The Widdershins


Posted on: October 28, 2013


The poor in America with no voice

You probably didn’t know this, I know that I didn’t until I saw it on HuffPo.   There’s going to be a reduction in November in folks’ monthly SNAP benefits, aka food stamps.

Pamela Gwynn of Crawfordsville IN found out in a letter sent to her from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.   Pamela probably didn’t know it but she was getting some extras and “freebies” courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus package that gave SNAP recipients a little bit extra in their allotment.  Pamela’s letter said “The increased benefits provided by this law are expected to expire on November 1, 2013, Most families will see their benefits decrease in November due to the end of the extra benefits provided by the 2009 law.”

Pamela had a series of brain surgeries in the 1990s that left her partially deaf and she receives $731 per month in disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.  Her SNAP benefit will drop from $91 per month to $80 per month.  She said she did some math and that breaks down to about 88 cents a meal.

“Eighty-eight cents won’t buy anything except a cup of ramen noodles,” she said. “They just keep cutting and cutting. Eighty-eight cents — you cannot even buy a can of tuna for 88 cents.”

I know one thing:  you can’t buy a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup for 88 cents a can.  Normally those run a dollar plus or sometimes over two dollars a can.    Sometimes you can get a sale on them and when I find that, I stock up.  Being basically by myself now, I end up eating a lot of soup and sometimes a sandwich for supper.  It’s just a lot less hassle than trying to cook for one.  I don’t think, however, it’s a choice for Pamela.

This is actually the second cut in food that Pamela has faced.  Back earlier in the spring there was a cut in the Meals on Wheels program which helps with the elderly; Pamela is 63.  That cut was due to the sequester kicking in for programs run by the Administration on Aging.  Pamela said she used to receive a hot lunch each day, but that was stopped.  Said Pamela:

“They took my lunches away because the sequester cut their budget so much they couldn’t afford to pay the driver and they cut back to a once-a-week delivery,” Gwynn said. The local agency on aging offered to bring seven frozen meals once per week, but Gwynn said no thanks. “When you live in an apartment you do not have a freezer large enough to hold what you already have in there and seven meals.”

The Recovery aka stimulus package food stamp increase wasn’t supposed to go away quite so drastically.  There was a plan to leave the increase in place until inflation caught up with the increases, which they thought would be in 2015.  The Dems had a plan for this but as HuffPo said:

congressional Democrats essentially raided the cookie jar, using the future planned spending to offset the cost of priority legislation in 2010. They said at the time that they would put the money back before any decrease could take effect, but they have not kept their promise.

From the other HuffPo piece, from 2012:

In 2010, Democrats took roughly $14 billion worth of funds that had been allocated for future SNAP benefits and used it to help pay for a child nutrition bill and a state assistance bill. The SNAP money had originally been put there by the 2009 stimulus bill, boosting the value of SNAP payments 13.6 percent. The plan had been to allow food price inflation to catch up to the increase sometime after 2015 so there would be no precipitous drop.

When they grabbed the money in 2010, several Democrats, including Sens. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they’d try to find a way to prevent the cuts from taking effect. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told the Columbus Dispatch Reid would find a solution and that “we need to talk to the White House on how to deal with this.”

Well those Dems weren’t counting on Debbie Stabenow (D [?]-Mich.).  What Ms. S. did was to target a plan called “Heat and Eat” which worked this way:

“Heat and Eat” states can send nominal utility assistance checks as low as $1 to needy households, which in turn automatically qualifies them for a boosted utility allowance under SNAP. Fewer states would participate in “Heat and Eat” under the farm bill, because it will require them to send utility assistance checks worth at least $10 for the recipient household to get a SNAP boost.

In 2012 during this mess, Kristen Gillibrand of NY “introduced an amendment to strike the Heat and Eat cut from the bill, but 22 Democrats helped a near-unanimous GOP defeat the amendment. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who shepherded the farm bill through the Senate as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke out against the amendment.  Here’s what Stabenow got on the floor of the Senate and said:

“Here’s what’s going on: In a handful of states, they found a way to increase the SNAP benefits for people in their states by sending $1 checks in heating assistance to everyone who gets food assistance,”…”For the small number of states that are doing that, it is undermining the integrity of the program, in my judgment.”

Heh.  As Kathy Bates, playing Madame Lalaurie said in American Horror Story:

Pamela Gwynn says it’s okay though she won’t starve:

“I drink a glass of V-8 juice in the morning,” she said. “I don’t eat breakfast other than that and I don’t eat lunch because I just can’t afford to buy that much. I will eat a cup of soup if I get hungry.”

Here’s a suggestion Widdershins:  If you are fortunate enough to have a few extra dollars and you are at the grocery store when they have a canned goods sale, pick up a few extra and drop them off at your local Second Harvest Food Bank, or other food bank organization you may have locally.  The Republicans, led by Eddie Munster, want to cut SNAP even more, citing the increase in the costs of the program but fail to acknowledge that the Great Recession has not and may not ease for many Americans.  Eighty-eight cents a meal to live on.  I am so embarrassed for my country.

This is an open thread.


24 Responses to "AND SO IT CONTINUES…"

This hits pretty close to home. I can’t swallow solid food so I put soup in a blender and then strain it into a bowl. I usually add some water or milk ( if it is a cream-based soup ) to thin it out more. I can get two meals from a can of Campbell’s Chunky or Progresso. They are often on sale for $1 or $2. I can’t afford to make soups from stratch.

For breakfast, I have a jar of baby food cereal thinned out with milk and some juice. The baby food cereal is about 85 cents per jar. For lunch and dinner, I have a bowl of the soup for each meal. That equals one can of soup per day. Also I have Ensure ( which is expensive ) because I need it to keep my weight up. It is fun being poor and sick in these United States, you betcha.

Fredster, thanks for mentioning the food banks. They need all the help they can get especially now that cold weather is coming. They helped me in the past and were always very kind. In the winter, they sometimes have coat give-aways and other ways to help. I got a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and a couple of blankets one year. I also got a voucher for some second-hand boots. They treated me like a human being. I will always be grateful to them.

Beata: I’m not in your situation with medical issues nor Pamela’s situation with just having to stretch those SNAP benefits. A lot of times I’ll just futz around until it’s later and I’ll just say “eh, soup’s okay”, plus as I said, cooking for one is not easy because of the leftovers you have. So that being the case, I can open a can of soup, pop it in the microwave and that along with a sandwich doesn’t make much of a mess or leave me dealing with leftovers for 2 or 3 days. But in my case this is a choice, although who knows if one day I may face the issues you and Pamela have.

I’m glad your local food bank has been able to assist you. I didn’t know that some of them helped out with things other than food.

And as I said in the post, I didn’t even know this cut was coming. I don’t believe I’ve seen a thing about it on the news. Thanks media! 👿

I guess there’s one good thing to be said about being a big convention destination. The PMA Food Summit Convention
was in nola and while there donated food to Second Harvest.

The PMA Food Summit Convention donated 300,000 pounds of food, everything from fresh produce to can foods. Thirteen refrigerated trailers hold the single largest donation the Second Harvest Food Bank has ever received.

@2: Fredster, it’s as you said in the caption above. The poor have no voice in this country. The media ignores us. We just aren’t sexy. Perhaps if we all changed our last names to “Kardashian”, people would care.

@3: That’s a good sign. Some people do care. I have certainly seen that in my life.

Fredster, I was going to post about the same issue tomorrow and I may go ahead and post it any way since this is so important. It has totally skipped the attention of everyone.

Beata, as always, thanks so much for your sharing. This issue hits at so many levels and no one seems particularly concerned in the media. We are too worried about a publicity seeking 30-year old hold up in Russia or a website that isn’t responding to the immediate clicks of some story-hungry reporters. These same story-hungry reporters ought to try and be hungry in the traditional sense and let’s see what they write about then.

I see that Pamela Gwynn, the 63-year-old woman in Crawfordsville, is disabled as well as poor. Double cooties there! Reporting on boring depressing people like her is so unrewarding compared to analyzing Mylie What’shername’s TV dance performances.

If people like Pamela and me were well enough, we would be peacefully protesting in the streets. As it is, we need able-bodied people to step up and take on our cause. We need help! Is anyone listening?

@6 Right Prolix. The media should have to live on 88 cents a meal for a week. I had heard about the cuts. My question is, why? I just can’t fathom it. The irrational emotional focus on the SNAP program, which is really quite limited and benign, is beginning to sound like an echo of that other “pink sneaks” filibuster issue. Just irrational knee jerk stupidity and hatred. It’s beyond me. SNAP is a lot of value for the money and we have the extra food in this country. So what’s the real agenda here?

@8 Fredster, I was just going to ask you to post the Mandy Patinkin version of that song, then I clicked the link. Is that Al Jolson?

Wow! I know Jolson has become controversial, but that has got to be one of the greatest singing-actor performances of all time. Even better than Mandy’s version, i wouldn’t think it possible. That’s Sondheim level interpretation, back in what, 1930?

There’s also a belief among music historians that “Stormy Weather” was actually about the Great Depression, not a torch song. The singer’s lost love symbolized the general societal despair.

Mary Luke, yes that the Jolson version. There were actually several so I sampled them so to speak and liked the Jolson version.

SNAP is a lot of value for the money and we have the extra food in this country. So what’s the real agenda here?

It’s billions that the govt can cut and “real people” won’t be affected by it. Stabenow just killed me in that HuffPo piece getting all worked up over something called “Heat and Eat”. My God it’s not like anyone is getting overfed on SNAP benefits.

I’m kinda shaky here and was taken by surprise by some events. Have a friend who had to go to the doc in a box. He thought he had the flu but they think he’s got meningitis. I’m assuming bacterial meningitis since they gave him oral antibiotics. I know he’s got a fever that went up to 103 and he’s definitely confused right now. He had to go to the doc in a box because naturally, no insurance.

Prolix, by all means post on it tomorrow. I know with that analytical mind of yours you’ll have some good links we can check out. As Lambert used to say over at Corrente, hit us with that “linky goodness”. 🙂

@12: That’s scary, Fredster. At least he is on antibiotics now. Hope he will recover soon.

Also embarrassed for this country. Shameful. The Food Bank Laker & I worked at provides housing (takes a long time to get in though) and sometimes other things like toiletries. The few homeless people here go to Whole Foods or Starbucks at closing and are given food. This country has really lost its way. What is Stabenow’s reasoning exactly? What dem would vote that way?

Beata@14: The other thing also is his blood sugar from a finger stick was very high. His mom is self-diagnosed as having diabetes so that could be an issue for him. I’m going to go to the store for him and get some things for him to eat and to drink. Our nurse chat was concerned about the sugar also. So he’ll get some sugar-free pudding, some unsweet tea, soup (are we on a roll here with the soup?) and some flavored water. No sweets for him.

Oh and my yahoo mail is apparently fubar’d. Have no idea why but the screen won’t display correctly. Sigh, it’s been crap since their last new version.

Annie, Stabenow said there were provisions in there for “heat and eat” whereby if a local agency provided as little as one dollar to someone for heating assistance, then that upped their SNAP benefit level. She called it an abuse of the system. 🙄

There’s more info here:

@16: You’re a good friend, Fredster. Your buddy is lucky to have you in his life.

I agree about Yahoo Mail. Why did they have to make changes? I haven’t been able to access mine for months!

Beata@16: I would hope someone would do the same for me if I were down sick with something.

I complained about the new version and the reply I got was that once I moved to the new version I couldn’t go back. Hell, I don’t remember being asked if I wanted a new version! Grrrrr!!

@19: As I recall, Yahoo gave us no choice. They changed to a new version and we were forced to go along. I contacted them several times to complain that I have lost access to my account but they couldn’t care less.

As I recall, Yahoo gave us no choice.

I didn’t think so! I have so much that comes to that address, but I may install another client and just use that to pull the mail from the yahoo account. It’s just a pain in the @ss now.

Hooray for a federal judge in Austin TX!

Florida’s cuts have been even more cruel. A friend who 2 years ago received $160 per month was cut to $16 this year, and will have nothing the following year. However, we have plenty of money for this.

@23: From $160 to $16 to $0 is just brutal.

Except for the Huffington Post, I have not seen the media reporting on these SNAP cuts. Lots of important stuff about Kim and Mylie though.

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