humility of asking strangers to dig out their checkbooks for tiny cookies meant I would never earn a top-seller badge. As an adult, it has meant scrounging up money from whatever recessed savings account or three-hour gig I can tap into before asking for help.

But even there I have personal limits, I realized last summer. I was waiting tables five days a week, but the restaurant had been slow, money was tight, and I needed a bed frame. Sleeping on the floor is one way of saying “I’m young and don’t care about modern home comforts,”  but it’s also a way of making  getting up even more exhausting than collapsing into bed after an eight-hour shift. And so when a pleasant woman named Lauren told me I could make $300 in three hours by donning a school girl’s outfit and working a foot fetish party, I signed up. An hour before I was scheduled to be in the Financial District, I found myself standing in front of my closet, trying to trying to choose what looked most like a school-girl’s uniform. I didn’t have the right kind of skirt, I decided. I also decided the bed could wait.

Defending my right to go on food stamps seemed ridiculous. It still does. As much as I wanted to tell this woman—whose skin was as white as mine—that you don’t need to be toting two kids or living in housing projects to find yourself in need of help with buying groceries, I said nothing to her. I’ve thought about what I would have said, had I been more compelled. How many people I knew in the same position. How many jobs I’d applied to in the last year. How many interviews I’d had, in maddeningly high disproportion to the number of applications I’d completed. How my education, for me, had functioned as a harbinger of upper-middle class consumption, with suburban comforts like Starbucks and Chipotle on campus. How this was complicated by a prudish and shortsighted view of class and privilege, ideas we dissected in the abstract, from the safe distance of black and white texts on Xeroxed course packets. I could have talked, too, even though I’m more sensitive about this than anything, about my high-school educated parents’ own inexperience with institutionalized education and white-collar professions; how it affected every day of my four years in undergrad, and afterward, as I applied to jobs, blindly guiding myself with the occasional advice of former bosses and professors.

There is a fair amount of shame in this situation. I can’t deny that. To talk about it is to talk about fear, my own prejudices, my assumptions of what privilege and underprivilege look like, about social and cultural capital, urban and rural divides, about race and its relationship to modern economic class segments. In a post-race, class-absolved society, like the one my university seemed so bent on fostering, acknowledging nuance in any concrete way is beating a dead horse. Instead, privilege is stripped of any nuance, wiped clear of context, then packaged, stamped and sold for laughs. They call it “white-person problems.”

I’m not saying this is new. My parents had the same struggles, maybe worse, as twenty-somethings starting a family and a business in the ’80s, facing a recession and a bleaker economy in the mining towns of northern Minnesota. What is new is the myth of the educated middle class as automatic recipients of middle class incomes. What’s new is the assumption that college is some great equalizer (was it ever?), that  family-of-origin, economic backgrounds, and old-fashioned connections are just extras. These seem to be the same general assumptions that sweep all young, urban, PBR-sipping kids like me into sitcom caricatures of “poor people,” or, with the right zip code and cocktail preferences, aspiring Carrie Bradshaws or Hannah Horvaths.

Being young, privileged, and poor is not a fun twenty-something adventure. I’m not one cheeky fourth of Girls. This is not an audition for the Bohemia life before I return to my family’s house in the suburbs, or get a job at a financial firm owned by my father’s friend. I don’t have a family in the suburbs, and my father doesn’t have those friends. Moving in with my mom or dad is less an option than it is a death sentence for my professional life, barely existing as is. For me, my need is simple numbers. It’s not the social poverty we know from textbooks and nightly news. It’s transitional and temporary, though there is no guarantee I won’t again find myself in a similar spot.

I don’t hear a lot of talk about food stamps. I guess because it comes down to money, and that’s always taboo, even if it doesn’t share space on the “sex, politics, and religion” creed. People do seem open to talking, though, about what food stamps isn’t. Who it shouldn’t help. They’re the same people who talk about American welfare as a socially if not racially contingent right. Where are these conversations happening? Where are people talking about what it’s like to be educated or from a middle-class family or any other form of privileged and poor, at the very same time? If it’s happening, it’s likely to end when someone says, “Go get a job,”  perhaps responded to in 140 passive aggressive characters, spewed quickly in the back of a coffee shop.

As for myself, I now have two jobs, both in the service industry. My food stamps application is still on my desk, filled out, more ready than me to be taken to the office that’s just a few blocks from my apartment. I guess it’s there, in case I need it again. And to be clear: Cheese wheels are off the table.

 

Karina Briski is a writer (and waitress) in Brooklyn. 

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218 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

OMG I would have told that woman to look at the unexmployment figures for college grads these days, and to shut the fuck up.

bookworm (#481)

@Megano! For reals. The jerk store called, lady, and they’re running out of you. What kind of person has the balls to say something like that to not only a stranger, but a group of strangers at that?

km1312 (#213)

This is fantastic.

@km1312 Thank you so much!

DickensianCat (#971)

Agreed, what a fantastic piece. Thank you for debunking so many misconceptions:

“if you can’t find a 9 to 5, just go get a job at Starbucks or the grocery store!” My brother has a similar story to yours of going to a Whole Foods and waiting in an interview line that more resembled American Idol auditions.

“You don’t have kids to support, so you shouldn’t be on food stamps.” So unless you have other mouths to feed, your own hunger is irrelevant?

And finally “just move back in with your parents.” This one most frosts my cookies. Not all of us have families to fall back on, and some of us come from tiny towns far more economically depressed than our current ones.

travelmugs (#162)

@DickensianCat My roommate got overcharged at a branch of her bank on a nearby Ivy League college campus (neither of us attend/attended there, just live 2 miles away). It was a large sum of money, and they said it would take several days to rectify the problem; our rent was due the next day. When she made a fuss, they were dismissive and told her just to borrow money from her parents.

These assumptions are really dangerous. Just because somebody is white, college-educated, and in their early 20s, doesn’t mean they automatically have a secure fallback plan or a supportive family.

Megano! (#124)

@travelmugs (Some of us don’t even have parents)

chic noir (#713)

@DickensianCat Not all of us have families to fall back on, and some of us come from tiny towns far more economically depressed than our current ones.

Some people come from very disfunctional families who live in very small towns who would suffer God knows what if they returned.

People tend to live in tiny glass towers, they tend to forget that not everyone lives like them.

robotpony (#1,045)

@DickensianCat I would’ve said, “I don’t have any parents, can I borrow money from yours?”

And then sat there until forever happened or they fixed the mistake, whichever came first.

allreb (#502)

Thank you very much for writing this. I’ve been enjoying the Billfold tons, and it’s helped me examine my spending habits, but I’ve been bummed and sometimes frustrated by the lack of class/privilege examination in a lot of stories.

This whole piece very much resonated with me. I come from a similar background (rural, no family-provided safety net, but educated) and a lot of my own saving habits come from a fear of finding myself in dire straights, in a way that a lot of my suburban-bred friends simply never understand. I hope your luck improves very soon and the work you’ve put in starts paying off.

jfruh (#161)

I love the way this shows that while as far as the government is concerned class is about income (i.e. this is how much you have to make in order to qualify for food stamps) most everybody thinks of it as being more complicated. Are you the kind of person who should be on food stamps? Why or why not? My parents were recently telling me in outraged tones about a friend of one my stepsiblings, who some years ago got a girl pregnant, and the two of them didn’t get married and she collected “welfare” while she was going to medical school. Of course there’s no longer any such thing as “welfare” anymore, and they couldn’t tell me what kind of assitance she was on (food stamps? WIC? it was probably WIC) but they seemed to feel that she was gaming the system, and was not receptive to my argument that the cost to taxpayers will probably be more than made up for by the fact that this woman got to get into a higher-paying profession early in life.

There was also some disagreement as to whether the couple in question deliberately chose not to get married so she could receive benefits, or if they actually weren’t together for a time before subsequently marrying (after she got her degree). If the former, and if her boyfriend/babydaddy was in fact supporting her in part, I do agree that’s kind of a scam, but, you know, maybe the US government should recognize unmarried partnerships in this context if it doesn’t want to get scammed?

travelmugs (#162)

@jfruh A friend of mine did this to put herself through college after an unintended pregnancy. She had a supportive partner, but they were both 18 and working in the lower rungs of the service industry at the time.

I’m not sure to what extent remaining unmarried affected her levels of support, but I feel like they made a good choice for their situation. She completed college and is making a sustainable wage to support their family now, while he was able to focus on his career as well.

ColdFinger (#815)

@travelmugs (Grr, I posted this below, but it was meant to reply to you:)

What’s interesting is that I’ve met people who got married during college in order to be considered for financial aid independently of their parents’ incomes/assets. In each case, my acquaintances had terrible relationships with their parents and either did not want their help because it came with many strings attached, or were not actually offered help – yet were unable to convince the university to cut their parents out of the equation without a marriage license.

Reading this, I am realizing they might have also cut themselves off from government assistance in the process… (Things turned out fine, I think, but they definitely were walking the line.)

I like this piece and generally sympathize with you, but part of the reason you’re unable to find work is because you’ve chosen to look in a hyper-saturated market (New York + Media) that’s not very meritocratic. I think society should subsidize people’s lives, but not their dreams. Maybe you should just move to Omaha and sell real estate.

P-Bomb (#1,032)

@Ghost Fart@twitter Unfortunately I agree with you to some extent. We can’t all have our dream jobs at the end of the day (mine, for the reference, is to be a film director). I know many people who grow up wanting to do jobs like writing, advertising and media, which are very glamourized and in extremely high demand. Maybe I’m secretly jealous that they’re following their passion, while I’m working as a coordinator in a non-profit which I reasonably like (but don’t *love*). But there is always trade-offs to make in life I suppose, and it’s a fairly personal decision.

@Ghost Fart@twitter
Foodstamps aren’t a ‘lifestyle’ subsidy.

@Username They are if your lifestyle involves such luxuries as eating.

bluewindgirl (#1,036)

@P-Bomb I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately– at what point you should chuck it and apply for something that isn’t what you want to do. My particular problem is that grad school in the humanities gives you a really specific skill set, which is to say I am qualified to do exactly two things, and it is to write academic articles, which you don’t get paid for, and teach college, for a pittance. I’d happily work retail, but I have no retail experience and there are a million people who do. I’d go back to babysitting, but every “nanny” job offering I see wants someone bilingual with a degree in child development (I am not kidding, I live in LA and rich parents want what they want). Fortunately I do have supportive parents, but being beholden to someone, even people that love you, eats away at you. I’m kind of in the same boat as the article author– I probably could take advantage of government programs, but it feels sort of ridiculous, like an admission that you’ve squandered your privilege.

@stuffisthings Exactly! Just give up food! Or move to Omaha. Either or.

mishaps (#65)

@bluewindgirl the number of people with masters degrees and doctorates who have applied for food stamps has tripled in the last three years.

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/15/152751116/why-so-many-ph-d-s-are-on-food-stamps

@Username Where do you see the term “lifestyle” in my post? My point is just that the author of this piece has made a choice to A) live in a very expensive city and B) pursue a difficult career path.

Not to be needlessly harsh, but if the job market here is telling her no, maybe she should listen, instead of asking for a hand out. Ultimately it would reduce economic and social distortion in both the Brooklyn media market and Omaha real estate market.

bluewindgirl (#1,036)

@mishaps I’ve seen that :) One of the hazards of being friends with mostly grad students is that someone facebooks every depressing, hopeless article about our collective lack of prospects. I think we, the young people of America, need to commit to a concentrated effort of false confidence. Everyone needs to start posting only wildly exaggerated numbers about how much better it’s getting! I feel like the only thing worse than a crummy economy is talking constantly about the crummy economy.

riotnrrd (#40)

@Ghost Fart@twitter I think this is unkind to the author. She’s not “dreaming” of living in the big city like some 30′s movie heroine, but rather wants to get a job in a field she’s qualified for, that happens to be concentrated in a very expensive city. (I work in film, and face a similar problem: the jobs are all in very expensive places like San Francisco, NYC and LA). So, should only wealthy people be “allowed” to work in these fields, then? What if I lose my job; should I immediately move out of town so you’re not subsidizing “dreams”?
Furthermore, it costs a LOT of money to move. Thousands of dollars, at the minimum. Hiring a moving company or renting a U-Haul costs money, breaking your lease costs money, staying in temporary housing while you look for new apartments costs money, re-buying all the stuff you threw out when you left town costs money, and so on.

katiekate (#1,051)

@P-Bomb for the record, a non-profit coordinator is my dream job. i’m nannying. we are all doomed.

@Ghost Fart@twitter

So, you’re pretty much talking out of your ass. There are no jobs selling real estate in Omaha, and how would she pay for the realtor’s license?

http://www.trulia.com/real_estate/Omaha-Nebraska/

“Average price per square foot for Omaha NE was $115, an increase of 0% compared to the same period last year. The median sales price for homes in Omaha NE for Feb 12 to Apr 12 was $163,285 based on 354 home sales. Compared to the same period one year ago, the median home sales price decreased 0.8%, or $1,286, and the number of home sales decreased 64.4%.”

@Alan Benard@facebook Given that the last sentence is probably flippant to some degree I don’t think it’s that great of a gotcha.

@John Thompson@facebook And since editing doesn’t work for some reason I’ll add that as an NYC transplant, compromising on my ideal job and going back to Colorado after a certain threshold of wheel-spinning dead-end internships looks better and better every day. The rent is as low as 1/4 what I’m paying here and everything you can buy, sans seafood, is cheaper. Being underemployed sucks everywhere but it sucks less back home.

NJB (#1,075)

@riotnrrd A lot of us who are making really great money in non-dream jobs are wondering why we need to subsidize those who are out of work seeking utopia.

@NJB Exactly! If you are an able-bodied, educated person, as the writer clearly is, and you choose to make substantially less money then you are capable of because you want to be a writer or the like, why should I have to subsidize that?

@Alan Benard@facebook Also, you sir, are an idiot.

isavedlatin (#996)

@Ghost Fart@twitter I think there’s got to be a happy medium between Omaha and Brooklyn.

Michael Lalonde (#1,143)

@The Dauphine Sometimes food stamps are a life subsidy and sometimes food stamps are closer to a lifestyle subsidy. If I turn down, or refuse to pursue, merely OK job opportunities in merely OK but affordable cities in order to pursue a NYC dream, then any food stamps I collect are, in fact, lifestyle subsidies. The author even seems sympathetic to this view: after all, she hasn’t yet applied for them.

mangosara (#1,211)

@Michael Lalonde to be fair to the author, she makes the (very valid) point that even the service industry jobs that she applied for are seeing increased amounts of overqualified applicants–400 applicants for 10 positions at Trader Joe’s? the fact that she doesn’t have a “merely OK job” isn’t because she’s holding out for something perfect, but rather that she can’t get a job, period.

@mangosara Not to mention the fact that she was pursuing this same job path for 3 years in Seattle, but was unable to find anything, so moved to an area with a larger market/more jobs, even though that meant more applicants as well.

STC@twitter (#1,027)

If she’s not afraid of Kinbaku or some wire hangers, I can probably help her out with rent this month.

chic noir (#713)

@STC@twitter – I’m very afraid but do explain.

@karolnyc (#1,026)

I’m sympathetic to being poor enough to think about food stamps, as I was once an underemployed 20′something in NYC too, but I think you missed the point of the stranger’s criticism. The point is that you and your friend were talking about how to beat the food stamp system (ie: buy things outside the food stamp rules) and also just generally joking about being on food stamps. It shouldn’t be funny or cute to need government assistance- it should be the very last resort possible. It’s not about race or social class, it’s about true need and those with that need wouldn’t find it hilarious that they were considering going on food stamps.

sockhopbop (#764)

@@karolnyc I see what you’re saying, but I think the writer and her friends were just using a little dark humor in order to be able to talk about an issue they do, in fact, take quite seriously. People in true need definitely don’t find their situations hilarious, but I think many use humor to try and make themselves feel better, at least for the moment.

@@karolnyc Just because it’s not inherently funny to need food stamps doesn’t mean she’s not allowed to joke about it!

Karina, thank you so much for writing about this. I was ready to write you off as a privileged asshole after you admitted buying a $1.50 coffee, even though I’ve been in a situation like yours and made some pretty shitty decisions. But I read on because a friend had praised your piece, and you convinced me to consider how complicated this issue is, and that slamming you as an entitled freeloader is about as useful as doing so to “traditional” assistance recipients.

As I found myself sympathizing, first I tried to think of what I approved and didn’t approve of about your decisions. Then I realized how little that matters compared to the actual facts: You’re trying to get work, you’re exploring options, and this was an option. That option being available to you, and to others, independent of the judgment of people like me, is an inherently good thing.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@@karolnyc If I were criticized by a stranger every time I made a joke about something that’s actually quite serious… there would be a lot of strangers eavesdropping on me.

I’ll also just note that it’s not like anyone can qualify for assistance because they want to — it’s actually based on your income! And for a single adult, it’s a really low number.

allreb (#502)

@@karolnyc What, so someone in a shitty situation isn’t allowed to make jokes about it? That’s how some people manage to function and keep going.

Also: you don’t need to be a perfect, model human being to need help in a tough time. *No one* is perfect, and everyone needs help sometimes — in the writer’s case, that’s now, and this is the kind of help she needs. Shaming people for what you see as their failings (like… humor? I guess?) just makes it harder for people who need help to ask for it.

@Nick Douglas@facebook I think the $1.50 coffee is actually the “rent” she’s paying for her “office space.”

shannowhamo (#845)

@sockhopbop I think the key is to not joke about sensitive things like that in public when one could (correctly) assume that you are an able-bodied, college educated person. While that does not mean anything montarily if you don’t have a job that pays your bills, these people knew good and well that they would be percieved as obnoxious. And they were being obnoxious if they talked that way in front of anyone other than fellow college educated twentysomethings looking for jobs in “media” in New York City who have made their choice to move somewhere hella expensive and hella competitive (in an all over competitive job market) against all logic. But feel free to yuck it up amongst yourselves!

reader1 (#1,690)

@@karolnyc I agree with you. The only reason the girls can joke about the situation is because they know their financial straights are temporary. It is no laughing matter to need help if you know that your prospects are limited by lack or education, or an impoverishing situation unlikely to go away.
Here is a terrific link to a song called “Common People”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc4Avp-6YBk. When talking about a privileged girl who wants to live like “common people”, the lyrics say “Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it’s all such a lark.” Great song.

This is interesting!

However: I want to have it on record that you cannot buy beer or toilet paper with food stamps. Any place that lets you do that is gaming the rules. AND: The overall SNAP fraud rate is less than 1%, which is, you know, very very low, compared with things like military contracts and the like. I mean, you can’t even buy food that heat has been applied to, like those rotisserie chickens that are often on sale, or a warm sandwich at a deli counter. You can’t buy diapers or soap or anything but food, seeds to grow food, and spices.

ALSO: This kind of stigma is not AT ALL limited to people with backgrounds of privilege! In fact, SNAP is really under-subscribed in part because of myths about it (that you have to pay it back, or you must be unemployed).

I don’t know how often I interview or run into someone who says they’re so ashamed to use them, it’s a last resort, they’re so upset, they never thought ….

People: homeowners are not ashamed about the mortgage interest deduction. Seniors using Medicare aren’t thinking of it as a last resort. SNAP exists as part of our social contract! It’s called an entitlement program because we long ago decided that nobody, nobody, nobody in America should go hungry.

(And the other point I hate trotting out but that might sway some is that SNAP is a really direct and local type of stimulus — people aren’t going to sit on massive reserves of SNAP payments! They’re going to spend it ASAP at a local grocery store, corner store, whatever. Demand for goods and services supports and creates jobs. kthxbye.)

@Miranda Everitt@facebook Yeah, when I was on food stamps I used to buy some of my roommates’s groceries in exchange for stuff like tin foil, paper towels, and other consumables needed to actually prepare food.

It’s terrible for homeless people, especially.

chic noir (#713)

@Miranda Everitt@facebook *chic noir stands up to give Miranda a clap*

Well said Miranda :)

People: homeowners are not ashamed about the mortgage interest deduction. Seniors using Medicare aren’t thinking of it as a last resort. SNAP exists as part of our social contract! It’s called an entitlement program because we long ago decided that nobody, nobody, nobody in America should go hungry.

@stuffisthings True! They’ve started in some states allowing you to use your SNAP benefits at fast-food places or prepared-food places if you can show that you’re homeless or disabled, but that seems a little to me like a gross kind of logroll.

Hamilton (#1,031)

Hey, this is a great piece.

Go ahead and get the food stamps, that’s what they’re for.

I was on food stamps for a year when I moved to NYC. Rule of thumb: If you make more than 20k a year then you make too much money to qualify. I miss vegetables.

shannowhamo (#845)

@Username A single person (no children) can EASILY live on $20,000 and eat vegetables everday literally anywhere other than these big cities people flock to.

@The Dauphine You mean those big cities where the jobs are located, right?

karrrren (#957)

the random critical lady is totally wrong. privileged yet underemployed people should have the same access to government services as anybody. i do have a little disconnect, though, as an underemployed person who doesn’t like in new york. it’s not that i think you shouldn’t be allowed to stay in brooklyn if you have to get food stamps. i just don’t understand why more of these young people don’t move someplace else. i know new york is lovely, but so are a lot of other places where it may be at least somewhat easier to find work and/or survive on less money. lots of young college grads in my town get food stamps and that’s fine. i think their standard of living is arguably a lot better than their new york equivalents.

perhaps i’m missing the point here.

karrrren (#957)

@karrrren ugh, “live” in new york.

rozone (#1,037)

@karrrren They are spoiled and entitled. That is the point of living in NYC. It is not cool to live where they are from.

@rozone that was way harsh, Tai.

Unfortunately, freedom of movement happens to be a fundamental human right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution (and many international declarations to which we are signatories).

I do agree, re: why the hell would you move to a city like New York with no job, but it’s a time-honored tradition. I mean, if you’re from the middle nowhere, Pittsburgh or Philly or Minneapolis is going to seem like the Big City, and your chances of breaking into a high-demand career area are arguably higher except in a few very special cases.

Also, pro tip for those trying to break into “media:” you can blog from anywhere until someone starts paying you.

chic noir (#713)

@karrrren

FYI NYC has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country but yes there are plenty of places where one can live on less money.

allreb (#502)

@rozone Or in some cases, there are *fewer* jobs where they’re from, especially in the industries they’ve got degrees/experience in, so New York is actually a better bet.

Faintly Macabre (#1,043)

@stuffisthings Plus nowadays many companies won’t even consider candidates (especially entry-level ones) who are out-of-state, since there are so many qualified applicants for every position. I already live outside of a major city, but over the past year, I’ve discovered that there are almost no entry-level jobs in my field here. D.C., on the other hand, has tons. So I’m probably going to eventually move to D.C. without a job lined up, and yes, be unemployed and away from home in a very expensive city. But at this point, it seems like the responsible and logical thing to do if I want to be employed. Things really aren’t as simple as many people like to pretend.

People say that a lot, but the truth is in terms of access to employment NYC is probably better than most places. I’ve never been unemployed here, even if it meant waitressing in between ‘Office’ jobs. I can be bored and broke anywhere. Why should I move?

rozone (#1,037)

@Username “I can be bored and broke anywhere. Why should I move?” You seem to be making a life-style choice that includes benefitting from food stamps. (I read in a previous comment that you have used them.) You admit that you have a choice to move. Some people do not have a choice to move, because that costs money. That is why there are safety nets such as food stamps and welfare. For people who do not have a choice in being “bored and broke.”

@rozone
I was on foodstamps 4 years ago, when I was waitressing and living off $800 a month in tips. Now i work full time (In the media actually!) and don’t need foodstamps. Magical.

If you qualify for food stamps, you deserve food stamps. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not fit to be a citizen of a civilized country.

rozone (#1,037)

@stuffisthings “You deserve food stamps.” You’re taking advantage of a service set up for the poor and needy. Live with your parents if you cannot afford an apartment or groceries. People who “deserve food stamps” have no one to move home to when they lose their job or can’t find work.

rozone (#1,037)

You’re taking advantage of a service set up for the poor and needy. Live with your parents if you cannot afford an apartment or groceries. People who “deserve food stamps” have no one to move home to when they lose their job or can’t find work.

@rozone I’d be OK with making “must have tried moving back in with parents” a condition of receiving food stamps if people like you would agree never to cash a single fucking Social Security check funded out of my taxes. Deal?

rozone (#1,037)

@stuffisthings Why pretend that a newly college-educated person with a family to full back on is just as entitled to food stamps as someone with no education and no family support?

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@stuffisthings Seriously. All these entitled old people should try moving in with their kids first before we have to subsidize their dreams of living their golden years independently. Spoiled old farts.

NJB (#1,075)

@stuffisthings I could care less whether or not she receives food stamps. I just think that the entire situation is brought on by a series of really bad choices – choices that seem to be made more and more by young people these days. Lets get a degree in something unmarketable, aspire to a career in a dying industry, move to an area glutted with people search for same, and lament our inability to prosper. Maybe even gather and blame the rich…

Also, incidentally, food stamps are one of the few public benefits in the US that are automatic, i.e. it is not first come, first serve from a limited pool of funds, so you’re not preventing anyone else from getting benefits by claiming them (as opposed to, say, Section 8).

@stuffisthings
:likes this comment:

Since “anecdote” is the singular of “data”, I’ll point out that my folks were on food stamps for a good while during college (back when food stamps were, y’know, literally stamps). White people! In college! On food stamps! Since then, they have had several successful careers and have many-times-over repaid the cost of the public assistance from which they benefited.

So, uh, there.

@Gef the Talking Mongoose : Oh, and they still laugh about the food stamps, because while they sure needed them, there was a certain amount of bending the rules to get them, and also some purchasing of items that were not exactly authorized under the food stamp system. But now they are productive and respected members of society, so!

Also, they used part of their student loans to buy a used Plymouth Fury, but that’s another story for another time.

kreemer@twitter (#1,035)

Oh, great story, well written.

This is what the service is for…use it.

ColdFinger (#815)

What’s interesting is that I’ve met people who got married during college in order to be considered for financial aid independently of their parents’ incomes/assets. In each case, my acquaintances had terrible relationships with their parents and either did not want their help because it came with many strings attached, or were not actually offered help – yet were unable to convince the university to cut their parents out of the equation without a marriage license.

Reading this, I am realizing they might have also cut themselves off from government assistance in the process… (Things turned out fine, I think, but they definitely were walking the line.)

@ColdFinger Maybe. Maybe not. Depending on the state you’re in, you can’t get SNAP as a student without working like, 35 hours a week. Which isn’t totally crazy, but maybe creating bad incentives. In most states you can’t receive TANF without kids, and GA is also not really for students.

ColdFinger (#815)

@ColdFinger (Reposted this above because it was meant to reply to @travelmugs)

ColdFinger (#815)

@Miranda Everitt@facebook Oy! (Sheepishly:) I am not sure I know what those acronyms mean… Sorry, I was replying to @travelmugs’ post up above. I’ll have to look these up and see if I have anything intelligent to add.

bibliostitute (#285)

@ColdFinger SNAP is food stamps. TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] is what replaced welfare in the 90s (<3 you clinton. or do i?). GA [General Assistance] is welfare for individuals, not families. Hope this helps!

GA is also sort of the catch-all name for states welfare programs.

ColdFinger (#815)

@bibliostitute Thanks. I think this is generally stuff I should know, but I work with countries that are far, far away and have spent the last couple of years catching up on acronyms for foreign aid programs, etc. I know it’s a bad excuse, as I do (ahem, sometimes) read domestic news – but oh well. Thanks for the help!

bibliostitute (#285)

@ColdFinger De nada, fellow world citizen! We all do our part to spread the good news which is that kind of sometimes you can still hope that someone is honoring the social contract.

@bibliostitute thank you yes! i always forget people don’t know my personal flavor of alphabet soup.

pretzels! (#853)

I’m not arguing with the point of this article but honestly, if I was in a coffee shop and heard two people (with laptops!) joking around about buying beer on food stamps I would have been disgusted too. I get it, you were joking and she should mind her own business but also you are making the general population of those on food stamps look bad. It just gives the O’Reilly’s out there more ammo to throw at government assistance.

jfruh (#161)

@pretzels! So … if you have a laptop, even one that someone gave you or that you bought in more flush times, you shouldn’t be able to get food stamps? Should you be required to sell all luxury (for some arbitrary definition of “luxury”) items you own (on Craigslist, for pennies on the dollar) for grocery money before you’re allowed to have food stamps?

I recently saw a documentary about the Pruitt-Igoe Homes, the famous St. Louis projects built in the ’50s and imploded in the ’70s. When they first opened, residents weren’t allowed to own televisions, because that was a luxury. But you could own a record player. Do you really need one more than the other?

Never mind that, particularly if you’re looking for any kind of white-collar work, a laptop is about the most useful and profitable thing that you could own.

@jfruh Haven’t you ever read a 19th century novel where the protagonist pawns his shirt collar to buy a crust of bread? Food stamp recipients should be allowed to own nothing more than a loincloth they’ve fashioned for themselves from squirrel pelts, and a rock for hunting said squirrels. Each day a government morals inspector will weigh the amount of squirrel meat they are able to catch, and if it falls below the USDA minimum they receive a “deserving poor” ticket redeemable for bulk livestock-grade surplus grains and expired Army rations.

I believe this is the sort of system most people would prefer?

chic noir (#713)

@stuffisthings – you are hilarious (comment 5:20 pm)!

shannowhamo (#845)

@jfruh Seriously, they should just have some fucking common sense and not be obnoxious and then act put upon when someone calls them on it. We all know it’s hard out there but they should not act like they have it as hard as many other people. They deserve to eat but they know that they chose to live where they live and that it’s a very expensive, competitive place.

leonstj (#1,060)

@stuffisthings @jfruh – I agree with you guys that the idea that you need to be some Monty-Python-esque rag-clad street-urchin to “deserve” gov’t assistance, which a lot of people seem to hold in the back of their head, is not only wrong-headed w/r/t who “deserves”; but also fairly condescending towards those who receive.

I have friends who used Food Stamps to allow themselves to go back to school. To Super-Fancy schools like NYU (Don’t even, it is too super-fancy) for 100k Masters Programs. And you know? That’s cool. Cuz now they make way more money than they would have made if they stayed at the bakeries they were at, contribute more in 5 years to society (via taxes, as if that was all that mattered) than they would have in 10 without the 2 years of assistance. So, yes, I totally agree – Government Assistance can be for ALL KINDS of people.

But at the same time – you really have to admit, if you are being honest at all, that it is COMPLETELY REASONABLE for someone to overhear someone talking about where you can buy BEER with food stamps and getting irritated.

@rozone If you qualify for foodstamps then you’re needy.

rozone (#1,037)

If you think your post-college, mom and dad have warm bed for me if I choose needy is the same as a single mom with no where to live’s needy then you are fooling yourself.

@rozone Foodstamps don’t pay for rent. Have you ever been on foodstamps?

ColdFinger (#815)

@rozone Hmmm. I don’t think you read the whole story: the writer is clear that her parents did not graduate from college.

rozone (#1,037)

@ColdFinger What do her parents graduating from college have to do with them having a bed and food for her?

rozone (#1,037)

@Username I have qualified for food stamps multiple times in my life but have not signed up because I feel it is not morally right for me to do so if I can first borrow money from a relative or friend.

@Username they don’t pay for rent but if you have a job (as about 40% of food stamp households do) you have some earned income, and you can shift that to rent, heat, lights, transportation, school supplies for your kid, whatever. it’s a transfer program.

@rozone Your medal is in the mail.

rozone (#1,037)

@Kevin Knox@facebook The medal is coming from you? Will you be paying for the medal and shipping?

@rozone Your parents will pay for the medal.

rozone (#1,037)

Your mom and dad will pay for your rent and food.

jfruh (#161)

@rozone should there be a mom and dad means test for food stamps? Should only orphans be eligible? What if your mom and dad aren’t poor enough to qualify for food stamps, but aren’t rich enough to support you? What about grandparents? How far back should this thing go?

rozone (#1,037)

@jfruh All the way back. Back to where the money is in your family. Some people have no money in their family. None. No grandparents to live with. No parents to borrow money from. That is why there are food stamps and welfare. To help the needy.

@jfruh We need government-funded hit squads to start tracking down and assassinating rich uncles.

@jfruh Or we could just ask @rozone’s parents, they sound loaded.

jfruh (#161)

@rozone But don’t you see how unworkable this is? What if your parents abused you and you never want to see them again? What if your parents just flat-out refuse to support you? Would you need to get a notarized statement from them to this effect? How much are you willing to pay for case workers who would investigate every aspect of applicants’ family situation to determine eligibility?

rozone (#1,037)

@jfruh I’m speaking to individuals who do have parents to fall back on financially. Why pretend that people aren’t taking advantage of the food stamp system?

Faintly Macabre (#1,043)

@rozone Well, I live with my parents because, to over-simplify it, they have scrimped and saved for my entire life and are therefore financially able to support me. So in your scenario, if someone’s parents can’t afford to support them, should we examine the parents’ finances and then either force them to pay or still deny the children money if the parents spent their income wastefully? And even if they can afford to support their kids, why should the parents have to choose between paying for their grown child’s life and letting them starve? Or maybe the parents should only be forced to pay if they, like my parents, foolishly allowed their child to choose a career path without guaranteed prospects.

rozone (#1,037)

@Faintly Macabre I’m not sure what you are asking me.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@rozone Also, you’re assuming that parents should feel morally obligated to support their children, offering them a free bed and food, forever. My parents paid for the first 18 years of my life. My dad worked a second job plowing snow in the winter to pay for me to play hockey and piano. They have sacrificed a great deal on their middle-class incomes already.

They did their job, and so far I have been fortunate enough to be consistently employed and able to support myself. BUT I AM 23 NOW. My current job ends in two weeks. I have savings for a while, but if they run out, you better believe that my parents (who still have my little sister to support) will be my LAST resort. I don’t understand how they owe their adult daughter financial backing any more than society owes help to unemployed adults who are actively looking for work.

rozone (#1,037)

@MissMushkila Society is people. People are paying for your food stamps. Your parents are paying for your food stamps with their taxes. So you are taking money from your parents.

Faintly Macabre (#1,043)

@rozone Oh, good, so that means people on food stamps are being supported by their parents after all! I’m glad we solved this moral quandary.

rozone (#1,037)

@Faintly Macabre It doesn’t seem to be a moral quandary but more a fashionable trend that is considered *wink wink* cool and appropriate by a certain segment of post-collegiate society.

bloodorange (#105)

@rozone What on earth are you talking about?

e (#734)

Thank you for sharing your story. It’s really fascinating how we Americans have deep discomfort with thinking about class and power and money and that manifests so bizzarely at time, like thinking that there is a type of person who is entitled to be poor, and then there is a type of person who has no right to it. And one of the things you must of course do to be a deserving poor person is to be so thankful that you would never disrespect the sacrament of government assistance.

And there’s this deep level of denial in there isn’t there? Even the idea that someone middle class like you could end up poor is sort of unthinkable. So then you see explanations like, “white trash” or talking about having a “mancession” or the whole category “starving artist”, where these categories are uneasily pointing out how the system fails people with privileges. Then the next step is all kinds of rotten behavior that looks for something to do aside from actually examine the class structure in our society. For instance, categorizing certain white people as “trash” indicating that they’re not like regular “untrash” white people, or suggesting that women are taking all the men’s jobs, or suggesting that certain professions should just accept starvation instead of fair compensation…that sort of ugly ridiculous behavior that seems out of character with the whole liberal persona, but is somehow acceptable as long as it keeps us from looking at why people are poor.

It’s pretty interesting, but not in a happy way. I hope you get your card soon so you can get some help making ends meet.

rozone (#1,037)

@e I have a “deep discomfort” with you emboldening a lifestyle-choice food stamper. I have known people who don’t disclose all of their earnings so they can qualify for food stamps. Why? Because they want to.

e (#734)

@rozone I know a lot of rich people who find all kinds of loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Why? Because they don’t want to.

rozone (#1,037)

@e And your point is that it’s okay to take advantage of a system if everybody is doing it?

@rozone You are being inflammatory to the extreme in your comments. E’s point is that the (minority of!) people who exploit a system exist in EVERY system and don’t define it as morally good or bad to lawfully participate in that system.

rozone (#1,037)

@Caroline Delbert@twitter Inflammatory? I don’t think I’ve used a explanation point or all caps in any of my comments. I simply strongly disagree with this commenter and many others. Are comments only for people who agree on a subject? There is no room for debate?

e (#734)

@rozone You are welcome to disagree with me. I was definitely making the point that in any given system there are people who may abuse it. I just tend to believe that 1.that proportion is not any higher among people who need foodstamps than it is among people who fly first class and 2. I don’t think being poor is a “lifestyle choice”. I don’t think there’s a single person who is poor because it’s fun. There may be people who find poverty preferrable to say… being paid to let foot fetishists do things with them…and there may be people who are poor because they made a lot of wrong personal choices, like getting into debt or abusing drugs or something. But that does not make poverty a lifestyle.

e (#734)

@rozone oh and 3- from what I read in this article I really don’t see why you have the impression that the author is someone who is intending to game the system, even if she made some jokes about the situation she finds herself in.

But you do prove my point very well- which is that we seem to think some people who are poor are less deserving of assistance and we often use the idea that they brought it on themselves or worse still are conniving scammers hurting the real poor.

rozone (#1,037)

@e You’re taking my comments out of context. If you read that comments I was responding to you will have a better understanding of my comments.

@rozone “Inflammatory” is not a matter of punctuation.

rozone (#1,037)

@Caroline Delbert@twitter Scarcasm is not either.

chic noir (#713)

They let you buy beer and toilet paper.”

They let you buy beer and toilet paper.”

I don’t have issue with you or your friend using the food stamps to buy toilet paper or even shopping at Whole Foods for healthy organic food but beer come on. You can scrap up the two dollars cash to buy a can of bear.

This sort of article brings out the trolls. I saw that first hand a month ago on xojane when one of the writers posted a similar articl.

I think what this, and other articles like them say is that we have a generation of people esp White Americans who have college educations in the liberal arts who are for the most part unemployable due to the current job market. We don’t really have a place for them any more than we do for the surplus African-Americans(for the record I’m Blk) who’ve been replaced by cheaper slaves.

If American manufacturing jobs were still around, plenty of you would’ve found yourselves working in factories while having your twee hobbies during your free time.

chic noir (#713)

@chic noir And so when a pleasant woman named Lauren told me I could make $300 in three hours by donning a school girl’s outfit and working a foot fetish party,

*clutches pearls*

Say what??? How in the world??? I mean what would you do there besides show your feet? Would the men be allowed to eject body fluids on your feet or just lick your toes? My God the things that go on in this city.

Please someone anyone GIVE ME THE DIRT on what goes down at these parties.

chic noir (#713)

http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-me/it-happened-me-i-was-rejected-food-stamps

This is the article from the xojane office. I think what I hate about these sorts of articles are the comments that come about. People start analying every purchase* or position of said poor person:
Why does she have a cell-phone(esp a fancy phone)
Why does she buy eyeliner
Why does she buy hair dye
Why does she buy lipstick
Why does she buy cheese
Why does she buy fancy bread
Why can’t she/he just eat conventional
Why can’t she just eat ramen
etc etc etc….

* See abouve with my beer comment. I think poor people must learn to manage money well but poor people should not have to go without treats here and there that make them happy. It’s like some people want to punish people for being poor.

OrwellianOhio (#2,680)

@chic noir But if you don’t have the money, you don’t buy. You improvise or you do with out. No one should have to buy it for you.

Karina, someone with your qualifications would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries.

dc (#1,041)

Really great piece. I hope you submit your application. SNAP is for everyone who needs it. Additionally, the protection of / advocacy for effective assistance programs is strengthened when different constituencies use it, talk about it and de-stigmatize it in their sphere.

@dc YES. THIS. please.

j (#1,039)

A couple of things:
- Why does your college education entitle you to some sort of amazing white collar job in the media or whatever dream job it is you want to do?
-Thank god this article was posted on a blog about priveleged peoples money woes, that is read by people who are lucky enough to have the time, money and means to access and read this article. Imagine if a real poor person had to read this…

chic noir (#713)

@j I’m a real poor person. I don’t think people like MIke are priveleged.

@j Mike Dang writes regularly about how to be frugal and why it’s so important, and sends money to support his own parents. Logan has so much debt that she IS now a “real poor person” because of it, and you know what? Plenty of “real poor people” (I hate that you even used that term) have a ton of debt too.

katiekate (#1,051)

@j First of all, this article made me cry with recognition. I have a BA from a public ivy, an MA from an ivy league school, and a mom who never graduated high school and works art Red Lobster, and a Dad who still lives with his mother. My dream in life is to make 50k a year, and own a dog. I’m nannying for a family of two lawyers and I’m still on food stamps, and have been homeless for a total of three months this year. I work 33 hours a week, volunteer about another 30 in the hopes that someday I will get a job in my field. So you know what dude? Suck my huge lady dick, because clearly you have no idea what its like out there.

WellThen (#1,042)

Thank you for writing this piece. When I graduated from college I had a really hard time finding steady employment and making ends meet. Even getting retail jobs was tough, but eventually I managed to get into clerical jobs and move on to administrative assisting (Wow!) I was lucky that while I was struggling to keep my head above water my parents were A. Able and B. Willing to help me out with money. (I have also moved back in with them a couple times, but that is no longer an option.) Ultimately I’ve ended up going back to school, which is a huge risk in terms of taking on another mountain of debt, but should open a lot more doors for me if I work hard enough. Again, I’m lucky to be in a position where I can do this. While I haven’t had to fall back on government assistance programs, I’m always so, so glad that they’re there, because my situation wouldn’t have to be very much different for me to have needed them. It’s not something to feel ashamed of, but it’s so easy to feel like an absolute failure when you can’t make it on your own, even though you know you’re really trying. I do think that taking help when you need it, though, can keep you from falling into an even worse situation. If you’re a person who, (like me), worries about being a burden, this is a useful thing to consider when you feel guilty about asking for assistance.

Yo, that lady was racist. Food stamps are a nutrition program. Get the stamps and buy healthy food.

I always like to encourage people to leave the North East if they are having a hard time making ends meet. Instead, move to Saint Louis, get a shitty job (or two), and live (relatively speaking) like royalty. It’s what I did and it was awesome.

WellThen (#1,042)

@Andrew Simone@twitter The job market is pretty crappy in St. Louis in my experience, but it’s true the cost of living is fairly low. I admit I never did figure out how to balance multiple part-time jobs and I stopped trying. (I have never been able to get a truly consistent work schedule at any job it St. Louis.) Another point for St. Louis though–the zoo is free!

sp0ka@twitter (#1,020)

@Andrew Simone@twitter I mean yeah exactly. Down here in Houston I have zero unemployed friends (I just recently became employed after some long-term un/der employment!) and we all pretty much make bank at our respective jobs w/the cost of living this low.

Reading this was like “Dude, NYC isn’t working out for you. Big surprise.”

A G@twitter (#1,061)

@Andrew Simone@twitter
Why only St. Louis? That’s just one option of many fine Midwestern (or nearby) cities.

In Pittsburgh you can buy houses in walkable urban neighborhoods for under $100k and the unemployment rate is 7%. You can have $300/mo. rent if you have a roommate. 48% of people 25-34 have a bachelor’s degree, 21% have a graduate degree.

Chicago has the same unemployment rate as NYC, and is also a huge city with an extensive mass transit system, but the rent is much cheaper. It gets cold in the winter, but fortunately, a solid winter jacket and a good pair of boots costs about $200, and you’ll save that much money in a month on rent.

And those are just a few of your options. Look into Madison, the Twin Cities, Columbus, and so on. There’s plenty of culture and civilization in the upper Midwest; check your favorite band’s touring schedule, check how many public radio stations there are, check the university presence, etc.

harperpitt (#1,068)

@A G@twitter Exactly. Thank you. Living in New York is not the end-all, be-all of the universe. There are other cities — big ones, with lots of places for a bright young literary-minded person to write and edit. Try DC, try Chicago, try something else.

The real piece of unexamined privilege here is the assumption that anyone “deserves” to live in New York City. Can’t make money? Go somewhere else.

@harperpitt “The real piece of unexamined privilege here is the assumption that anyone “deserves” to live in New York City. Can’t make money? Go somewhere else.”

I <3 this. All day.

uaskigyrl (#1,647)

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook There’s a reason why I won’t move to NYC even though I can make 3xs as much doing what I do there…it’s because I don’t want to pay for the standad of living. But then, I’m not a hipster. I like living like a king with my current salary as an engineer where I’m at. It allows me to do my hobby, like, oh I don’t know…WRITING! without worrying about when my next paycheck will come…

uaskigyrl (#1,647)

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook Not that I think all people that live in NYC are hipsters…like Sinatra said, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” I just have no desire and I’m ok with that…

CmdrBanana (#1,872)

@harperpitt Actually, DC is as expensive, cost-of-living-wise, as NYC. Public transit is less reliable, much more expensive, and has a much less extensive network here than in NYC. Really, moving to DC wouldn’t be an improvement.

Why is there a picture of Kate Dollenmayer at the top of this article?

@Joshua Alexander Abbott Boucher@facebook Kate is a very based woman and I have the same question.

mouthalmighty (#165)

I enjoyed reading this article, thanks for sharing Karina.

The comments make me sad though. It’s always awful to witness basic human rights getting turned into a moral debate. I don’t know how many times it needs to be said, but seriously, if you qualify for food stamps then you qualify for food stamps. Be you a single mother of two or an unemployed college graduate from a privileged background, if you can’t feed yourself properly, the system is there to help you out.

And thank goodness for that, truly.

Maladydee (#909)

@mouthalmighty A lot of these comments are making me sad, too. I don’t see how “everyone deserves to eat” is such a controversial statement. If you qualify for food stamps, then you deserve them – they didn’t pull the qualification guidelines out of a hat, and it doesn’t matter why you are poor enough to need them, or whether it was your own “stupid” choices, or bad luck and being on foodstamps won’t take that food out of someone else’s mouth. You shouldn’t have to sell all of your stuff (including the technology that you will use to find a job!) and move back in with your (potentially terrible) parents before you are allowed to partake of the social safety net. If you qualify for food stamps, and you need them, you should get them, without judgement.

NJB (#1,075)

@Maladydee Many people are getting sick of seeing smart young people make stupid choices and attribute it to something else. That is all. The food stamp rage is a symptom, nothing more.

fredy (#1,055)

if you can scrape up the money, you and your ilk can come to India, you will be treated like Gods!! Gods I tell you !! forget your degree, your skin colour will suffice. I am being extremely serious !!!! think about it, research/post queries on Reddit r/india

Karina this was great. Thanks for writing this.

Awesome post. It makes me think of this statistic I read in the New York Magazine: The number of master’s degree and Ph. D. holders who receive food stamps and other public assistance is 326,684! And that’s up from 111,458 pre-recession!

genkiliz (#683)

Some great comments, but what I really want to know is, are they still hiring at that foot fetish party thing? No joke.

chic noir (#713)

@genkiliz – I’m waiting on more info about that party as well. I swear I had no idea people really did that sort of stuff.

sp0ka@twitter (#1,020)

I don’t have a problem with white college grads on food stamps, but like, seriously, all of you: there are tons of great places to live that aren’t Brooklyn where you can get an apartment and a job and live like you are the 1% on $35k. I live in one (Houston), and it’s really hard to sympathize with this when the obvious answer, speaking specifically to people like the author who seem to have a decent family and has already made a cross-country move once, is to move. Yeah people with abusive/no parents cannot do this, but the rest of us can.

@sp0ka@twitter Amen. There needs to be an understanding that choosing to live in a cosmopolitan metropolis is a luxury in itself.

People who say they are “impoverished” because they cannot afford to live in a high-rent zip code and eat out and get drinks 4x per week with their friends need to open their eyes a little bit.

@Jeff Crystoff@twitter Amen. Brooklyn ain’t cheap.

VintageGirl29 (#723)

Oh my gosh, what is the BFD about Foodstamps? I was on them at 22-23- I think I got like $100 bucks a month or something — not very much but enough to make a big difference in my life. I could have eaten PB&J’s every meal for a year and probably not have starved, but the point is that I actually QUALIFIED! And I needed them for that year. Why should poor people have to be completely and utterly desperate before asking for help? Why can’t they just ask for help?

Justin (#1,067)

Karina,

As someone with a bachelor’s, a law degree, and…in remarkably similar circumstances…thank you for writing this article. It’s sometimes just refreshing to be reminded that you’re not alone.

Maybe you didn’t make it clear but it reads like your friend was seriously, not jokingly, talking about how to use your food stamps to buy beer. How was this woman supposed to react to that? You were talking about abusing a welfare program to buy alcohol. How does that jibe with the entirely rational and just argument of poverty that follows?

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! The writer moved to NY bc she wants a fabulous and cool job she’s not necessarily qualified for in an oversaturated market and in the most expensive place in the damn country to live and she wants people to “understand” her and feel bad for her relative poverty…why? I have a HS diploma and a year or two of college (not even an Associate’s), have never been unemployed in this City (unless I didn’t feel like working bc I was working on other stuff, then I lived on unemployment and savings and taking odd jobs off the books), and make my living as a creative doing a job I am trained and qualified for. I have never considered applying for food stamps because I recognize my privilege of being able to WORK and because I know “Sex & the City” and “Devil Wears Prada” are FICTION. Aww, can’t afford your apt in Brooklyn? Too bad, so sad. If you’re truly poor, I hear the Bronx is cheaper–or are there too many brown & truly poor people there for her liking?

A degree in Sociology and she wants to work in…media. Can that get a little more vague and annoyingly starfucked? Everyone wants to be in media these days, it’s viewed as being glamorous, but what does “working in media” even mean? How was she supporting herself and who was supporting her while she took all these unpaid internships that amounted to nothing? I haven’t had the time to take unpaid work since I was in HS. I was too busy being an adult and paying my bills and rent on my NYC apt…since I was 18.

You know what? My husband works at one of the top interactive agencies in NYC and they have had 6 tech and creative but still tech oriented positions open for MONTHS that NO ONE is qualified for. You know what they have an incredible overabundance of? Privileged, entitled crybabies like the author, her friends, and their apparent fans who want to come to NY and work at a “cool” place doing something “fun” and “interesting” in media and live in “hip” Brooklyn. If you want to work in “media”, then maybe you should be qualified to do the job you want to do (if you even know what it is you really want to actually do day to day beyond enjoying the trappings of having a cool sounding job) and go live someplace less expensive while you gather up some applicable knowledge and experience and oh, I dunno, LEARN SOME FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SAVE SOME???

She and everybody else who whine that NY is hard–NO SHIT. Welcome to reality. Nobody cares. I’m first generation born in the states, raised poor in the projects here in NYC by parents whose first language is not English, each with HS diplomas who pursued their college dreams after the age of 40… and I make it just fine without help, thanks. If you can’t make it waitressing in this City, you need to up the ante on your skills and get in at a better restaurant, sweetie.

NJB (#1,075)

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook I could hug you for posting this. Well said. Agree with it all.

RD (#1,081)

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook

I think you two may be missing the point of the article. No where in this (well) written piece do I get the impression that the author is whining about things being too difficult and that that somehow entitles her to government assistance. I think what she has written, however, is an intelligent and provocative (as shown by the number of responses) account of her own ethical dilemma related to government assistance and what it means to be poor (as well as who, in this over educated and competitive economy, gets to be considered poor).

Though I understand the impulse to weigh in on the situation based on your own experiences, and those described by the author herself, I think its more important to consider this article in a much broader context than just NYC and working in “media.” Getting started in a career that you have invested tens-of-thousands of dollars in is a competitive business these days, in more places than NYC. Often this requires time spent in low paying, or un-paid internships. Are we to limit these positions – that obviously provide a huge competitive advantage – to only those young people that have parents that can support them while they work for no money? Government assistance (like food stamps) can provide a safety net for those that do not come from means to participate in the competitive and low paying, entry-level internship world. Food stamps should not be seen merely as a last resort for those at a dead end, but also as a crutch for those still aspiring to the idea of upward mobility. A temporary tool to “level the playing field” with the truly entitled and privileged.

Whether or not you value someone’s aspirations for achievement is not the criteria for whether or not they receive this help – it’s a numbers game. Feel how you like about the author’s career choice and geographical location, but perhaps also use this discussion as a catalyst to consider the complicated economic situation we are in and the greater implications that things like rising student loan debt, shrinking social programs, and unpaid internships, have on the notion of “the american dream.” Hopefully these programs can continue to be used as a spring board to allow debt ridden students the opportunity to one day be financially stable while pursuing what they are passionate about (and not just reserving that right as a luxury for those that already came from money to begin with).

@RD You can work towards a dream career and make enough to feed yourself in this City. Is it so untoward to imagine that someone ought to be able to take care of themselves while pursuing a dream if they want to strike out in one of the most expensive cities in the country in a field in which they are untested and for a career for which they are obviously unprepared? She could be anywhere: Austin, Houston, Minneapolis, Miami, Philly getting experience and saving some money.

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook
If you read the article, you would notice that the author mentions she workd/job searched in Seattle (a cheaper city) for three years before trying New York.

@The Dauphine I read it. And she tried there for three years and has been here for one, and it makes me no less interested in her plight. She went from trying to get non profit work (as a Sociology major, that makes sense) to wanting a job in media in a tight, competitive, oversaturated market where people with more drive, connections, an actual experience are struggling to get media relates jobs.
I don’t disagree at all that food stamps and other forms of assistance can be a very helpful tool to bridge the gap for young kids who don’t come from privilege, but the notion that it’s ever going to help level the playing field is overly optimistic. Food stamps aren’t going to give her any help to get there other than feed her (which is all they need to do, and I don’t argue that she has no right to want to eat!) My point is instead of half drowning yourself just to be here like by VIRTUE of being here something magical is gonna happen, pack up & go somewhere else where your unprepared little ass isn’t starving (and she’s not THAT young, she’s been out of college 4 years now) and get a plan going already! She’s here doing “freelance” and working two service jobs…what time/energy does she have to put into actually being prepared or desirable for a job in media anything?
Go live in Houston/Chicago/Indy/Austin/Philly/wherever and save some money and MAKE your own damn way. “Media” is a pretty vague term, and it seems to be the default setting for these new transplants–everybody comes here to be fabulous and have this cool job they’re worked out in their minds, AND THEY DON’T HAVE ANY FRICKIN EXPERIENCE OR TRAINING TO GO WITH IT. Doing stuff like writing this piece is good exposure & training for her, but guess what? You can live anywhere and write. Why can’t you write about being young & struggling in St. Louis, where you actually might not have to struggle as hard? Bc it’s not “cool” enough or it doesn’t have enough cred if it’s not here?
Build a body of work & save some money & return when you’re ready instead of jumping on the pathetic 20something bandwagon of “I’m white and middle class, college educated, & poor bc I wanna be in NY and this is my epic tale of having to live on a tight budget and bust my ass”. WELCOME TO THE REALITY OF NYC. It’s overromanticized bullshit, there’s thousands of other wide eyed transplants here. It’s not such an epic tale, nor is it so shocking to be confronted with privilege (real or perceived) in this City when we’ve seen it all a hundred times before. The notion of coming here and “making it” and having the City as a springboard to the “American Dream” died a long time ago. Kids gotta wake up and get real and start forging a new path, because it’s not gonna get any cheaper or easier to live here.

chic noir (#713)

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook I was working on other stuff, then I lived on unemployment and savings and taking odd jobs off the books

So you worked off the books huh??? That means you didn’t pay taxes yet I bet you had no issue using resources that are built and maintained with tax dollars like your public library, the NY transit system or walking across well paved streets and roads.

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones young lady.

@chic noir chic noir I sure didn’t, because I paid plenty of taxes on the income I made to earn that unemployment in the first place, and I’m a second generation native NYer. You know of any jobs scrubbing rich people’s toilets in the Financial District or Midtown or feeding someone’s cat that require a 1099? Because I’d have happily filled one out–I’m a 1099 right now and a small business owner–I put other people to work too–and was still working to feed myself after leaving home at 17 & getting my own place at 18.
I wasn’t applying for food stamps despite having other options & enough education to know that there were other options. I dunno that I’m throwing stones because I’m not living in any glass house, but I’m sure throwing shade. I didn’t show up here acting all brand new like Man, wow this is hard I need help because I didn’t arrive here with a plan. I’ve BEEN here, and I make it just fine thanks to a healthy dose of reality at a young age. Thanks, Mom & Dad!

OrwellianOhio (#2,680)

@C Eden Di Bianco@facebook A round of applause for your excellent response!

I don’t even know where to begin on how annoyed this article has made me, not because of its content, but because of the reactions it’s received.

Telling the author that OBVIOUSLY the problem is that they live in NYC is ridiculous and assumptive. So many jobs just downright aren’t available in rural, “cheaper” towns, and sometimes living with your parents just isn’t an option. And though I don’t see why this should be clarified, I say this as somebody who DOES live with their mother, in a tiny town. I’m sure that a good portion of you will also judge that I have a full-time job where I make enough money that I probably could live on my own, without leeching off of my parents. It seems to be a no-win situation all around.

If you’re going to make comments about how people should just get a job or, if their current residence isn’t providing one, relocate, maybe you should, too. Moral policing seems to be more of your calling than whatever your current career is.

rozone (#1,037)

@whitney wilson@twitter Your parents morally policed you when you spent their money, right? Why can’t I morally police people that are spending my tax dollars?

rozone (#1,037)

@whitney wilson@twitter Should we allow people on food stamps to buy alcohol and cigarettes?

@rozone no, we shouldn’t, and i never said that or even implied that.

@rozone and my parents only scolded me when i spent their money on frivolous things, which is completely understandable. food is a necessity, not a privilege.

rozone (#1,037)

@whitney wilson@twitter Well isn’t prohibiting people from buying alcohol and cigarettes moral policing? What is too much moral policing?

@rozone like i said, food is a necessity. cigarettes and alcohol are not. if you were to prohibit me from buying those things with my own money, then, yes, THAT is moral policing.

chic noir (#713)

@whitney wilson@twitter

Living with your parents is one of the smartest things a young person can do. I have no idea why Americans frown upon this. If you can afford to live with your parents bravo. Who the heck wants to pay rent for a rundown shack anyway.

chic noir (#713)

@rozone

You are moving the goal posts, stop it please.

@witney wilson

>>implying cheaper means you need to go rural

Though in all honesty, I really don’t care about her getting food stamps. If you need ‘em, you need ‘em. I think it’s a bit silly that she’s limiting herself to NYC (implied?), but it’s her life. If she doesn’t mind living on the verge of poverty, have at it. What irks me are those who bitch and moan about their situation and don’t look outside the box. This was a well written and fairly modest piece though, kudos.

ansmith@twitter (#1,078)

Great article!

jenfizz (#100)

I get your gist here but how exactly does one move to a new city and start in a new field while broke?

I’ll pay you $500 to defend Marxism. That sounds like a service worth paying top dollar for.

A beautifully written, disturbing and thoughtful piece. Thank you Ms. Briski. You hit on some important, well hidden truths.

If you are paying $1.50 for a cup of coffee, than you do not need food stamps. If you and your friend think that using food stamps to buy beer and toilet paper, than you do not need food stamps (they are called food stamps for a reason. Oh, and it is very illegal to use them otherwise). Disgusting, you and your friend.

chic noir (#713)

@Stephen Tucker@twitter

Maybe she payed 1.50 for a cup of coffe so she could use the internet in a coffee shop. So in the end, it works out.

Kara, I view you as a very courageous young lady to write this article.

I live in Brooklyn and applied for food stamps a couple of years ago, at age 38, when I didn’t have steady work, and my gross income for that past month — BEFORE taxes — was like $20 too much. The poor caseworker, a man in his 60s with kids in their late 20s, tried everything in his power to override the denial and was literally almost in tears when he finally came back to me and said there was nothing he could do. He said if I’d temped one less day, or if I’d had a child, then I’d have been accepted.

Thankfully, I found steady work not long afterward, due more to agency contacts with whom I’d had relationships well before the recession of 2008 and less to my resume (I’m still struggling with the idea of going back and finishing an undergrad degree!).

I came to NYC from Connecticut at the age of 21, in 1993, and the idea of doing the same thing at the same age in today’s world would scare the daylights out of me. I wasn’t forced to prove myself – I was simply allowed to discover and explore. For your generation, it seems like every day is a real-life standardized test – and it’s really not fair.

You guys deserve the same as we got – and if in today’s United States, food stamps are a part of getting there, then that’s the way it is.

Do you folks losing your mind over food stamps even understand how truly insignificant a portion of the federal budget it is? have a hissy over, oh, I don’t know, being AT WAR FOR NO REASON, how about! That seems to cost a few dollars! My good god.

chic noir (#713)

WOW 172 comments well I think this post is a Billfold record!

Conrats Mike and Logan, I did tell you guys that nothing gets people going like a post on “The Guide To Foodstamps For Hipsters”.

Mattie J@twitter (#1,109)

This article is amazing. I can identify with a lot of themes here, and it has an uncomfortable discussion in an open, honesty way. Bravo.

The important thing to remember is that regardless of class and race, access to an adequate supply of fresh and healthy food is a human right. If you need food stamps to help you obtain that, then you should have no shame, no matter who you are or what your standing is in life.

Michael Lalonde (#1,143)

Question: could you significantly reduce your rent, and obviate the need for food stamps, by moving to Queens?

MalPal (#1,200)

This reminds me of when I decided to go on medical benefits at the ripe old age of… 22. And this was still during my undergrad. To make a long story short, I became financially separated from my parents in order to receive enough financial aid to live away from them. For the past two years, I had been forced to purchase my own health insurance because my Dad had lost his job and my school required all students to have health insurance. How did I do this? Drained my savings. Completely. It was awful. So, as soon as I had my own address, I got up the courage to go to the SS office and to apply for medical. I still have it now, at 23 and freshly graduated. I consider myself very lucky to have it – my boyfriend, who is a grad student, has to pay expensive co-pays and most of my friends don’t even have health insurance. But, next year, I could be without it as well. My best friends are all on food stamps. One friend, I can honestly say, probably doesn’t deserve it as much. Why? She has been living off of her Mom’s bank account for years. She carries a debit card for it. They also pay her rent, or still help considerably. Anyway, I digress. It takes a lot of courage to apply for aid, and it can really make you feel like crap.

Jennet Jourdip (#1,261)

Helping people get food stamps is part of my job. I am also on food stamps myself. It’s a very complicated system – the people who truly understand it have MAs in social work – but I know some things about it. Many of the points I’d like to make have been made by other commenters (e.g., accepting aid doesn’t mean denying it to anyone else), and I’m so late to the commenting party that I’m sure no one is listening but: if you are eligible for food stamps, and you do not use them, you’re hurting the economy. Food stamps mean income for grocery store owners, clerks, truck drivers, farmers. You swipe that card; they get actual money, on which they pay taxes. (In most major cities, you can use your EBT card at greenmarkets and greencarts through a token-exchange system, which boosts the local economy.) I’ll use my case because the data is mine to disclose — without food stamps, I have $104/m after rent (incl. utilities) and transportation to my job. I can make that last all month if I have to, and I have. But I keep that up, it’s not long ’til I’m malnourished. Which means pretty soon I need medical care. Which makes me actually a drain on your tax dollars, because the doctors don’t get more income with more patients. I give $148/m in food stamps to the grocery store, the grocery store pays taxes on the income, and I spend $65 on taxable sales like shampoo, toilet paper, a ticket to a friend’s play, and having my shoes re-soled, and the drug store got $15, a venue made $7.50, a theater company made $7.50, and a cobbler made $35 — all less tax, of course.

Support your local economy. Get your food stamps.

I’m back in college and in my 40′s. W/O food stamps I would not survive, but my moral barrier to stealing food from mega huge corporations, crumpled years ago. Everytime I have gone into supermarket and eaten something and then left sans payment is, for me, and act of civil disobedience. I encourage this sort of civil disobedience since hunger, a medical condition, has been known to kill people – grounds for an exigent circumstances defense if ever there was one. Just don’t remove anything from the store unless it is in your belly……

If you need SNAP get SNAP…if you need TP learn to pick TP locks….

uaskigyrl (#1,647)

I’m sorry but you got your degree in SOCIOLOGY. What did you think was going to happen? Maybe if you would have thought farther into the future, you would have gotten a degree in something USEFUL, like engineering, and you would have a job…a very nice paying one at that. College *was* the great equalizer for me and that’s because I got my degree in a hard science. And I did it without parental help. I did it with an ROTC scholarship, student loans, and working 2 (sometimes 3) jobs.

Go back to school and get a degree in Software Engineering. My company can’t find enough software engineers to fill our open positions…

@uaskigyrl You are aware that not all people’s brains are wired for “hard science,” right? Hate to break it to ya, but the world isn’t as cut-and-dried as you think.

uaskigyrl (#1,647)

Oh, btw, the Army is always hiring young, intelligent, physically capable people to serve. Especially with a Sociology degree, you would fit right in with Civil Affairs…

Anna225 (#1,664)

You sound like the biggest brat on the planet. 1) You say you want a job in “media.” That doesn’t sound too planned out, or specific at all, which leads me to believe that most other parts of your life are as well. 2) The thought of you joking about your “white girl problems” makes me want to throw that wheel of cheese at your head. 3) The fact that you enjoy the luxury of complaining about your $1.50 cup of coffee, and even more so, have the time to mope about it writing your pitiful blog on the internet tell me you are wasting time which could be spent working, earning you MONEY. 4) If your biggest problem in life is the fact that you need a bed frame, you need to get a life. Some people are working all hours of the day, TRULY starving, trying to feed the families. I’m sure they aren’t too worried if their bedrooms match the display window in Restoration Hardware. 5) Are we supposed to feel sorry for you that you dressed up as a slut for $300 so you could buy your bed frame?

As a college student myself, your attitude disgusts me. You don’t seem grateful at all for your position in life as it is. You don’t mention anything about having to pay off loans, which leads me to believe your parents paid 100% of your college tuition. If I were them, I would request the university revoke your degree, refund their money, so they could buy a vacation home and treat themselves to some time away from their completely unappreciative, spoiled, naive child. Grow up. You have a college degree. Do me a favor, take that degree out of its little decorative frame, and use it to soak up your pitiful tears, while you commiserate with Hannah from girls, because you think you’re “struggling” in life. PSH! Seriously, you need a reality check. The fact that you can watch girls also alludes to the fact that you have enough money to pay for HBO. Which part of your life is supposed to make me sad?

Maybe you should go down the office where people apply for food stamps, so you could see the types of people who really need them.

You should really reevaluate your perspective of how hard your life really is. Hint: it’s not.

tempgirl (#1,666)

@Anna225 U made some pretty valid points. Another thing I had a problem with is their discussion about beer. I take issue with that along with the cheese wheel. I mean a person with a child who is truly on food stamps, would only think about using that money to get the necessities. Milk, bread, cheaper cut meats, like hamburger meat, etc. not buying coffee and discussing cheese wheels and beer. but I only glanced at the article. I’m guessing they need to give up their dreams and get down to the reality of working fast food/retail/etc. struggling artist is just an excuse to not work. didn’t seem like they were even out there pounding the pavement at all. Just sitting in a coffee joint, buying expensive coffee. I’m just sayin… Maybe I missed something. But when I was unemployed, I wasn’t sitting in a coffee shop buying expensive coffee. I didn’t even have any change to place in the parking meters to park when I went to drop off resumes. I had to park blocks and blocks over, because I didn’t have one quarter…I had two kids and didn’t qualify for food stamps because I made too much at my last job. I was off by .75 cents for qualifying. Even the lady was upset lol.. anyway, I worked for Macy’s and got another job at Chase. I worked two jobs until I could find a one good one.

OrwellianOhio (#2,680)

@Anna225 Bravo!

tempgirl (#1,666)

@uaskigyrl I have to agree with u on that… I feel that way when I hear teachers commplain. come on, U know what’s up… Teachers don’t make any money, they have long hours and bad azzed kids to deal with. So i get annoyed when I hear them complain all the dam time. Switch ur major, u’re an adult. U know there’s no money to be had in teaching… So do it because u love it, not because u think u’ll get rich. period… Besides, waiters and retail clerks make way less, but u don’t hear the complaining. Just shut ur mouth and teach the kids and hope they make smarter life choices when they’re in college.

OhYouKnow (#1,674)

I’m a single woman in my 30s with a Bachelor’s degree. I live within 35 miles of NYC. I’ve worked steadily full-time my entire career while living with with two debilitating chronic autoimmune conditions that run in my family and that I developed despite my making healthy lifestyle choices.
My former employer fired me after several years when I took two short-term disabilities in a year. Then found a state loophole to deny my unemployment benefits, as they have done to everyone else they selectively fired this year.
I’m not eligible for Medicaid in my state as I’m not pregnant or a minor (while also being especially low-income). If I don’t maintain my health insurance by paying the $600 p/mo in COBRA I will likely become permanently disabled and therefore unable to work because I can’t pay full-price for medications and treatment. I’m currently working part-time and receiving food stamps while I look for full-time work, better-paying part-time work, and await my UIB appeal hearing. I’m unable to waitress, bartend, or dig ditches because of my physical limitations, not because I’m unwilling to. My rent is also very cheap, for which I’m grateful.
Before losing my job, I lived entirely within my means and had a modest savings in place for such a hardship.
Sorry that I’m sick, single, and on SNAP. At least I eat right, right?

SSGKit (#1,681)

This young woman’s story is accurate, the additional stories are, too. I spent my adult life in the military; retired, became homeless and managed to keep my head above water with food stamps. A good many people need to stop drinking the old false koolaide about welfare. There is no real safety net for the poor and newly trashed, that is a sad joke, public assistance never worked well to begin with, it was about keeping people poor, not lifting them out of it. (If you were receiving public assistance, got a job, turned it in to the case workers as directed, your employer found out you were receiving AFDC and promptly fired you because you didn’t “need” a job you were recieving welfare. Stupid has gone on for years.) The wealthy are getting wealthier and the middle class and poor are defacto economic slaves, we are living in a service economy aren’t we? Our elected officials are dependent upon reelection funding to keep their own personal welfare scheme (political office holding) going so the rest of us are screwed. So, we are watching a rerun of the “rise and fall of the Roman Empire” with modern technical variations, only on this side of the pond. The issue of slavery never stopped in this country, it has evolved.

reader1 (#1,690)

Be aware that using food stamps has long term ramifications. Should you get married, and end up in a custody battle, the fact that you ever used, at any time, public assistance, in any form, will count against you in court. When custody is concerned, they go back as far as possible to determine risk to children, and risk that society may end up having to support you. I never used any kind of assistance, and was shocked when I was asked by the judge- have you ever used any form of public assistance, including food stamps?

reader1 (#1,690)

I was in Media, in NYC-the Creative Director for a top publishing house (I now just teach part time- I am older than you). As you can see here, a lot of people disapprove of your food-stamp considerations. I suggest you not list this on your resume, and click on other items about you in google to send this article to page 2 in Google.

Media is still contracting- there are thousands of laid-off experienced and very talented copy-writers and art directors ahead of you in line. Try a smaller city to get your first job. And learn how to make web pages.

One last thing- you are very, very lucky that you did not end up forcefully drugged and hooked on heroin and sex-trafficked. That woman Lauren may have been preying on naive and trusting girls such as yourself. Never, ever, assume it can’t happen to you. The best case scenario was still some strange leering creepy man exploding onto your feet, in front of others.

The friendly lady in the cafe apparently feels that only people who already have their rent subsidized deserve to have their food subsidized.

People are so dumb. Where does this woman think food stamp money comes from? The baby Jesus? We *all* pay for food stamps from our taxes. Ergo, we are entitled to use them when the need arises. Period.

KJA (#2,455)

WHAT THE FLEEPING FLEEP?

Okay….I understand the concept of food stamps and that it is this woman’s right to take advantage of this social safety net. Intellectually, I understand her taking advantage of this program doesn’t exclude others from taking advantage of it and that people who use food stamps when they are needed can actually help support local economy.

BUT

What’s off here…is her definition of need. Unfortunately, the author comes off as lazy and entitled. I’m all for taking advantage of a social safety net when it’s needed, but let’s be real here. This chick is waiting tables in one of the most expensive places to live in the nation and crying poor. I got news for you, sweetheart. If you can’t get a job, then move somewhere where you can! Keep a budget. Live within your means. I worked two service jobs until I found my career. I’m a liberal in full support of giving people a leg up when they need it. This isn’t a leg up. It’s a spoiled brat who can’t face the reality of her situation.

OrwellianOhio (#2,680)

@KJA Thank you for a moment of sanity injected into this ridiculous story.

OrwellianOhio (#2,680)

First off, sorry but a single person with two part-time jobs is highly unlikely to qualify for food stamps. No dependents. My sister was on partial disability and making less than a person working two minimum wage jobs would make (assuming 14 – 15 hours a week, most part-time jobs won’t hire you for less than that – usually it’s more like 20 – 32 hrs per job). She barely qualified for $60 a month on food stamps. This writer is basically full of crap. She might have an “application” but she is still more privileged than the people with no income at all. Having an application to fill out by no means is equivalent with qualifying. And is the $1.50 coffee supposed to make readers feel sorry? Because you’re not drinking a frothy $4.50 Starbucks concoction, we should shed a tear? Where I live, people drink $1.00 coffee from Sheetz and they love it… OR amazingingly… they make their own coffee at home for pennies a cup.

And hey, it would not hurt to use some brains when choosing a choice of college major. Before you’re racking up student loans that will have to be paid (or worse yet, eating up scholarships, your parents’ money or grants), choose a field that actually has job potential.

DeeDawg (#2,709)

The problem I have with this is that some people use food stamps so they don’t have to prioritize. They want to keep their Internet connection at home, they want to be able to pay their cell phone bill, they want to play video games on their X-box (not priorities) but, when it comes to survival ( I consider this a priority) like eating – they want the government to be responsible. How about giving some of those “non-priorities” up so you can afford to eat?

gs (#3,031)

Photo credit, incase there wasn’t one…
Pictured above is Kate Dollenmayer as Marnie in the film Funny Ha Ha, directed by Andrew Bujalski.

DTJ (#4,099)

Thank you for this article, found late at night while stressing about the same, similar problem. Mine’s went a little further; I actually had to apply and got approved. The sheer horror, and shame is keeping me up late at night. I was so excited to graduate college, so proud of putting in that hard work. I thought so many doors would open — I just didn’t expect them all to be doors at the Department of Human Resources. I went from “Not the dream job? Ok, something similar, then” to “Dishwasher at the restaurant? Not beneath me while I keep looking” and finally to “Even McDonald’s isn’t hiring? I’m screwed.”

Gideon551 (#4,412)

The number of people on food stamps would be far less if they didn’t receive a “shiny card” that was filled with money each month. If they had to stand in line and tear coupons out of a chit book like they did 15-20 years ago, people would be far less likely to accept this benefit. Embarrassment is a powerful motivator.

I just wanted to express my gratitude and appreciation to prophet salifu for bringing my husband back to me,I was married to my husband for 4 years and all of a sudden he started seeing another lady (his mistress).he started hailing at me and he was abusive.. and he hated me , but I still loved him with all my heart . the situation made me unsettle and not to focus at work .so a friend told me about trying (prophet salifu )spiritual means to get my husband back and introduced me to him ? i did not listen to her and hoped that my husband will come back home . after 9 month of seperation and depression , it got out of hand and my husband came back home to break the news to me that he want a divorce that he is getting married to his mistress .Hmmm it was so shocking to me ,i felt sad and more depressed ,so i contacted my friend again and decieded to try to use spiritual means reluctantly..although I didn’t believe in all those things? I never thought in a million years that i will get my husband back to me a again. but I was proved wrong.after 24 hours, my husband came back and was pleading..he had realized his mistakes..i just couldn’t believe it that we are back together. I am deeply satisfied and thankful with prophet salifu work .if you also want to fix you marriage or relationship email him at prophetsalifu@yahoo.com or prophetsalifu@gmail.com , his work is for a better life .

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