My dad is a proud man. He worked grueling hours at the John Deere plants in Waterloo, Iowa to provide for his family. He dealt with the annual two week shut down and the constant fear that he would be one of those laid off during the farm crisis of the 1980s. The first time I saw my dad cry was when after having been laid off for a month he resigned himself having to food stamps to see that his family was fed.
It wasn’t an easy decision. He and mom fought for days trying to figure out how to pay the utilities, the mortgage, make the car payments and put food on the table. After a rather loud argument, I walked upstairs to the kitchen and found my dad sitting at the table with his head in his hands. I could hear the quiet sobs as I approached him. I was 15, scared as hell and all I wanted to do was comfort him.
He looked up and I could see that he was a broken man, all 6’ 3” of him. I sat down and asked him what was wrong. After what seemed an eternity, he composed himself and explained that he and mom were going to apply for food stamps. He said that if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be eating. He said it wasn’t something he wanted to do, but something that needed to be done.
People have forgotten that many people who receive food stamps do so only because it’s the last option to make sure that food is on the table for the families. Like my dad, many feel that they failed their families and have failed as human beings. As I told my dad, they haven’t failed. They have made the tough decision to see that their families are provided for.
That’s why I find it disgusting when I see Letters to the Editor that slam (with a tinge of envy) those receiving food stamps. They claim that the person on food stamps is eating better than they are, even abusing the system. Of course, all of these claims are anecdotal without any specifics. But it’s a part of a larger attempt to shame those receiving food stamps even further and a continuance of the war on the social safety net.
Take for example the attempt by the Arizona State Representative Jeff Dial to make bright orange the debit cards of those receiving food stamps. He claims that his measure isn’t about stigmatizing food stamp recipients but instead to prevent fraud. I am sorry, but his protestations aside, he is attempting to stigmatize food stamp recipients.
Instead of attacking those who need to use food stamps and trying to destroy the social safety net, we should be encouraging those who qualify to apply. We are the wealthiest nation in the world and yet for ideological reasons we are willing to allow people to go hungry. We should be strengthening our social safety net and we should make sure that no person in the United States ever goes hungry. Stop waging war against the users of food stamps!