I’ve written a lot recently on farming, the environment, and food; this is partially because living in Bellingham can do that to people but also because I’m starting to realize how passionate I am about these topics. But this week is all about how classism, feminism, and racism all interconnect with food in the United States. Of course, this will only be the tip of the iceberg that is this topic because like many of the other things I write about, there’s so much that goes on.
Paige Lucas-Stannard wrote about how difficult it can be to raise a family on food stamps, including the fact that not everyone has all the tools to be able to cook healthy meals:
A couple other things to keep in mind with regards to Food Stamps: it is easy for me to cook from scratch and that is a very privileged position. I have time, a plethora of tools that I had before going on Food Stamps, and the knowledge from a mother and grandmother that cooked from scratch.
This is not something that all Food Stamp recipients have at their disposal.
Lucas-Stannard goes on to debunk so many of the myths that surround those who use food stamps and the reality that many of those who use SNAP resources. There are many that are the working poor, where their income can’t quite cover everything. Or others who need the help because of disabilities or age. Whatever the reason, using SNAP/food stamps to help provide food on your table should never be an embarrassment. The people who SHOULD feel embarrassed are the rich capitalists who rob the poor/middle class of an actual livable wage.
And within the US, we tend to hardcore judge and dehumanize those who are living in poverty, on welfare, and/or part of the working poor. There is often this extremely classist judgment from upper middle class and rich individuals who fake concern to try and tell others how to live (including but not limited to how to eat healthy). We dehumanize the poor through assumptions, societal myths (including what welfare is and does), and false stereotypes but the solutions being carried out aren’t helping.
The Pew Reasearch Center did a study on the politics and demographics of those who have used SNAP benefits before and found that politics, race, and gender do play a big part in the demographic that has. This, of course, is the proportion of each race that has used SNAP benefits at one point or another, which is different from the total number. Numbers wise, white people make up the most of SNAP recipients but people of color are still disproportionately represented.
Age and disability also come into play with those who have used SNAP at any point, with households that have children, disabled non elderly individuals, and elderly individuals making up a big percentage of SNAP recipients.
I had the chance to work in a food pantry that served mostly low income individuals in one neighborhood of Portland and learned more hands on about the demographics of those impacted by poverty. As a society, I think we (especially the upper middle and richer classes) are very good at maintaining that shame that goes with using federal benefits like SNAP. We tend to believe in the American Dream so much and in that tale of pulling up yourself by the bootstraps when some people aren’t even given boots in life. We need to stop shaming people for trying to provide for themselves and their families, which is so often the case for SNAP recipients, and to stop the continuing cycle of poverty that keeps the poor continuously poor.
All of this is of course only the tip of an iceberg for numerous problems – there is so much more that goes into issues of classism, racism, accessibility to food, and the intersection between them all.