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food assistance

So I want to write about something that will potentially incur the wrath of the internet. Or at least our parents.

As you guys know, I was laid off from my job in August 2010. I had other options at the time. I could have stayed with the firm and taken a high-travel position, 50% on the road. I could have taken a workaholic position, 60 hours in the office. I didn't take either. I already missed my baby too much. I was happy for the layoff.

Last August my unemployment benefits ran out. We had hoped that the new school year would bring increased compensation for Dan, now the sole breadwinner. It didn't, but I felt like that was okay too. The one word I heard from God all summer was "You're going to be amazed by the ways I provide for you." And this has been 100% true.

I don't make a monthly budget because if I did I would despair. The fact is that we have more expenses than income, but we always manage to make it work. (I'm not talking about Harvey-needs-a-new-coat expenses; I'm talking about water bill expenses.) Since I don't want to send myself into a panic, I never make a budget. Instead, when each bill comes in I see how we're going to pay it. There's always a way. Sometimes we take money from savings, sometimes I sell things, sometimes friends and family miraculously give us money. Okay, so actually friends and family miraculously give us money A LOT OF THE TIME. Either way, I have indeed been amazed by the ways God provided for us. And since God is not only the God of water bills but the God of abundance, I've had wonderful things like JoAnnes gift cards and Target gift cards and Whole Foods gift cards that make feel we're really living the good life.

I intend to go on trusting God's provision forever, but I'm getting a little burned out with checking my bank account every time I go to the grocery store. Did the real estate tax come out yet? When does the student loan debit? Is there room in there for $50 worth of groceries? $75? It's a bit mentally exhausting at the moment when I'm also trying to get jackets and hats on two squirming children.

So I applied for SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps) in October. I have no moral qualms with taking government money because we pay our taxes brutally honestly. We forfeited $8000 of new house credit because it was a "family sale" and we couldn't bring ourselves to lie, even though they never would have known and other people were taking that credit who NEVER EVEN BOUGHT A HOUSE! At the very least the federal government owes us $8000 worth of food.

Look, it's free and there's no real estate tax assistance.

The problem with food stamps is that they go through state bureaucracy. I won't go into the long story but suffice it to say that it's taking a very very very long time.

On the other hand, the Bedford Food Pantry has a simple one-page application. So we started going there a week ago.

This is the part that I'm afraid of losing friends over. Gomn't money is one thing, but a food pantry is charity, which is something you're never supposed to accept, ever, especially not if you're white and formerly Jewish.

Some people will say we're filthy freeloaders, a household with two healthy adults with masters degrees. Some people will say we should just work harder and buy our own damn food. I won't argue with that. I'll just say that the issue is complex. We're all just trying to figure out what choices are best for our families. We intend to write more about this in the coming days — more interesting things like how many boxes of mac-n-cheese we're expected to consume in a week — so this post is more of a way of introduction. Please leave character assassinations in the comments and I'll address them as they come.


Hey there,

Have you considered getting help at Storehouse at the Vineyard? There's weekly grocery store gift cards in addition to bags of groceries. Email if you're interested.

As for the rest of this I'd suggest to you that you'd be surprised at just how many people are having trouble with just these issues even with degrees and jobs. I know about so many stories just like yours'. These are pretty tough times and they're likely to get worse in the coming months as prices continue to rise.

For what it's worth I have a fairly strong libertarian streak and it doesn't seem to me to be bad to take advantage of any of these things given that they already exist. You did the right thing not taking the tax credit too. The last thing you ever want is for the IRS to ever take special interest in you-and have something for them to find. That can be hard to get out from under.

Anyway, your kids come first in these matters and it sounds like you're doing right by them. What people like me or anyone else thinks isn't even important by comparison.

Thanks for sharing this. I hope anything I said was helpful.

but the mac and cheese you shared with us was so tasty ;)

I think people, in general, are starting to realize that more education doesn't actually always lead to better jobs ok maybe only people in our generation, cause like we're the ones who bought the college tuition loan borrowing=making it big time story and it kinda failed. Not that I couldn't have worked like 10 more years as a teacher and totally paid of that a world where teachers always have jobs and have magical money to pay for continuing education AND their past loans..... but i digress.

We're on team Archibald, so boo hiss to any character assassination.

Awww SNAP.

I'll argue the opposing view: Food Pantry's are partially stocked by volunteer donations, and often partially staffed by volunteers as well, which means you are getting food that somebody specifically wanted you to get, as opposed to government programs which we have less say in (there's no "which percentage of your taxes should go to the hungry" checkbox.) Not that I'm opposed to the stamp thing either, to be clear.

Some people more local to you than your government, some organizations, some grocery stores with dented cans or broken pallets that aren't worth the labor to re-package, they all decided, for a variety of moral or economic reasons, that some food should be provided to your community. The anarchists in your house should be pleased with this more crowd-sourced and less hierarchical approach towards society coming together to benefit its members.

wow, thank you guys for commenting.

JCS, I did think of using storehouse but I wasn't sure of the pickup logistics — it's easy for us to get to church in the sunday morning lack of traffic, but hard any other time. Also, i feel bad enough as it is with our miniscule financial contribution there, since we love the church so much. (also, who are you? thanks for reading our blog!! say hi on sunday!)

Bridget, i fed you the GOOD mac and cheese... one more thing of Annes left before I break into the Velveeta.

Luke, I had written something about food pantries as conscious-driven redistribution, and therefore necessary when government fails. But it was too heady so maybe i'll expand upon it later. The free Panera bread we get, on the other hand, is evidence of typical capitalist waste, so I'm more than happy to partake!


You pick up the food on Sunday morning. I am actually the leader of Storehouse. Believe me when I tell you that we help people far less connected to the church than you guys. I have personally known only one of the families in the last 4 years I have been doing this and I have been around the Vineyard for awhile now.

I found your blog from a comment on Dave's blog and added it to my RSS reader. We don't speak much on Sundays but we see each other all the time in the kid area. My name is Jon Swinghammer. If you decide to go with Storehouse let me know via that email and I will make sure you get taken care of.

Whatever you decide bless you guys!

Thanks so much for the extra info, Jon. That is really really cool that you RSS our blog. That's on-par-with-free-food cool.

We talked about this the other day, so you know how I feel, but just wanted to throw my support in as well. The guy I talked to when I applied for food stamps & health assistance a few months ago said that there's more and more over-educated/under-employed people all the time these days applying for benefits - and that's what they're there for! For when we really need them. I know we don't plan to use them forever, but right now they fill in the holes in our also extremely tight budget. And when we don't need them, we won't use them, and we'll continue to pay for them via taxes for people who do need them. Rock on sista...and thanks for the diaper bag again. :)

I'm way late to comment but I like the idea of conscious redistribution. My deep thought around charity (knowing your comment was tongue-in-cheek) is that charity is only really "charity" if all-other-things-were-equal. I think a lot about personal responsibility, but the reality is that it's all grace. I know I can't take credit for the places where I'm out of debt or eating better or having or not having cash.

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