On “10 Things You can’t Buy With Food Stamps”

Think about which personal care items you could live without. Could you pick? Would it be deodorant? Toothpaste? Toothbrush? Soap? Shampoo? What about laundry detergent? These are just some of the things that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. [1] I’ve been experimenting with baking soda and vinegar for my hair and baking soda for my teeth, for environmental, as well as money reasons. Last year, I bought them in large quantities for cleaning, along with a large supply of laundry detergent and Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. Next is homemade deodorant.

Yet, try to get a teenager to forego shampoo or deodorant. Imagine trying to brush a toddler’s teeth with something other than toothpaste. What do you substitute for diapers and powder. Diapers, tampons and pads are also not covered. Thus, mothers are penalized more heavily. Make-up would be out, of course, but so, too, are lip balm and lotion.

This has become the reality for more and more of households suffering from food insecurity. Plus, the amount awarded is not enough if 90% of the funds are used by the third week. The fourth week is made up, for some, by local food banks. Others wait must it out.[2] There is the added indignity of not having, or being able to buy those items essential for being in public, let alone looking for employment.

Interestingly, a disproportionate number of gay and lesbian households receive food stamps. Lesbian couples also receive more cash aid, in all likelihood due to the diminished earning potential of women. “Some 14.1 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared with 6.5 percent of different-sex married couples. Moreover, 2.2 percent of women in same-sex couples receive government cash assistance, compared with 0.8 percent of women in different-sex couples.”[3] We cannot ignore the Transgender community who have double the unemployment rate, doubling once again to 28% for African American transgender individuals.[4] No wonder so many tragically end up homeless.

Those in poverty continue to be vilified by politicians. A climate of resentment has been cultivated by those in power, so much so that people forget teachings by their religion that tells to remember the poor. Worse the working poor earn just enough money to be unqualified for help. It is the rich that feel entitled. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the dignity of of each person. What are we called to do for the poor who walk among us?


[1] What You Can’t Buy

[2] SNAP Myths & Realities

[3] Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Poverty Update

[4] Transgender Face Uphill Battle

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