Williams 1 Danay Williams Professor Maher WRTG-101-24 November 16, 2010 Common Beliefs vs. Reality In Philadelphia, the controversy of food stamp benefits and how they ' re used is a very prevalent issue because as time and the recession go on, more and more people are being forced to face this reality. In the recent article “Children in Philly Rely on Summer Meal Plans,” written by Alfred Lubrano, many of the readers complained that because of the welfare system, people of low income shouldn ' t be going hungry. Their argument is that food stamps should be substantial enough to support families so citizens shouldn ' t have to pay more tax money to support meal plans. The overall average of the comments posted made references about mothers using benefits for drugs and luxury items, such as cell phones and iPods, instead of using them to feed their children. While this does go on in some neighborhoods, the mothers who abuse welfare benefits are not the majority. What happens all too often is that people tend to get overexcited when they see a group of individuals doing wrong, so they get tunnel vision and refuse to see what a larger group of other individuals are doing, which is usually the opposite of the wrong actions of their peers. In my opinion, the mothers who truly try to do right by their families are pushed back into the shadows because pessimistic people only want to see negative situations come to the light. There are too many examples of these mothers who should be applauded for what sacrifices they make instead of being stereotyped with the careless minority of maternal individuals around them. For example, many people say mothers who abuse welfare benefits are using them to buy junk food for themselves, causing them to be obese. What these people don ' t think about is the fact that cheaper foods are usually unhealthy. Its easier to buy starches such as potatoes, pasta and rice than it is Williams 2 to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. Another possible reason as to why mothers in low income neighborhoods tend to buy cheaper food is because there are hardly any adequate supermarkets in the “hood.” Especi ally in my neighborhood, where there are more people on welfare than off, there are only shabby corner stores to go to in order to buy food. These places are usually small, cramped, dimly lit and not very clean. They are also overstocked with bags of chips, cookies, and candy, while being understocked in foods of moderate substantial value. The lunchmeat that ' s available, along with the scant amount of vegetables, most definitely raise suspicion about how close they are to molding over at a second ' s notice! So it ' s not difficult to come to the conclusion that junk food and sugary drinks are more easily accessible than healthier foods. With this point being said, New York plans to pass a proposal to ban sugary drinks from the list of foods that fall under the food stamp guidelines. According to an article written by Sara Krugler Frazier which was posted on Philly.com, advocates for the poor expressed alarm over this proposal because by banning sugary drinks, you “punish poor people for the supposed crime of being poor.” What alternative do poor people have to low-cost sugary drinks? Higher priced healthier drinks that they may not be able to afford . Many mothers have to make the sacrifice between lower cost food or not having food at all at the end of the month. My aunt, Tara, is a single mother that has two of her three daughters and two grandchildren living at home with her. When she goes grocery shopping, she buys an array of fruits, vegetables and meats, with snacks coming secondary on her shopping list. She knows all about the health risks that come with eating junk food frequently so she spends the extra dollars for good nutrition. As a result, by the end of the month, the refrigerators and cabinets in her home are usually bare. My own mother faced this dilemma when she was raising me and my two siblings, a family of four. The average amount of food stamp allowance that a family household of four receives in Philadelphia is $294 monthly. Williams 3 In reference to family households, one reader of the article by Lubrano asked “where are the fathers and where are their contributions?” One thing I learned growing up is that even though its a law to do so, fathers do not pay child support if they don ' t want to. So people can argue that women shouldn ' t have families with men who refuse to take care of their children but people don ' t know every individual couple ' s situation in order to make broad judgements about them as a whole. Marriage morals today are not as strong as they used to be maybe 50 years ago, which means that many women end up being single mothers, forcing them to hold a family together by themselves. We should be realizing that a lot of people in reality are struggling, instead of judging them for not having the perfect life with big houses and white picket fences. Instead of going to low income neighborhoods and trying to weed out who are abusing food stamp benefits, maybe we should take a look at the flip side, the people who have welfare benefits but don ' t seem to need them. Recently, I came across an article entitled “Hipsters on Food Stamps” by Jennifer Bleyer. It described people living on their own in more upscale neighborhoods, who use their food stamps to buy things such as soy meat alternatives, organic salmon, and gourmet ice cream, viewing premium ingredients as a necessity. Gerry Mak, who was interviewed for the article, describes himself as a “foodie” who refuses to eat ramen noodles. Likewise, other hipsters describe themselves as foodies who enjoy the fact that they can get their gourmet and organic food products with their welfare benefits. Yet, they try to keep it a secret. Josh Ankerberg, who was also interviewed for this article and is on food stamps, says that a few of his friends tell each other with uneasiness “don ' t say we ' re on food stamps too loudly. Just keep it between you and me.” In my opinion, this article is upsetting. These hipsters are living large with courtesy of government assistance, while others are struggling with it. There was a point made that the people of upper income neighborhoods who are welfare can show that it is possible to eat healthy and make home-cooked meals on a tight budget. Yet at the same time, they are living alone, supporting only Williams 4 themselves. Of course, it would be easier to buy healthier foods if you were only feeding one person per month. I think it is pretty selfish that Mak and others refuse to eat ramen noodles or other seemingly common foods when there are people out there who don ' t have a choice. If a person is uneasy about being on food stamps, then they ' re not hungry enough. Instead of people making comments about their tax money going to others who supposedly aren ' t using welfare benefits correctly, they should be thinking about their tax money going to people who may have a higher income status than they do . All sides of a situation should be looked at and reviewed before any person decides to make public opinions about it. By stereotyping a class of individuals, you ' re automatically shedding a negative light on the positive ones who should be represented in that class. It ' s obvious that ignorance and judgements go hand in hand in this controversy of how welfare benefits are being used because the people who made the most comments about where their tax dollars are going didn ' t dig deep enough before they made broad assumptions.