The Day the Food Stamps Died

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On a recent Sunday, flanked by my eight-year-old son, I went on a Target run to stock up on some soup that was on sale.

I discovered that day -- as did millions of low-income Americans who rely on food stamps to prevent hunger -- that the system that computes our debit card didn't work. I received no notice it wasn't working or why. Nobody did. We all found out when we arrived at the stores and reached the cashier. Embarrassed, I turned to my son to explain why we had to leave our dinner behind.

Was this the Government Shutdown? How long would we be without the small amount in food help that my son and I receive from the state? If the shutdown wasn't resolved before November 1, there would be no food stamps, veterans' benefits or social security. However, the humiliation of food stamp recipients turned away in 16 states isn't what captured the nation's attention.

Instead, what America heard that day was the experience at one store, where the cashiers let food stamp recipients shop instead of turning them away. The media called it looting, taking any opportunity to denigrate the integrity of the down-and-out.

I am a responsible, hard-working, single mother who became a full-time student at UC Berkeley after the bottom fell out of the economy. I am thankful for the help I receive and work hard to carefully manage my limited time and money. Most people I know in my predicament with incomes below the poverty level are good people who are trying hard to do the right thing.


It is time that our national leaders begin to govern based on the real life experiences of most low-income Americans, not the sensational exceptions meant to draw the ire of the television-watching public. Government shutdowns and the House bill to force massive cuts in the food stamp program are scary for people like my son and me who would be homeless and hungry without the temporary help we receive from the government safety net, designed for all of us who lose our jobs.

It's time for this assault on the poor to stop.

With a Perspective, I'm Cynthia Ann Leimbach

Cynthia Ann Leimbach was a human resources manager and loan officer for a major mortgage company and now studies English and gender women's studies at UC Berkeley.