Friday, April 18, 2008

Food Stamps

At the beginning of the year, I applied for food stamps.

I was somewhat late to the process; when I enrolled in graduate school, I asked if there were any additional scholarship or fellowship competitions to which I might apply myself in order to increase my meager stipend. The departmental secretary said "no, but we do encourage our graduates to get food stamps."

So I applied, back when I started the grad program, and was told that I had too much money (over $2,000 in assets) to receive any benefits.

I applied again this year, as my assets are now closer to... negative four thousand.

The application process itself took over a month to complete; then, after learning that I had qualified for benefits, I sat and waited for another four-odd weeks. (Truth be told, the real reason it took me four weeks to take any action on this was because I was overwhelmed with work and forgot I was supposed to be receiving food stamp money. I could have solved the problem right away, but... so it goes.)

When I finally made the call, I was told that in order to collect my food stamp card (it's all on a "debit-style" card now), I needed to come into the office between 1:00 and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, in order to go through Food Stamp Training.

I suppose I'm lucky in that I didn't have, say, a full-time job with mandatory hours. I re-arranged a meeting and made it into the food stamp office right before the 4:30 deadline.

I checked in at the reception desk and was told to wait until my name was called.

There was no one else in the room, but I waited.

Five minutes later, the receptionist called my name.

Then I took the "food stamp training," which consisted of my proving that I could, in fact, swipe a card through a register, and a quick lecture on how food stamps could only be used towards "things that are humanly edible," which does not include cat food, laundry detergent, or booze. (I would argue that two of those three are humanly edible, but that's another essay entirely.)

I got my card. And later that evening, I got my groceries.

They include:

Swiss cheese
Fruit-flavored yogurts
Kashi GoLean! Flax Crunch
Brussels sprouts
Pie crusts (for quiche)
Veggie burgers
Salad dressing

I am so excited about eating a bowl of Kashi w/banana tomorrow morning. I am also thrilled about eating something besides "mixed vegetables" and "mashed peanuts and jelled strawberries between bread."


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