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.