The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Column – Foodstamps: a little gift from Uncle Sam’s wallet

Being broke is no stranger to most college students.

Students who have lived on tight budgets, as I have, know what it’s like to survive on food such as, Ramen noodles, SPAM, and McDonald’s Double Cheeseburgers.

Not exactly what the doctor ordered, but this is the grim reality of some individuals who are just trying to live and get an education.

The students who have financial freedom to purchase what they want, but still choose to eat processed foods – well that’s another story. But for students who resort to things like collecting quarters to get a meal, there is a better way to survive.

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Resident workers who earn less than $750 net per month, and work at least 20 hours per week, could be eligible for $170 in food stamp credits per month.

Now I know the word food stamps sound low-class itself. As a kid, going grocery shopping with my mom took forever because she always had to fill out an application at the register. Like, so 10 years ago…

Today food stamps come in a cool debit card so I don’t have to be ashamed to go to the grocery store. Going shopping is as easy as a swipe with the card.

When my friend first told me that the debit card works at any grocery store in town, I just couldn’t believe it. So the first day I got that piece of plastic in the mail, I put that rumor right to the test.

I drove straight to Lazy Acres – Santa Barbara’s premier natural food store – and went on a shopping spree. The only things that touched the grill that night were ground buffalo burgers and jumbo shrimp, both which cost around $13 per pound.

My social services worker would probably frown at me making these high-end purchases, but she’d be glad to know that I am trying to manage these benefits responsibly.

Although my dinner plate doesn’t always feature a fine fillet of fish, my diet no longer depends on what’s cheapest, or what’s on sale. With this type of aid, I never have to worry about where the money for the next meal is coming from. And it’s nice to know that a quality, home-cooked meal is just a walk to the grocery store.

I also used to think that eating this good would require me to get another job.

But as a part of this student newspaper, I have no extra time for working another job to satisfy my daily needs. This paper has enough work to keep two Rhys Alvarado’s busy. So instead of finding ways to earn extra income, finding ways to save on fixed costs is a smarter, easier way to live. With food stamps, I’ve been able to keep my hard-earned money in my pocket while keeping food in my stomach. That’s a win-win situation if you ask me.

Food stamps can also be used to purchase seeds to grow herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits – an avenue I’ve yet to explore.

I figure that these government-funded programs are there for a reason, and if I don’t use them, then I’m just missing out. Receiving these benefits is one of those things in life that almost seems too good to be true.

But, there is always a “but” to the process.

It’s not like I just signed a form at the Social Services office and walked out the door with these glorious benefits. Applying for food stamps requires as much patience and persistence as applying for a Pell Grant. It took two months of filing paperwork and making several telephone calls for me to get that magical card in the mail.

Although the process was long, and the routine phone calls even longer, it’s been worth every bite.

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