I’ve had a couple of folks contact me and point out that the original total of $4.31 isn’t that much less than the SNAP challenge.
Here’s the thing, folks: I grabbed my grocery receipt.
4L jug of milk (about a gallon) is $5.19
Loaf of store brand bread: $1.99
Family package of lean ground beef (approx 5 lbs, 5 meals worth) $15.25
3 lbs of apples: $6.99
Flat of eggs (20 eggs) $5.19
Hot dogs: $6.19 (that’s reg price, on sale, $4.99)
Cheddar cheese (700g) reg price, $12.99 (on sale, $8.99)
Margarine 1.36 Kg (approx 3lbs) $6.99
Quick cook oats (store brand) $5.48
Gas $1.34/L which equals $5.07 a gallon
I asked on the FB page for the Not A Stepford Life Blog what the prices were for bread, milk, and gas. With the exception of someone who lives in Hawaii, nobody had higher prices for milk. Gas, bread, and even auto insurance was uniformly cheaper than here.
So, the poor in Canada actually have *less* buying power, per dollar, at the grocery store than those in the same poverty in the US. I’m not getting into health care debates, etc. Looking strictly at, “What will you pay, when every penny counts?” and, it seems, as far as ‘staples’ go, the US consumer’s dollar will go farther than the Canadian loonie, both at the grocery store, and at the gas pumps.
It was pointed out the difference in wages, but we’re not actually discussing folks who are earning wages here. We’re discussing, “You have $4.50 from SNAP per person, per day to eat” and, “The Canadian equivalent, since there are no food stamps, is somewhere between $4.31 and $3.42 per person, per day, for a family of 7, with two babies under the age of seven.” So, it’s a literal dollar to dollar amount.
“Well, they can just GET A JOB!”
Oh, for the love of Mike. Really. Let me explain a few realities about that, ok?
First, depending on the length of time you’ve been on assistance, and the province you live in, you either lose every. single. dollar. you earn from your benefits, or a percentage of your earnings. Geared to income housing? A quick google search shows that it’s based on your *gross* income, not your net. Think about that for a moment. How is that truly ‘geared to income’ when it’s based on money THAT YOU NEVER GET IN YOUR POCKET? I remember when, working stats and overtime, I paid more in deductions and taxes than I netted some pay days. Can you imagine if my rent went up in accordance with that? So, the harder you work, the higher your rent. And, I see no provisions for expenses, such as daycare costs. When I was a single mom, I worked shift work. While I was *approved* for subsidized child care, there was no provider that covered shift work, so I had to pay out-of-pocket. Think about this: geared to income is based on 30% of your gross…but you lose 20% of your gross in taxes. So, that 30% is more like 50% of your take home. Fantastic. Doesn’t matter what it costs you to work, child care, transportation, etc, that geared to income doesn’t budge.
Is there any wonder why it is so hard, for so many, to escape poverty? Once you’ve fallen into that abyss, clawing your way back out is a struggle unlike any other. The toll it takes on you, physically (cause do you *really* believe that you can manage a healthy diet on $4.31 a day? Really? With the prices I’ve quoted as an example? A gallon of milk is more than what one person gets budgeted for food for the day. And that’s only assuming that there are no other expenses, as I mentioned here). Then, there’s the psychological impact.
Make no mistake: poverty will kick the ever-loving crap out of any sense of self-esteem you ever possessed. Depression and fear and self loathing are constant companions. That sick scared feeling in the pit of your stomach is constant. I remember having a Big, Ugly, Cry over a winter coat. I’d worked extra shifts specifically to buy a really good winter coat for my child. A *good* one. Brand name. Brand new. It was the big Christmas gift that year. Then the zipper busted in it. I didn’t have the money to replace the zipper, and the coat HAD to be replaced, you can’t be without a winter coat in the winter in Canada, and the other one was too small, and torn.
A parent that cannot provide their child with a decent coat when it’s needed feels like a crap parent. There’s just no way around that. A parent that can’t afford to cover their kids needs without having to short a bill, and worrying about the power staying on, or the phone, feels like a loser. At least, I did.
And then, just to add to the delight of your own personal purgatory, you get judgement from society. I had parents refuse to let their kids play with mine because we lived in the housing development. I heard other kids tease mine about being ‘poor’. I once loaned a co-worker $2 for the vending machine, and then had to ask for it back a few days later. My co-worker acted like a snotty jerk. “It’s only $2!” and made a big production of plunking it down on my desk. Here’s the thing: I had $0 in my wallet, or bank account. Wolf didn’t get paid until midnight. That $2 was my bus fare home. Without it, I was completely stranded. It was *only* $2 to my co-worker, but it meant being able to get home for me.
You feel like a loser, and society lets you know that it agrees with you, and that you’re probably not being as harsh on yourself as you should be.
Perhaps, instead of condemning those who live in poverty, we ought to find a way to help. Speak out about it. Something. Blaming the poor for being poor is often no more than an accepted ‘us vs them’ mentality. Its easier to sneer at the poor for being lazy, uneducated, stupid, than to admit that all of us are a few job losses, a few bad bounces, illness, disability, or accident from living with that level of fear. To say, “*I* would NEVER be poor!” is one of the most ridiculous, self-serving, prideful and ignorant things that I think one person can say to another.
Keep that in mind the next time you see someone who’s struggling with poverty.