Did you really think that I was going to write about how to cheat your way into getting more food from the food bank? Shame on you. I have to admit, I only used that title to see how many search engine hits I get for people looking to get a little more than they should have.
No, what this post is really about is the people who do cheat the food bank and those who are unfairly judged for using the food bank.
This all came up while discussing a news article with a few coworkers. In this article, they discussed a very well dressed woman who was going to her local food bank to pick up groceries for herself. Based on her attire and the fact that she owned a home in a nice area of the city, people automatically assumed that she was cheap and taking food away from those who really need it.
Then they discussed her situation. She was out of work. Yes, she owned a nice home, but she had a mortgage on it. She had considered putting her home on the market, but she was upside down in her mortgage, meaning that house prices had fallen so much that she owed more than her home was currently worth. Selling wasn’t going to get her anywhere. She was working temp jobs, trying to make ends meet and had cancelled all of her excesses. She had put out an ad to try to find someone to rent a room in her home. Most of her money went to paying her mortgage. She didn’t have much left for food when all her bills were paid.
Some people argued that she should just sell her house or sell her stuff. Easier said than done. Clearly, selling her house wasn’t going to help, and to sell your stuff, you need to have someone willing to buy it. She was doing what she could, and the food bank was designed to help all types of people in need, including this woman. We need to be careful to get all the facts before we rush to judgment. Personally, I don’t think we should be judging at all.
Having talked with employees and volunteers at local food banks, I know that there are people who take advantage. The workers I talked to said that they never turn anyone away. Some people qualify for more, such as additional food or vouchers for a local grocery store, but everyone is allowed the basics, no matter their income. And the workers admitted that it’s difficult when they know someone is trying to take advantage of the system or cheat the system. I’m not going to go into details as to their methods (mainly because I don’t want this blog entry to become a way to help others abuse a wonderful program), but it is possible and I find it disheartening.
I’m sure that many people are just desperate and worried about feeding their family, and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that must be. But lying and cheating your way into a better situation probably isn’t the way to go.
Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.
The other sad thing about food banks is the fact that a lot of people that really need the food are so ashamed of the fact that they may need to resort to using food banks or food vouchers that they don’t even look into the possibility and then stretch themselves that much thinner with their finances. Hopefully the stigma of using that which is available to those in need will begin to wear off.
In any system that extends help, there will be a few people taking advantage of the generosity of others. It’s not a big percentage of the clientele, though.
@MK, you’re right, and it’s interesting to note the history of the food stamps program in this regard. Food stamps used to be paper stamps, but most states have gone to using a debit card. When that transition was made, uptake of food stamps among eligible populations increased – especially among seniors. They had previously been too embarrassed to participate because it was so obvious in the checkout lines. The debit cards meant they could look like everyone else and not broadcast that they were using food stamps.
I used to volunteer in a food bank handing out food. I can tell you that I handed out more food to those who looked like they really need it and just gave out the basics to people who were driving expensive cars. The food bank’s counter faces the parking lot and I have a good view of everyone pulling up.
Terri healthymoms says
cheating a food bank when they are in such short supply is despicable. The biggest problem with shortages of food for the food banks, healthcare costs sky rocketing etc is not because of citizens overloading the system but because of the illegals taking advantage of Americans.
Oliver Jones says
Food Stamps are nice and handy if you want some fast meals.-,-
Discriminating and giving less food based on the estimated value of a car? Now that’s disgusting! I was doing well all my life paying huge taxes etc and I fell ill at the age of 47. I had an expensive car that was about to be taken away via bancruptcy, as was my home that I sold to pay some of my debts. I wanted to stock up on some food before the car was taken away and it took all the courage in the world for me to use that option as I was very ashamed. After my car was gone I did not go to foodbank because my health does not allow me to carry food all the way to the room I rented. Perhaps, Frugalchild, you should have had a chat with the people before you decided to hurt them by shortchanging them using your judgemental approach.