March 14, 2018 | Blog Post

Shut Down the Stigma Surrounding SNAP

By Jasmine S. White, guest author

A stigma surrounds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. This stigma negatively influences the way people perceive this necessary program.  We know that attempts to roll back the progress made through SNAP would be detrimental to the health of hundreds of thousands of Coloradan families. We cannot allow for cuts. At the end of the blog, we hope you will speak out by signing a petition to our Colorado congress members, asking them to reconsider the proposed changes to the SNAP program.  In this piece, guest author and Healthier Colorado member, Jasmine White, explains the importance of SNAP in her life and its positive impact on the health of low-income families. It is presented to you with minor changes for clarity. Jasmine is a social work student, an activist, a 9to5 Colorado board member, and a mother.

In today’s day and age, we are constantly bombarded with presumptions and “alternative facts” that seem to feed our nation.

As the year progresses we have been informed that there may be changes that will affect one of our most depended on safety net programs, SNAP. As this news spread like wildfire through our nation, I’ve found myself consumed in the negative and positive response to the new idea of replacing SNAP benefits with pre-packaged food boxes.**

I can honestly say, I understand both sides of the argument about this change, but I want to just touch base on the common misconceptions of the food stamp program.

As a current recipient, I want others to understand that this specific assistance program is a detrimental part of many people’s lives and it could ultimately alter many people’s livelihood if it was discontinued.

At the age of 19, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. The whole idea of bringing a child into the world changed my life. During this time of my life, I was working at Sonic Drive-In as a carhop. My pay was $5.16 plus tips, which was fine for a single individual, but once you go from taking care of one person to two people, your way of thinking and needs change.

As I became further in my pregnancy, my manager decided to send me on maternity leave because he felt I was a liability. Once I was forced on maternity leave, I lost all my income, which left me devastated and eventually broke. I had to reach out to my family for help, but family can only do so much.

One day, a family member asked me if I was on any assistance, and when she asked, I became offended. I told her I didn’t need government assistance, I was too good for that.

The next thing my family member said changed my whole perspective of government assistance.

She said to me, “Jasmine how long have you been working?” I told her since I was 16 years old.

She then said to me, “Jasmine, those assistance benefits are just as much yours as it is everyone else on it. You have and will continue to pay taxes that allow these programs to exist.”

Once I was informed of that, I went to do some research because I was determined not to be another statistic. I found out not only did my taxes help the program exist, but you also have work/educational requirements to comply with to receive any benefits.

One of the main misconceptions of having food stamps is that lazy, non-working individuals receive free handouts.

I will conclude with this:

Nothing in life is free and everything comes at a cost. Once you apply for government assistance, your life becomes very strict and monitored. No one wants to be under that scrutiny, but that’s a sacrifice you make to ensure your family is taken care of until you are able to gain self-sufficiency, which is the main goal for most recipients.

Government assistance isn’t a way of life, it’s just one of many stepping stones helping low-income and impoverished individuals and families to progress and prosper so they can eventually not have to depend on it in the future!

**Harvest Boxes: The Trump administration is working on a proposal that would completely change the SNAP program. Instead of receiving SNAP dollars, families and individuals would receive food boxes called Harvest Boxes. These boxes would contain non-perishable, shelf-stable items – taking away the range of options recipients now have at the grocery store. Read more about the proposal and sign the petition to ask your members of Congress to stand against the proposed changes.

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