What It's Actually Like to Use Food Stamps

Busting the myth that people on food stamps buy nothing but luxury items.

What It's Actually Like to Use Food Stamps

From a tweet thread originally posted on December 21, 2020

I'm not going to help some asshole rank higher in the algorithm by RTing them, but speaking as somebody currently on food stamps as you may imagine I have Thoughts [tm] on the whole "I see people buy $40 cake and $60 crab legs on EBT every day" concept.

First up: food stamps, aka EBT, translates to a set amount of money you get each month to pay for food. The kind of food you can buy is limited. Think things like raw frozen chicken yes, already made rotisserie chicken no.

In my experience the things I can buy on my EBT card are not AS limited as I thought they would be. This may vary from state to state, but where I live it's not so bad. I could, in theory, buy $40 cake and $60 crab legs, provided the crab legs weren't hot and ready to eat.

BUT: I get a set amount each month. And believe me THAT is not much. So if I buy $40 cake and $60 crab legs that might leave me with enough money for the month to buy a pack of gum, assuming I could buy gum on EBT. Never tried it so couldn't say.

So in addition to the idea that poor people, LIKE ME RIGHT NOW, HI, deserve to have a birthday cake once in a while, or even just cake because cake is delicious and everyone should have cake if they want it, the only budget a $40 cake hurts is their own.

The government doesn't look at my EBT card and go "Oh, you wanted cake and crab legs this month? Well here's another hundred to cover the rest of the food you need!" If I spend $100 on two food items it's entirely on me to figure out how to pay for anything else.

So put another way: it shouldn't matter to anybody other than me what I spend my EBT on. Me eating cake and crab legs DOESN'T DO A FUCKING THING TO YOU. If I'm bad at budgeting my EBT money that's entirely on me and my empty stomach and none of your business.

Which brings me to point two: EBT is a card. It looks like a credit card. When I pay I swipe my card, select payment, and put in a PIN, the exact same steps as when I use my debit card.

The system is set up to automatically apply my EBT balance to the things I'm allowed to apply it to and then ask me for the remainder for what EBT can't pay for. So if I want that rotisserie chicken or some tampons I have to swipe my debit card after the EBT is done.

Point being, unless you are RIGHT over my shoulder while I'm doing all this, you have NO IDEA WHAT I AM PAYING WITH. The ONLY way your judgemental ass "knows" I'm paying with EBT is you're guessing based on my appearance.

And let's be 100% real here: nobody doing a "cake and crab legs on food stamps" rant is picturing MY white skinned, blond-haired self as the person in question. So let's call THAT dog whistle exactly what it is.

Finally: the cake and crab legs argument is not new. Like SPECIFICALLY cake and crab legs as the example. It's ALWAYS cake and expensive seafood of some kind. To which I have to ask: What exactly are people picturing here?

How often do you think even one person needs cake and crab legs, let alone this supposedly vast swath of food stamp using people who, per the original tweet, are buying cake and crab legs EVERY DAY?

Like are we all having a highly specific yet never-ending party? Do we all have anti-allergies where shellfish are the ONLY food we can eat without going into anaphylactic shock?

Is there some kind of cake and crab leg black market where for some reason the buyers themselves can't go to a grocery store and get the items but require an elaborate scheme of EBT users to act as middle men?

And even if there WAS some way to buy things on EBT and sell them on the black market for... I dunno, reasons, why cake and crab legs? These are not highly portable or long lasting items. There's WAY more expensive shit I could be trading in without these hassles.

But, you know, it's cake and crab legs for the same reason anybody thinks they know who is using food stamps in the first place: They don't care about reality, they just don't like that poor people get to eat. To which I say: Fuck off.