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Elysabethe Brown

Food stamps aren’t enough

Mother struggles to feed family with minimal SNAP assistance

by Elysabethe Brown, sophomore communication arts major

Alicia, a day care worker from Easton, PA, walks into her local Shop Rite after dropping off her children at school. She smiles as she grabs a nearby cart. “Today we just need a few things,” she said. Alicia is a mother of three boys and a guardian to her niece. Together with her husband she struggles to feed her family. “We just started receiving food stamps. They kept telling me I made too much money,” she said.

Because Governor Tom Corbett has decided to reinstate an asset test many people will face a problem similar to Alicia’s family. According to pittsburghfoodbank.org an estimated estimated 36,000 Pennsylvanians are expected to be denied food assistance after May 1, 2012. According to The Associated Press the test will disqualify those applying for food stamps who own more than $5,500 in assets and $9,000 on households who have a disabled or elderly person. “By the end of the month I’m spending money that I just don’t have,” she said.

Alicia’s household receives $100 a month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. The average amount a U.S. household receives is $277.27.

Alicia explained that because both she and her husband work, she does not receive as much money as other families. “It’s just not fair,” she said. “The government needs to look into that stuff. Right now we struggle to make ends meet. Some people get $500 a month and don’t even use it all.”

Alicia scans the aisles, carefully comparing prices between items. She explained that her children’s school does not offer any kind of lunch or meal assistance program for the children. “It takes the pressure off when they have special days where the kids can pre-order pizza or hotdogs for $2,” she said. “But that is only two days a week.” She picks up small bags of chips and lunch meat. “Today is Wednesday so I have to buy the smaller packs since they only have two more days of school. I try to buy the family size.”

Alicia picks up a bag of oranges, which she explained is one of the cheapest fruits, and heads to the checkout line. She said that she becomes so frustrated with the SNAP program because she sees fraud going on which “ruins it for people like my family who actually need it.”

After paying a total of $89 for her groceries, she heads out of the store smiling. “I had to use some of the benefits and some money on my credit card, but we made it,” said Alisha.

Walking to the exit, Alicia revealed that she once bought $80 worth of food stamps for $60 from another woman. Although trading food stamps for cash, which is considered fraud, is not an unusual occurrence the numbers have dropped. According to an article from ABC News the USDA estimates that the fraud rate has lowered from 4 cents per dollar in 1993 to about 1 cent per dollar in 2008.

Alicia said that she cannot be sad about where she is in her life right now. “We all make choices and you can’t blame others for those choices. You have to do what is right for you.”

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