Ohioans on SNAP Share Their Stories

May 02, 2023 01:48:51
Ohioans on SNAP Share Their Stories
Just a Bite
Ohioans on SNAP Share Their Stories

May 02 2023 | 01:48:51

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Show Notes

SNAP recipients had been receiving extra COVID SNAP benefits for 3 years to weather the economic impacts of the pandemic. It had been a lifeline for many, where they could finally afford the foods they preferred and needed to manage their diet related diseases and feel food secure. Unfortunately, since those benefits ended in March, SNAP recipients no longer have that additional money that they used to meet their basic needs, while the side effects of COVID still remain. To get a sense of how this is impacting Ohioans, we met with 5 Ohioans who participate in SNAP to talk to them about their experiences and what they think folks need to hear when it comes to making ends meet. We extend our most sincere thanks to each of them for sharing their time and their stories.  

References: 

Read our 2022 brief on older adults and the impact SNAP EAs had on their lives here.  

Read our recent tweet thread about the impact SNAP EAs had on older adults and the need to increase the minimum SNAP benefit.  

Find your local foodbank to find help, volunteer, and donate here.         

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Ohio Association of Foodbanks is aregistered 501c3nonprofitorganizationwithout party affiliationorbias.We are Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger and our mission is to assist Ohio’s 12 Feeding America foodbanks in providing food and other resources to people in need and to pursueareas of common interest for the benefit of people in need.   

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:17 It has been two months since the end of the extra covid SNAP benefits that SNAP recipients were receiving for three years. We know those extra benefits made it much easier to get the foods they prefer and are better for their chronic diseases. They were able to afford other basics and they had much less stress and worry. Unfortunately, now SNAP recipients no longer have that additional money that they use to meet their basic needs all while the side effects of covid still remain food prices and prices for other basic necessities like rent, utilities, and transportation are still unbearably high with people's incomes, especially those on fixed incomes not being able to keep up. Some folks can't return to the workforce because they now have to take care of a loved one or are disabled themselves. Many worry what they're going to have to do to feed themselves and their families. To get a sense of how this is impacting Ohioans, we decided to meet with five people who are receiving snap to talk to them about their experiences and what they think folks need to hear when it comes to receiving SNAP and making ends meet. Speaker 0 00:01:52 Thank Speaker 2 00:01:52 You so much for joining us today on the podcast. Speaker 3 00:01:56 You're welcome. Speaker 2 00:01:58 Why don't we begin by, um, you just saying your name, your age, where in Ohio you're from and some your interest and what, what you care most about. Speaker 3 00:02:10 Um, my name is Heather Wallace. I am 37. I live in Lancaster, Ohio. Um, my interests were um, music, watching movies, playing games with my kids. I don't know, I'm kind of a homebody so Speaker 2 00:02:28 I relate to that. <laugh>. No, that's great. Thanks. Um, and how long have you been receiving SNAP benefits? Speaker 3 00:02:37 Um, I've been receiving SNAP benefits, benefits since I was 25. Speaker 2 00:02:44 Okay. So as you know, we're gonna focus our conversation on the impact the extra covid SNAP benefits had, um, you had over the past three years. How has that additional money impacted you, your life and your family? Speaker 3 00:03:02 Well, it's impacted me and my family because before the pandemic happened, food wasn't as high as as it is right now. Um, and um, with the extra food stamps that came in at the end of the month, um, after the pandemic happened, it actually helped because we weren't needing to really use a food pantry. Um, we were able to um, stock up on um, meats and vegetables, um, and things that were healthy. Um, and now like I just went shopping today and I spent $200 on nothing. Nothing like <laugh>. Um, meat is so expensive. Um, pork chops are expensive nowadays too. Like $10 a pack. I mean, how are people supposed to survive? I just, I don't get it. Um, and people with kids, because now summer's coming, food is sky rocking it, kids are gonna be home from school, we're gonna have to figure out how to get more food, especially during the summer since those food stamps, you know, ended I guess food banks so is, but not even food banks gives you everything that you need. Speaker 4 00:04:30 Um, would you say, um, that you're eating a little bit less now since like trying to save some stuff? Or would you say that you and your, your son aren't eating like maybe less meals or less snacks than you were before when you were getting extra snack or no? Speaker 3 00:04:44 Yeah, we're eating less meals now. You know, when he's home we eat once a day, um, unless we have the extra food. But other than that we only eat dinner. Um, then I barely get snacks because there's just not enough to buy snacks. Speaker 2 00:05:03 You have now been experiencing about a month and a half since the SNAP benefits expired. I know that you talked about this a little bit with inflation and what, what you can get at the grocery store and what you can't now with your SNAP benefits, but what have you or what do you anticipate having to do in order to feed yourself and your family? Speaker 3 00:05:28 Well the impact it will have on our daily lives is not being able to, not being able to eat healthy versus, you know, buying the cheap stuff because that's all we can afford at this time. Um, I know that I took my son to the doctor not too long ago and the doctor was like, you know, what are y'all eating? Um, I feel that he needs to eat this, this and this. And I'm like, you know, are you gonna pay for it because I can't pay for that. We don't have enough funds to buy what we need using food banks until they no longer are available because surely you know what everything that's going on in this world, um, the food going skyrocketed, there's gonna be a lot of people utilizing those food pantries and before long they probably won't have enough food to spare for people, you know, um, that will need it. So right now it's just doing what I can because my rent is $600 plus a few other bills and I don't have cash handy after I pay those bills. If I do, it goes on, you know, toiletries, um, clothes, if my kid needs it, um, clothes if I need it and after that I'm broke. So I guess she's food pantry for now. Speaker 4 00:06:59 So do you, would you say that, um, you talked a little bit about your son and and how you, the doctor, he's obviously probably going to a pediatrician cause he is still growing. Um, but for your own health needs have you, like, do you have particular diets that you should be like abiding by to keep yourself healthy that you're not able to afford that food or? Speaker 3 00:07:19 Yeah, um, my doctor told me that I was pre-diabetic so he, she wanted me to eat more healthier, but it's kind of hard since we can't buy all the healthy stuff that we need. Speaker 4 00:07:31 Did you feel at least better, even if the, you didn't see the doctor, did you feel like you were eating healthier and felt, felt a little bit better, um, for the other conditions, um, that you had when you were able to kind of purchase little bit more? Speaker 3 00:07:43 I'm sure it was starting to lose weight and now I feel like I'm getting more and more so yeah. Speaker 4 00:07:47 Okay. And um, this is just something else I heard from um, someone else we talked to. Do you ever feel like, um, eating fast food or eating out is just cheaper, easier than, you know, trying to go grocery shopping with a little bit of money they give you? Um, is that something that you experienced or, or No, not really. Speaker 3 00:08:07 You know, if I have the extra funds I will do it. Um, but lately I've not had the extra funds cuz it's gotta go all to the household food. Um, so yeah, sometimes, sometimes I feel certain places are cheaper than store bought food. Um, that's how I feel that we're gonna have to survive one of these days is just going out to eat all the time. But I think that with food stamps they should make it to where you could go to a cheap restaurant and use them. <laugh>. Speaker 4 00:08:40 Yeah, that's actually something people have been pushing for. It's called uh, a restaurant meals waiver actually. So this is something that actually does exist in some places and in some states that you can actually use your, your SNAP benefits at. Yeah, Speaker 3 00:08:52 I heard that. But they don't do that here in Ohio. No. Speaker 4 00:08:55 Nope, they don't. Speaker 2 00:08:57 No, it's great for folks who don't have a kitchen or aren't able to prepare the foods themselves or just, yeah, Speaker 3 00:09:03 Like, like, you know, like us, we don't have a kitchen so we have to use a air fryer. Um, Speaker 2 00:09:11 I'm sure that has been a real challenge for you considering um, like the types of foods that you have to purchase and like how they're usually probably more expensive than Speaker 3 00:09:24 Yeah, so we're not able to make like meals. So we're, it'll last for like two or three days. We have to cook like right then and there <laugh>. Speaker 4 00:09:34 Yeah, that I'm sure that's really hard. Speaker 3 00:09:36 Yeah. Speaker 4 00:09:37 Yeah. People, people don't think, um, even us sometimes don't think about like all it takes to eat a healthy meal, like in addition to the funds obviously to buy and purchase the food, you also need storage. You need um, you know, utensils, you need pots and pans, right? Working refrigerator, all of that stuff. So Speaker 2 00:09:57 I know you had suggested that as a, a change that we could make to the SNAP program. I was wondering like are there any solutions you think that would help you and your family? I know obviously the huge one is more funds, <laugh> of course. Speaker 3 00:10:15 Um, I think that, you know, even though someone, um, that is on disability and they don't pay, like if they don't pay electric or anything, that they still are able to get the max benefits. Uh, because with me I only get $200 of food, of food stamps with me and my son and that's because I only pay, um, rent. I don't pay electric because all the stuff is included. But, um, I think that they shouldn't factor that in. I think they should factor in more of um, the daily expenses that you have to pay, like phone bills and stuff like that. Speaker 4 00:10:58 I think. Yeah, Heather, that's really helpful, um, to think about because so what you're saying is like the SNAP program offers some deductions for people so they'll deduct like your shelter costs or your rent, but if you don't pay like your utilities, that doesn't mean you don't have other things to pay for, like your phone bill, your Yeah. Okay. I see exactly what you're saying. Is there, Heather, is there anything else that you wanna share about the program? Speaker 3 00:11:21 You know, you can't buy hot food if you wanna buy something that's already pre-made just because, you know, you go to an appointment and you get home late and you know, you still gotta come home and cook for your children, but they still need to take a shower and get ready for school by the time that happens, you know, it is time for bed. What about, you know, being able to buy hot food with your food cents? Because I mean, you gonna take it home and cook it anyway so it becomes hot, right? So why not be able to buy hot food? Speaker 4 00:11:57 I totally agree. Actually that's something that we are pushing for in what's called the farm bill that's coming up. So every five years or so, the federal government reconsiders some changes in the SNAP program. So that's one of the big ones this time is trying to be able to, uh, to be able to purchase pre-made food, the rotisserie chickens, the pre-made subs, stuff like that. Um, so yes. Yeah, Speaker 3 00:12:20 I mean I just think that, you know, if they're gonna allow us, you know, give us food stamps of stuff, we should be able to do what we want with them within reason, like mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I'm not saying go out there and buy a whole 10 case of soda. I mean Speaker 4 00:12:37 Yeah, absolutely. No, I totally get exactly what you're saying. You're within reason you fully believe that we, people should be able to utilize their benefits for what Yeah. Their family needs because like you said, not everybody has a whole stove, a whole, you know, all these different appliances to cook. Speaker 3 00:12:52 I just wonder how we all, how we all gonna survive without all that helpful stuff, you know? Yeah, Speaker 4 00:12:59 Yeah. Speaker 3 00:13:00 Like I said, I know there's food pantries, but that's, you know, they only give you certain stuff and certain stuff. People can't cook if they're in a situation like me and my son is. Speaker 4 00:13:11 Right. Yeah. Like you said, like if you only have an air fryer then you know how helpful is, you know. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can't make spaghetti. Speaker 3 00:13:19 Well I oven too, but that's spa besides the point. <laugh>. Speaker 4 00:13:23 Yeah. Yeah, for sure. No, I'm with you. You can't make spaghetti and a toaster oven, so Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah, Speaker 3 00:13:29 We're not able to make spaghetti. We have to eat stuff like meat and vegetables. I mean, we like meat, but we would like to be able to make lasagna and Right. Speaker 4 00:13:39 Stuff like that. Speaker 3 00:13:41 Or at least be able to buy it hot. Speaker 4 00:13:44 Right, exactly. Yeah, that's a really good point. And a lot of that stuff that it seems like you guys are unable to cook like spaghetti, that's pretty easy. It's also really filling too. Speaker 3 00:13:55 And it could last for a few days, leftovers Speaker 4 00:13:58 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah, it's hard. Speaker 2 00:14:00 And the stuff that you have, you have to make is also more expensive. It's the vegetables, it's the meat protein items that are also super high right now where you could buy a box of pasta. It's still more expensive than it used to be, but it's less expensive than meat. Yeah. You know? Right. Speaker 4 00:14:22 So like you're just so limited and like this, the program doesn't account for the fact that everybody, or even the food banks, the food banks and the food pantries that we work for, they don't account for the fact that everybody cannot boil water on a stove and put in some pasta and walk away. Like Speaker 2 00:14:37 What would you like to say to folks who may not understand what it means to receive snap benefits? Speaker 3 00:14:44 Um, I would like to say that everybody needs help at one point or another just because you're, you know, you make so much amount of money, doesn't mean the other person does. There are reasons why some people can't work. Speaker 4 00:15:06 All right, Mike. Um, so just tell me a little bit about yourself. So your name, your age, where in Ohio you're from and you know, anything else you think, um, you'd like to share with us before we get started? Speaker 5 00:15:17 Yeah, sure. Hi everybody, I'm Mike. I'm uh, 45. I live in, uh, still Ohio, about two minutes from Kent State. Uh, and I'm really happy to be here. I love doing charity work. I love helping out and I love giving back, so this is a big deal for me. Speaker 4 00:15:34 Wonderful. Thanks Mike. And what are some of your interests and what do you, what are some things that you kind of spend your free time on when you're, you know, not talking about food policy? <laugh>. Speaker 5 00:15:44 I do a lot of, lot of exercising or do a lot of reading, a lot of outside, uh, a lot of gaming with my friends, a lot, a little bit of writing here and there. I do, uh, some other advocacy work, so I, I keep busy, definitely. Speaker 4 00:15:59 Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, and Mike, how long have you um, been receiving SNAP benefits? Speaker 5 00:16:06 Off and on About 15 years. Speaker 4 00:16:08 15 years, okay. So you are very familiar with how all of this works from the paperwork to the benefits to the communications. You are a pro Speaker 5 00:16:17 More so I thought I would be. Yes, Speaker 4 00:16:20 I'm sure. I'm sure. Yeah. Perfect. Okay. So we're gonna focus our conversation today, um, on the impact of the extra covid snap benefits, um, that you've had been receiving for the past three years. Um, and so we wanna start off a little bit about, you know, um, how did the additional, um, benefit impact you, your life, your family? Speaker 5 00:16:38 It may happen to worry about where my next meal is gonna be coming from. Easier in the wake of the shutdown, in the wake of the fact that when this hit and everything got shut down, uh, getting food was more difficult and paying for it was more difficult as well. Uh, it was shortly after the pandemic hit that there were outages for everything and it was a real stressor. And the added benefits helped to cut that down bit because I, as everybody will remember, things were anxious enough then, uh, without having to worry about am I gonna have enough to pay for the next meal? Am I going to be able to buy at least some healthyish groceries, uh, or am I gonna have to buy junk? So it definitely was a nice little cushion as time went on. Speaker 4 00:17:39 Thanks for that, Mike. So yeah, so as you mentioned, you know, there were supply chain issues, a lot of that is still kind of present. If you don't mind, I think you told me you had some experience with um, some the grocery delivery services. Could you talk a little bit about that and, and utilizing that during the pandemic and um, have you noticed any changes, uh, with grocery delivery? Um, from like, like the peak pandemic, if you will until now? Speaker 5 00:18:04 Well, at first it wasn't nearly as organized as it was. I think it took longer for deliveries to arrive. Uh, I know that myself and others had people that would get their orders and they either wouldn't get what they ordered or they would find themselves paying like for two and three items. And if anything good could said to have been coming out of this trying time, it would be that this pandemic made places like Walmart and other delivery services have to tone up what they did and make it more efficient and organized. Uh, and I can definitely say I have notice noticed an improvement, big improvement in now versus when I started using it when the pandemic first kicked off. And before then, Speaker 4 00:18:59 Would you say the grocery delivery, like the, the prices of the delivery have gone up at all that you've noticed or not really? Speaker 5 00:19:05 Oh lord, yes. Absolutely. Yes. I think the last delivery I got was a few weeks ago and including tip, which it's added in and it's, it is what it is, but with that I paid, I remembered it was like 1699, which is ridiculous. Speaker 4 00:19:28 So in addition to food prices going up, the delivery, yeah. So although the delivery services are a little bit more organized than they were during the peak of the pandemic, you would definitely say the cost has gone up with that organization. Right? It's Speaker 5 00:19:40 Like we're paying for the organization itself. Yes. Speaker 2 00:19:45 What could make the delivery service better? Would it help you if the SNAP program would help supplement those delivery costs or cover the costs? Speaker 5 00:19:56 So I'm lucky in a way cause I'm in a wheelchair, but I'm very mobile and with there being a grocery store about maybe a quarter mile from me and with the weather when the pandemic hit me nice ish, when it happened, it was in mid spring, I was able to down to the place by me, get what I needed, work with the outage of the force and get back. Now with that being said, I will admit on air all day every day to anybody that I was one of the lucky ones. Uh, I know for a fact that we had a lot of people in my residence and in a lot of other residences and I know, cause I'm friends with some of them that could not get what they needed because of transportation and everything being cut down and because of the delivery fees. Speaker 5 00:20:55 Or they would find a way to go down to their store, which would be more of an undertaking for them giving their age and disabilities and what I would've to go through and they could only get a few things. So they would expend all that effort and all of their resources to go down there and get what they wanted and needed and not be able to get anything cause of shortages or because prices were starting to go up. And it was a case of do I have bread or do I get my blood pressure medicine saw that a lot. Uh, I had a friend of mine, as a matter of fact, went without food for a couple of days because her E B T money had run out during the pandemic. Her, her funds had, and she didn't have the money for delivery. She couldn't get anybody to take her and nobody was open because a lot of stuff was shut down during the pandemic. Speaker 5 00:21:58 More than once. I have seen people in my building that shouldn't be out and about having to go out and about and then carrying their bags of stuff back on their own because they had no other recourse. I can remember during the pandemic, before the delivery thing started back up when that was happening, there's two older ladies in my building and they would go out brainstorms. Matter of fact, one time I can remember going down and checking my mail and they were getting ready to go out and there was a terrific storm and I looked over at them going out to the door and I'm like, what are you doing soon out there? And they said, well, we can't get food in the other way and we have medicine pickups, so we have to, and there they went and they were soaked, you know, as soon as they left, but they had no other recourse. It kind of bothers me to think about Speaker 4 00:22:52 That. Yeah, yeah. That's really hard to hear. Speaker 5 00:22:55 These are people with more challenges, like I said earlier than I have. Yeah. And they're having to put themselves through even more challenges. Speaker 4 00:23:04 Yeah, absolutely. Just to eat. Just to eat. Speaker 5 00:23:08 Just to eat, yeah. Just to eat or just to get, you know, their medications, which I think goes hand in hand with the food. Speaker 4 00:23:16 Absolutely. Speaker 5 00:23:18 And it's just, it shouldn't be this way and I don't see it getting any better unless something's done. So I know that's kinda the rapid fire machine got answer. I dunno if that answers your question, but when you asked that, that was some of the things that came to my mind. Speaker 4 00:23:36 I think you nailed it, Mike. I appreciate that perspective. Um, going back to a little bit, um, to the first question, um, I think you talked a little bit about, you know, having the extra money allowed you to eat better and, and buy healthier. When, when, when the things were in stock due to, you know, supply chain shortages prior to the extra SNAP benefits or the, or the, you know, the, the temporary, uh, snap emergency allotments. Um, did you, were you receiving enough in your SNAP benefit to cover the entire month or were you usually paying some of your cash in addition to the, the e bt benefit? Speaker 5 00:24:09 So I had a feeling that, so I thought about this question in advance, I'm gonna answer it like this. I was paying a little bit of my own cash because I did not get much way oft think. I think I got like $31, just what I'm back to now, the difference between this and three years ago, and I wanna make this very clear, the difference here is three years ago I could afford to buy groceries. I could afford to buy anything else. I could, I could afford to go out once in a while. I could afford to buy books and things for my hobbies and whatnot. And I would still have money leftover. Well now here it is April of 2023, the costs of everything in a three year period have gone up ridiculously to the point that with these benefits being cut down, I honestly will sit and think and stress over what am I gonna be able to afford here in a couple weeks or in a couple months. Speaker 5 00:25:21 I'm doing fine for right now because I was able to stockpile stuff. But what am I gonna do when that stockpile runs out? I, I have to choose, do I buy clothes or do I buy bread? Do I pay for my medications, which has also gone up thanks to the pandemic? Or do I buy bananas? Do I spend whatever little amount I may have left on junk? Or do I try to find a way to eat healthy even though the price of healthy food is way higher than junk? These are some of the very uncomfortable decisions that I may be facing. And I'll be honest, I don't like to think about it just makes me very anxious. Speaker 4 00:26:09 That's far too many people's stories. Um, and it's, it's really unfortunate. Oh, I, I've been saying to, to some of the other folks we've been talking to, um, you know, just because the government said the pandemic is over doesn't mean that the need doesn't persist. And in fact, many, many people are in far worse shape today than they were in the peak of the pandemic. Um, because all these, all the extra, um, pandemic programming is, is ending, but need is way. It's not even the same. It's way worse. It's way higher. So Mike, you talked a little bit about this and actually on the form that you filled out, and I know that the Snap emergency allotment sort of just ended. So like you said, you know, you're still kind of living on the, the stockpile and the things that you were able to save, the benefits you were able to save up. But how do you think, um, your eating or spending habits will change? Jen? How might that affect, um, you know, your health going forward? Speaker 5 00:27:01 That's a good question. I decided a week ago, I need to get down to my pre pandemic weight. Like I'm, I'm tired of being with I am, I need to cut it down a lot. So that's gonna be really hard when I can't buy things like bottled water, healthy fruits, lean meats, uh, holy wheat bread, things like that. What am I gonna do? I have no idea. That's a question. Like I mentioned, that's one of those things where it honestly makes me uncomfortable to think about simply because there are no easy answers and it's, it's gonna kick coming down and making choices that I'm a little angry about because frankly, I live supposedly, oh, I'm gonna get off on my high horse here. I live as supposedly the greatest country in the world and yet me and others are stressing out over what do we buy and how do we make it last. That should not be happening and it isn't happening in other parts of the world if people don't believe me. Do your research. Speaker 4 00:28:05 I, I couldn't agree more. I have nothing else to add because I totally agree. So I'm wondering, Mike, is there anything, any food that you purchased regularly during, when you had the Snap emergency allotment? So an example could be like coffee or, I dunno. So is there something like that that, you know, you kind of quote unquote treated yourself to, even though most people I think could all agree that we all deserve a cup of coffee in the morning if we, if that's what we want. Um, but is there anything like that, that you were previously buying for the past three years that you're gonna have to give up, you think because your benefit went back down to 30 something dollars? Speaker 5 00:28:38 Probably things like buying cheaper varieties of bread that just fall apart when you hold them in your hand. Yeah. Buying cheaper varieties of soup that are basically glorified boiled water, but some coloring, you know, uh, buying vegetables that are fresh versus buying vegetables that are, you know, starting to go bad that are on sale. Um, but as far as a treat goes, like I would go for walks during summer. I remember during the pandemic to get stuff and I would always reward myself with like a little candy bar. And it was, it was a small thing, not a big deal, but it was like a way to be like, Hey look, I went out, reached out with my mask on, I got this coming back with myself and look, I got a candy way home. Yay. My day is complete. It's a small thing, but when you take the small things away, the bigger things become bigger and the problems feel like problems are not just like, things can be overcame. If that makes sense. Speaker 4 00:29:41 Absolutely. Thank you for that. Speaker 2 00:29:44 I was just wondering, Mike, I know that we found this to be true during the pandemic that, um, social isolation is real and that, um, people need to be among other people and to be able to thrive. And you had said that your, you hang out with friends regularly, you have a strong social life. I was wondering if having less money on your snap card, um, what that may mean for your social life, being able to be around your friends? Speaker 5 00:30:16 A lot of that would be cut down because I'd be paying higher prices for food. Mm-hmm. Speaker 2 00:30:20 <affirmative> Speaker 5 00:30:22 Probably almost to a non-existent level. I can speak, I'll, I'll share this with your listeners. I don't mind. I struggle with, uh, depression and anxiety. It's one of the challenges I have. And I am honestly worried that if I get to the point to where I am happy to pick and choose what I do and that I can't do anything, but, you know, live in my apartment, eat whatever I can afford, that my mental state is my depression are going to plummet. Which is sad because I recently got to a really good point and now it's being threatened by forces outside of my own patrol and it's just maddening to think about. Very frustrating. Speaker 4 00:31:08 Thanks for that, Mike. Um, Mike, do you have any experience at all with, uh, food pantries or food banks? Do you ever find yourself visiting those or do you think that that might be in your future? Speaker 5 00:31:19 I did a little bit of it before the pandemic, not much. Uh, mostly with friends of mine, they would go for the family. Like I never really needed it for myself because I could make it work. So I would feel kind of bad taking products away from people that needed it. But I can say that the food banks have definitely been a godsend for a lot of people here. Um, but at the same point in time I keep hearing they're having to make some really painful, uh, choices there. A lot of people I have seen kind of pool their resources for community dinners and whatnot, which is a good way of giving people hope. If there can be anything said for what we're facing right now, it's that I have seen instances of people coming together and helping each other out in my building. There's a table where people will leave food that they're not gonna use and anybody that needs it can go in and grab what they want. And there is no judgment. And also libraries are a surprisingly good place for resources for food and meals that are available. They're a god. Speaker 4 00:32:43 What would you say, Mike, to folks who may not understand what it means to receive snap benefits? Speaker 5 00:32:50 Well, every human likes to have a good meal for dinner. That is a right that I, and I used that word I meant to. That is a right that everybody should have. I don't understand how it is okay for people to have to choose whether they can eat for the day or not. Not having to get a handout or ask other people for money or for resources for food is a big thing. And that takes a real toll on your psyche. That takes a real toll on how you feel about yourself. I think another thing with this, and it's it's connected to the food and self-esteem issue, is that a lot of people lost a lot when the pandemic hit, you know, people's human connections. Some of their connections were afraid and gone. Okay. I know people that just disconnected from others because the pandemic hit, they couldn't go anywhere. Speaker 5 00:34:04 And so they would kind of try to make up for it by buying food to make themselves feel better, whether it was going out to eat or whether it was, you know, it, it's something to make themselves feel alive and feel human. And I know people might hear this and say, oh well the pandemic is going away, so that's not gonna be a problem. Right. Well if everything's still at such a high cost, yes, it's, you know, people have a human right to live and be happy, make up for some of the things that they've lost during the pandemic. And people may hear this and say, but what does this have to do with food? What does this have to do with what we're talking about? And what I would say to you guys that thinking that is, it's all interconnected food, self-esteem, what we do, how we live every day. It's all interconnected. So have a little for that is what I would say. Speaker 4 00:35:00 So, so what solutions, um, in addition to obviously making SNAP benefits adequate, which is our goal as well, do you think help you and your neighbors, um, Speaker 5 00:35:12 Bring the numbers back to what we had during the pandemic? At least until prices of food go down, which for everything I've read in research is not happening anytime soon now I, I understand delivery fee, I don't mind, but $20 for groceries is ridiculous. That needs to be cut down. I think people need to have a bit more care and empathy and not be so sheltered by what people that are struggling are going through. We have a lot of that in Ohio and in this country entirely. And I think that's disgusting. I think this is an issue that y'all kind need to come together for. It's my hope that interviews like these are make people by coming together as is. Speaker 6 00:36:19 Hi Audrey. I think we should start with some introductions. Um, could you, uh, say your name, age, and where in Ohio you are from? Speaker 7 00:36:30 Uh, my name's Audrey. I'm 64 years old and I live in Cleveland. Speaker 6 00:36:34 Wonderful. And um, what are your interests? What do you care most about? Speaker 7 00:36:41 I think the things I care, there are two things I really care about. I really care about children, you know, doing whatever it takes to help them to grow socially responsible, educated, caring adults. I've spent my entire life trying to do that in my family, in my job, in my careers, in my volunteer work, whatever. I'll, every time no adults come to me with issues. I always ask them, what's the message to the child? What are you teaching your, you're teaching your kids something, whether you know it or not. So what is the message to the child? Um, the other thing I care a lot about is service. As long as I can remember, I've done volunteer work, whether it's going with my mom for the church, making sandwiches for the little afternoon program, red Cross, whatever. I've always done some kind of volunteer work, some kind of service. And I chose a career in nonprofit, which essentially is volunteer work. So <laugh> it all kinda wraps around to the same concept. So I'm really about service and I'm really about figuring out how to help kids be better people. Speaker 6 00:37:52 How long have you been receiving SNAP benefits? Speaker 7 00:37:57 Um, I have been receiving them for about eight years, since 20 15, 20 16 or so. Speaker 4 00:38:06 Audrey, let me ask you this. As a health educator, what do you know in, in your work, in your career, what is the importance of food and food access? Speaker 7 00:38:15 It's not important at all. No, <laugh> one, one of the things that, that most people were not aware of until probably the last 10, 15 years is the impact of food on children in school. Know if a child comes to school hungry, there's no way they can focus on learning. There's just no way. You know, the same thing applies to adults. If I'm hungry, I can't focus on daily maintenance and survival tasks cause I'm hungry. I can't focus on, oh, I'm gonna go out and do a blah, blah, blah, blah. Because my mind is saying, your body is starving, you need to eat. So the focus of being able to get through life tasks, whether you're an adult or a child, is hampered if you're hungry. I mean, most people don't realize that. They go, oh, I'm hungry. And they go get food. Well, if you're hungry and you can't go get food, that's a whole different situation. It, it impairs everything. You can't do maintenance and you can barely focus on anything besides survival because your body's starving. I mean, you're not like, you may not be lying on the ground starving, but your body is lacking what it needs to function well and accurately. Food is more important than people who have it realize, realized. Speaker 6 00:39:32 And during the pandemic, um, and you receiving those extra snap benefits, um, how had that additional money impacted you, your life and your family? Speaker 7 00:39:47 Well, the obvious answers that I could buy more food mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, the not so obvious answer is that it reduced my stress anxiety levels. And that doesn't seem like a big deal, you know, but stress can like, take you out of the game. You know, I remember a couple years ago, it was like 10 or 10 or so days before my, um, benefits loaded on my E B T card. I had $3 on it, you know, and it was not like it was $3 at the beginning of the month. You know, it was $3 at the end of the month and, you know, there's not a whole lot you could do at $3. Um, the, the an, the anxiety, the stress, those things lead to like, you know, obviously depression, which is another game changer. You know, so those were not things that I was used to dealing with those emotions and men mental gymnastics. So it's not just that you can buy more food, it's the effect of being able to have food on your life, I guess. Speaker 4 00:40:53 Yeah, absolutely. Audrey. And can I ask, um, pre pandemic and I guess now, um, what are some coping mechanisms? Do you do 150 or hundred $80 that you got, um, before the pandemic and then now that now you're kinda back to that number? Speaker 7 00:41:11 Do lots of things. Um, we use coupons. I knew use, um, rewards points at different stores. Um, what do they call? Oh yeah, loyalty programs, obviously sales, but I buy stuff and like put it away like in the freezer or in the pantry so that I have it for later. Like a friend of mine and my sister and I have sort of developed a little network, a little food sharing network. So like I'll go to like, maybe like the muni lot distribution. My friend will go there. Um, he also goes to one by his church, my sister who's also in another county on snap. Actually all three of us are on snap. So we, we share our resources. Like if I go to the moon light and get food, I don't like brussel sprouts, but my sister loves them. So we trade off on the foods that are either, um, health related or food preferences or dietetic necessities for the three of us. Speaker 7 00:42:12 And we managed, you know, to make that work. Also, my sister, um, she likes to cook and I do not. So a lot of times when she'll cook a, a meal for her family, a big meal, she'll put some away in the freezer for me. So when I see her then, you know, I have what we call freezer food. So you know, we're, we're sharing our, we're sharing our resources with each other. So, um, that helps a lot. That helps a whole lot. Food really has become one of my, um, love languages. So <laugh> like for example, she brought some money from Mego. Mm. And so she was paying me back and I was like, oh no, don't pay me back, make a big old pan that mac and cheese that'll pay. She like, no, but I owe you. Like no you, I said everybody the same currency. Speaker 7 00:43:07 Food is my new love language. Food is my currency cause it's important to me and it's sometimes difficult for me to get it. Um, so yeah, we sort of developed a little network. It's kinda, we didn't do it intentionally just sort of happen, you know, the whole necessities and mother invention thing. You know, things like, um, like my neighbor or like on sometimes if I don't go to my family on a holiday, she'll bring me like a plate of food. That's awesome. You know, I mean people underestimate simple things like that. You know, being able to pull it out and go like, oh wow, I got like real food. And a lot of times I won't tell people that I'm hungry, you know, I'm not gonna tell my sister, oh I'm really hungry, can you bring me? No, I'm not gonna do that. I'm just gonna suck it up and try to figure it out, you know, and make whatever I have last as long as it has to. Speaker 4 00:43:59 So you talked a lot about like diet and related to health honestly, and we talked a lot about that today. Um, and, and certain foods that you can and can't eat based off of health problems, disability. Um, would it be difficult to manage for you and and your, your group to manage your, your disabilities and your health related issues if you didn't have each other? Like if, if if you guys didn't make this this little Speaker 7 00:44:24 Hurt, yes it would be very difficult. Ok. Um, and part of the problem is not just, you know, the actual acquiring the food, it's, you know, something simple like because of the, and it's not related to the snap benefit necessarily, but something like the transportation, you know, it is not easy for me particularly. And before I used to go to the store two or three times a week because I don't cook generally. I hate cooking, I don't like it. So I tend to eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, things like that. Things would have to be cooked. Um, like my friend goes to one of the church she goes to to get it, that particular spot gives you a whole lot more fresh fruits and vegetables. I love that. You know, I love that the muni light is giving you stuff to survive on, which is great cause you need that stuff as well, you know. Speaker 7 00:45:20 But I am much more likely to, to use fresh fruits and veggies than I am to use like chicken legs. Cause I'm not, I, I'm not a fan of meat and I'm not really a fan of cooking. So if I had choice between the different places we go, we managed to get a fair amount of choice. There's some things that we don't get that I would love to have, like for example. And I understand exactly why they don't provide it, you know, because it's not like a a a lifesaving thing. But like for example, nuts. Those are really critical for me in terms of my dietary issues. And because I don't eat a lot of meat, they have a lot of protein. So, you know, things like that would be like, if I had choice I would buy. The big ticket items that I usually buy at the grocery store are, um, coffee, guilty pleasure net products, guilty pleasure and some diet technique, you know? And then a lot of fruits. Cause fruits and vegetables are really expensive. I mean the cost of like, you know, uh, salary for example is outrageous, you know? So, um, yeah, I mean I, I'm not gonna complain about getting it because there's things in there I definitely could use and lot of times there things that I wouldn't think of trying that are really I find out that are really good. Speaker 6 00:46:41 I wanted to ask you kind of going off your comment about how you don't like to cook. Um, you aren't a fan of cooking. I was wondering like are there things if you could afford them at the grocery store that you, um, that you would love but you aren't able to get because they're prepared foods and they aren't covered by snap? Speaker 7 00:47:09 Yes. I don't usually buy meat cause A is expensive and b, you have to cook it. Um, but there are times where I can, I can tell that I need protein in my diet more than I'm getting from like, you know, say beans or, or nuts or something like that. And, and not the deli prepared meat, not that processed meat, just real meat, you know. Um, and a lot of that comes in the um, like you said, the prepared foods. You know, like you go to like the, the rotisserie chicken or the whatever, the little dinners they have, but you can't get those. You can't get 'em if they're cold, but you can't get 'em if they're hot. You know, you can't get, if the rotisserie chicken's been there like a day, you can't get it. But it's not necessarily fresh. You can't go to the, um, the kitchen party and get like a, a warm entree of some sort. Speaker 7 00:48:02 You can't do that. So that's what I would, that's the one thing that I would like is to be able to buy some of those prepared foods. And now I go to the store like maybe twice a month because I have to manage that money. You know, one of the things I used to when I, before I started getting snap benefits, one of the things I've always said is that people who are on fixed incomes are the best money managers in the world. I was a whole lot more frivolous with food than I am now. Now when I buy food, I buy it in bulk if possible with the ideas. I'm going to save it somehow and preserve it so that it lasts a longer time and buying foods that last longer. I can't buy like, oh I don't like that banana. It has a spot on it and throw it away. Speaker 7 00:48:51 I can't do that. I have to be like, okay, well suck it up, cut it off and keep going. You know, because I can't, I can't be as lackadaisical as I was before with food. This is gonna sound really weird. I have to respect food more than I used to. Now if I get, I'm like, I don't like it but I'm gonna suck it up cause I need to eat something. I have a new relationship with food, I respect food and I respect the process and ability to get food and a lot of people can't get food. And I understand what that feels like. That's not something I really understood before. And I understand what it feels like to have to ask people. That was very difficult for me because of how I've lived my life. I understand that people help. I used to be the helper all the time. Speaker 7 00:49:43 Now I'm not as much the helper and that's really hard for me to ask people for help. You know, something so ba I feel like I should be able to get food. I mean it's not like I'm trying to buy a Porsche <laugh>. I'm just like, I should be able to get food. I mean really. So that's, that's a hard ask and that's a hard situation. One of the things that psychologically that happened is that I would like hoard food. You know, it's like my mind is saying, you don't know they could cut you off. You might not have anything. You better buy this and hold onto it. You better save this for later. You better make sure you know, you have milk or make sure you have bread or make sure you have, you know, apples or whatever, you know, because you might not, this could be the end, you know, you get that letter that says, you know, your benefits end like in 10 days then what? You know. So it's made me almost become a food hoarder, if that makes any sense. I'm preparing for the possibility that I might not be able to get food, you know, and then what? Speaker 4 00:50:51 Yeah, thanks for that Audrey. I think that makes a lot of sense. Um, you talked about getting the letters from OD jfs and so I, I wanna dig into that a little bit if you don't mind. What has your experience been like just getting on and staying on the SNAP program? Speaker 7 00:51:07 Well, the pandemic has actually made it easier because they don't have the workers, they don't have the time and they have way more people in their caseloads. So they have eliminated a lot of the, the red tape before the pandemic. You know, I, I've, I've been on the phone like an hour, you know, just waiting on hold to try to get an answer for a simple question. Cause part of the problem is that people assume because of my age, gender, and race, that I'm, I'm knowledgeable of all these systems and how they work. And I'm not, because this is all new to me. So I've been on the phone for like over an hour waiting for an answer. I haven't been able to get through a lot of times. Or they'll send me a letter saying you missed your appointment. I'm like, what appointment? I didn't get a letter saying I had an appointment. Speaker 7 00:51:57 You know, so it was, it is difficult to manage the process, but actually staying on the program is fairly easy. I mean all, all things considered, um, and especially since the pandemic, cause they just said, okay, you're on it, you're in it. Good. We, we can't be, you know, we can't call people every six months like we used to do or whatever, you know. So that has been easier. There's still, if you wanna actually talk to someone to have a question answer, that's still difficult. You know, you get a, I get a lot of written correspondence saying this is what's happened, this is the deal and there's not a whole lot I can do about it. I can't say I'm sorry that my, um, disability went up $2 and now my food stamps are going down five. I can't fight that. What can I say? Speaker 7 00:52:48 You know? So Technic has been easier to stay in the system just because they don't have time to manage it or personnel to manage it. For me, it wasn't that difficult to get on the program. I mean there's a lot of minutia, but I'm used to paperwork so it didn't phase me. I can see where someone who was not used to paperwork would have a problem and was not used to answering those types of questions and filling out forms and making sure everything was exactly the way it's supposed to be. I could see where that would be challenging. I see. That would be difficult and a lot of people need help with that, especially if you're older or actually if you're younger. I've gone to, um, the OD GFS office and sat in the waiting room with people who, and listening to their conversations and I knew that they were having problems cause they couldn't figure it out. Speaker 7 00:53:38 You know, it's not easy to figure out if you're not used to doing that type of thing. Um, so it was relatively easy to get on the program. And one of the benefits I will have to admit to is that if you apply for the program and you, while you're waiting, they will give you an emergency allotment on a, on a SNAP benefit. That is a good thing because you at that moment, you're like, I need food and I don't have it and this hasn't gone through yet, what do I do? So they will give you an emergency allotment. That's a good thing. Um, so I didn't think it was that difficult to get on. I did have a couple of SNAP foods where they took me off the program because they didn't have my paperwork and I, I go through a thing of calling them and saying, I turned this in, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Speaker 7 00:54:26 And they finally got it together. You know, I I, I really, and here's the thing, I do not, will not, and cannot blame the workers. They are overloaded. Their caseloads are huge. They, they're trying to manipulate multiple programs, multiple people, multiple languages, multiple cultures and multiple levels of where you are in the system. Their work is difficult. You know, some of 'em have attitudes, but their work is hard, you know, and I will not, you know, blame any of this on them. Cause it's not their fault. They're trying to do what everyone else is doing. You know, they're trying to survive, they're trying to do their job and it's difficult. Speaker 4 00:55:09 Yeah, absolutely. Um, when you talked about the OD JFS letters that they said, do you find that it is in plain language enough for you to understand what they're saying? Speaker 7 00:55:18 When I first started getting 'em, I freaked out. I would read every single letter, every single word. And like, okay, okay, okay, what do I do now? Cause I was terrified that I was gonna lose my benefits now just because of my background and stuff, I, I like skipped to the important part. I skipped to the, I get like a five page letter. I skip to the two lines and say your benefit has changed in this way. And that's all that really is important. It's either going up, going down, either I have it or I don't. Or it's going up or it's going down. The rest of the letter is at a form letter obviously. And the rest of the letter is not really important to me. What matters is, am I gonna get food? You know, and if I'm not gonna get food, what am I gonna do? Speaker 7 00:56:04 So, um, on paper they have lots of ways to help you, but it really comes down to that specific worker who answers that phone if they're going to help you or not. And I understand they're trying to make it work. Cause there are a lot of people who do lie, but the people who are not doing it are the ones that suffer. The people who are really trying to survive. The people who are trying to feed six kids, like my niece, you know, the pe she's not on food stamps because of her pride. But anyway, people who are trying to feed whole families and trying to eat nutritious, it's difficult. I mean, it just really is hard. You know, there are resources out there, but you gotta, you gotta beat the bushes to find them and you gotta be diligent and you gotta, you know, for example, you have to have a way to get to 'em. Speaker 7 00:56:51 Some days my disability doesn't allow me, it makes it really difficult for me to drive a car. So if I don't have someone to take me to it, I don't care how much food they're giving away, I can't get it. And the other thing that adds to that it is not SNAP related, is that I can only shop at stores that have those, um, electric carts with my disability thing. So that limits where I can shop. And generally the stores that have those have higher food prices. You know, all these in Save-a-lot don't have those electric carts. You have to go to Hynes or Giant Eagle or Walmart or somewhere to do that. And the places that can afford to have the cart to maintain the carts, the food costs more. But that's one of the things that people don't think about. It's like, I have to go, you know, where I can have access and accommodation and that costs money as well. Speaker 7 00:57:44 And so the products are gonna be more costly. I mean, it's just like with the food thing, the things I think about now in respect to food are so different from the things I thought about 10 years ago in respect to food. I mean the, the importance of it in my life is different. It's very different, you know, and the types of food I'm willing to spend money on are very different than they used to be. And that, that's a, that's just a, a function in the product of where I am in my life. Most people I know don't wanna be on Snap. It's not like, you know, I'm lazy. I didn't work. I've been on Snap my whole life sucking up. No, number one, as my sister keeps reminding me when I get in a funk and when I get down about this, she reminds me that I paid, I worked, I paid into this. Speaker 7 00:58:37 I, I paid to get these benefits for a long time I paid into this. But I don't think most people wanna be in the position they have to use Snap. I don't want to, I mean, I've had friends who've been there laid off from the job and they got Snap and then they got know they got another job and they were like, awesome. You know, it's really, it's really hard to have to be on Snap. I mean, I don't want to be on Snap. I would much prefer not to be on Snap. It's not like, you know, I'm committing fraud or I'm lazy, or I don't wanna work or I've just, you know, relied on this the whole time. That's not the case at all. You know, and that's not the case for a lot of people. And that's not the case, especially for a lot of older people or a lot of very young people trying to survive and, and get their families through, you know, life. Sure there are people that lie and, and commit fraud, but I don't really think that's the majority. And so that's a difficult place to be emotionally and mentally. And when I first got Snap, I was really embarrassed. I was really embarrassed to, to like have to have it and I was really embarrassed to have to use it. And I didn't like to let people to see me in the store using the SNAP card, the e b T card. I just felt embarrassed cause I felt like it was a hard jump to make. Speaker 8 01:00:09 Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Speaker 9 01:00:13 Hi, I'm glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me. Of Speaker 8 01:00:16 Course. Why don't we begin by you telling the listeners your name, age, and where in Ohio you are from. Speaker 9 01:00:26 I'm gonna use my nickname. I'm gonna say vj. I'm comfortable with that. I'm from Cleveland, Ohio and I am in the 60 plus group. Speaker 8 01:00:36 Perfect. And what are your interests? What do you care most about? Speaker 9 01:00:41 Family time and good health? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, proper eating, uh, travel. My biggest thing now is um, financing my household expenses and keeping my health at bay and keeping everything budgeted. <laugh> as a senior. So that's kind of like my concerns and, uh, typical senior socialization, um, healthcare, family time, uh, spiritual spirituality, especially in these trying times. So those are like my big concerns right now. Speaker 8 01:01:16 Yeah, absolutely. And how long have you been receiving SNAP benefits? Speaker 9 01:01:23 I believe it started January, 2019. Speaker 8 01:01:26 Okay. So I wanted to focus our conversation on the impact of the extra covid SNAP benefits that you were receiving. Um, how did that additional money impact you, your life and your family? Speaker 9 01:01:47 It greatly enhanced my, uh, health even. I just went to the, uh, two of my, uh, clinicians practitioner doctors and I'm on a special pain management diet along with my PCPs, uh, lifestyle eating changes. And they, I lost weight in a good way, 20 pounds in a year. So that was in the covid slash a little bit before. That's so great. I'm sorry to interrupt. Oh no, that's good. <laugh>. I was so happy. What she told me the other day, I said, how much did you say? She said, oh, wait a minute, let's look back. She did a calculation, she said, over 20, but she balances out the 20. I sat there and I was like, huh. And she said, whatever you were doing with what we told you. And I told her how the Covid stamp, I told her too, the Covid stamps helped me to get Healthy Choice Foods for us, like a Mediterranean, all these new names, flexitarian Vegetarian kind of eating, but it's like, uh, very low sugar, very low sodium, lots of water, all plant-based just about food, you know. Speaker 9 01:02:54 But the, um, decrease in the sodium foods, like canned foods, fast food, uh, trying to eliminate that. And so the money helped me get better Food, I mean, really helped quite a bit and I was used to getting that and I'm thinking, okay, I can live, sit as an older person if I could have that amount of, um, snap to have what I need to eat properly. Plenty of fresh food, less, well, hardly any red meat. I don't really eat red meat. So you know, your white meats as they call 'em, you know, your seafood and uh, proteins and all of that natural protein. And so I felt real, I felt better too just starting, you know, and continuing this path to good health. So that is my, I mean that's my testimony as they say in the worship center when you, you know, at a doctor's office of, um, healthy eating. Speaker 9 01:03:45 So it was a bene big benefit to me for my, um, you know, I kept worrying about am I gonna go into malnutrition well before the, uh, covid because I wasn't eating right or I wasn't eating the right foods. And then all of these changes now kind of scary to get cut. So I'm a little nervous now, but that was, you know, the benefit that I felt. It was really good that, Hey Vanessa, can I ask you, you said you were a little bit, uh, worried about malnutrition. Were, do you feel like you weren't eating enough or was you were eating enough but just not the right stuff? Or was it just kind of a combination of, of those things? Well, because like right now just, you know, it's been, um, a couple months I guess into this new thing and he was trying to hold onto the healthier foods that I could that wasn't fresh. Speaker 9 01:04:36 So I know I could have something later for like this month to go through this first 30 days shock period of no extra stance. Actually two months now I'm thinking back. So, and I'm thinking, okay, you cannot hold fresh food, but so long it'll get spoiled to throw it away. So, and I'm really, really trying hard to stay on this, um, healthy eating journey. I don't wanna fall into cracks, you know, of people that's not getting, um, the right food. So I'm kind of like in a little weird space right now with that, trying to make adjustments. Yeah, that makes, that makes sense. Can I ask you, Vanessa, if, um, did the getting the extra benefits, um, like impact your ability to purchase like other things outside of food, whether that be like just paying other bills or getting clean clothes or new shoes or anything like that, utilities, or help you keep up with anything else that, that did? Speaker 9 01:05:28 Because on this diet and lifestyle, my body chemistry, you know, all of the things that go with your health, um, some of my O T C or meds is not covered under my insurances unfortunately. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So there's a choice then that I now have to make of okay, what do we do now? I've been talking down some my concerns with my physicians too, you know, um, we were having this conversation so they was hoping that I kind of configure something out and they really couldn't tell me nothing more than what everybody said about go to the pantry and, um, wherever I can get free food from with churches or whatever. But they know that wasn't really the best answer. So it will impact me. Yes. Yeah. I, I'm already making decisions and I've not in a good place with that in my mind, you know, and I'm think all of the seniors at my senior center, this is all we discuss is we're afraid of people falling through the cracks. Speaker 9 01:06:23 And we're telling people about, do you know about Meals on Wheels? But then that's not enough food if you, you know, and so it's, it's really a scary place cuz a lot of seniors, I go to three senior centers and that's all we're talking about. It's kind of sad to even have to, you know, come to this in this rich country. Yeah. Yeah. You're so right. I mean, like you're in your golden years literally and it's like, yes, you guys are out here just spending your free time talking about how you're gonna eat. I mean that's just, that's that breaks my heart truly. Um, uh, well you said Vanessa, you know, there's all these free food and pantries and giveaways and, and that's great, but you're, but you're kind of saying that, um, people with health problems or specific diets, you're not getting what you need. Speaker 9 01:07:07 Is that, is that fair to say that Vanessa said, and you might have a transportation problem getting to mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, places given out where you can walk through and pick what you want. But most of the seniors I'm around, um, other than getting transported to the senior center through a contract with our city, they can't get to a pantry. You know, a lot of 'em don't drive anymore. They have vision problems or hearing or they're in wheelchairs. So if their snack was to come and they could go with their aid or a family member to the grocery of their choice, they, you know what I'm saying? It was, it would be convenient and then they could make a healthy choice. They have help cause they have aide or a family member with them. And, um, I, that was our part of our discussion too. Speaker 9 01:07:48 We are all trying to manage that. Like what do we do that don't have transportation? So that's a problem, uh, to get to a pantry versus getting to a store or a little market. Like in your area, how often, and I know things have just changed in the last two months since you stopped receiving, um, since you stopped receiving the, the additional snap, but roughly how often would you say you're kind of going to the, the pantry or the food giveaway if you, if you had to, to just guess At least every week to every other week. Okay. I gotcha. And would you say that's pretty consistent with, with your neighbors and your and your friends at the senior center? Oh, my seniors, yes. There was the ones that can get there, you know. And can I ask, going back to the SNAP program and your experience with that, um, how has your experience been on the program? Speaker 9 01:08:40 I mean, to me, they usually have your information from your social security or medical, whatever, you know, sources. They say to all these committers, do all these, uh, government entities connect. Okay. So sometimes, you know, we, we might forget, okay, we gotta go and apply for this. But then they ask you for all of this information. And then sometimes turnaround only give you 20 to 50, do $50 additional, which can't really buy much of anything when you go into the store. And eggs are $5 and they went down a little bit. But I'm just saying when they were $5 a dozen and this, you know, these prices, you might only be able to get three or four things and that's not gonna last you a whole month. The, the system of how they have is set up. It's not easy to follow through. You do always usually need some help. Speaker 9 01:09:30 A lot of the seniors, they have to have help. You know, a lot of 'em, this was the frustration, they don't even wanna apply. There's two people in my center and uh, they had a lady came from Snap to talk. Oh, this gentleman, he kept thinking he couldn't get it. He kept thinking it and his girlfriend, he still had a little difficulty, but if that, I guess I think she was a social worker and his girlfriend was sitting there, didn't help him walk through it. I, I know he wouldn't have, I know he wouldn't have done it. And his girlfriend, she had a language barrier, so it was a little hard for her. You know, we had to try to help her, um, figure some stuff out. So another person walked over and kind of help. So with like four people helping these two people all together, all of us. Speaker 9 01:10:08 Cause we was determined, we love them, they're our extended family in senior circle and we helped them, but does, it's not easy. I watch what he went through as this older person, but I'm saying these are the things that seniors face, you know, we have, um, vision problems, hearing problems, dementia sometime emotional because of the things that's around, or uh, body chemistry. So we have a lot of stuff to deal with. And so there's barriers. There's barriers. And then if you don't have a patient social worker sitting in, that's few and far in between. And then there's cuts in social workers too. So they don't come a lot like they were in the pandemic. So we got a lot of barriers. And the application process is, is uh, tricky. You gotta make sure you put everything right, you know, and then you go through all of these, fill out all those papers and all those questions and all those barriers and then still might either not get accepted or don't get enough to survive off of 'em. Speaker 9 01:11:01 Now I'm gonna use that word not loosely, I'm saying survive. Cause that is, um, what's happening now. So it's, it's difficult. It could be difficult. It should be, it should be simple. It's your income, you know, just a basic, like the food bank, sometimes the application for that, uh, programs that they have for this box, senior box are only 60 plus can get a certain one. Yeah. But it's real simple. How come it can't be simple like that, you know? Yeah. And, and, and they know if you 60 most of the time you're gonna have, uh, social security or retirement, I mean Right. So they need to simplify for people, uh, that have, um, barriers. Yeah, you're right. I cannot believe the story about four people needing to help two people apply for this one program. And you're right to maybe get $50, maybe get $25. I mean, what they ask from you all and just, it's, it's a paperwork tax almost. It's like hoping that you can't get past the paperwork some days. Um, yes, yes. Yeah. It's really, it's heartbreaking. You're, you're so right and it's, it's not, it's not fair <laugh>. Speaker 8 01:12:04 Yeah. Thanks for that. Kind of building off of that, I also wanted to ask like, have you or any of your other friends, um, have they interacted at all with o d jfs? Have they like tried to get in contact at all with either the hotline or the county jfs? Um, and what has their experience, experiences been there in your experiences as well? Speaker 9 01:12:34 Among <laugh>, among all Americans, we had got that 8.7% increase. I had to call five different <laugh> call five different numbers. Um, and then finally I got to a social worker and he told me to update, you know, your income and rent increase or whatever, you know, utilities. And there finally got to him and the only reason why I knew that I had to, um, do this is that they kept sending out letters. But a couple of 'em didn't make sense. First it said we won't contact you until 2025. Okay. Then another letter said, um, is this your income? We have you listed for this and it was approved. Then I said, well wait a minute. That was an income last year. Are they counting this year? Then another one came and says, please, a phone call came, says please contact Ohio J um, family services for an update. Speaker 9 01:13:27 So that's when I had got in touch with this number, that number, this number to finally get to a social worker. And I said, I wanna make sure there's no problem with me receiving food stamps. I said, my Medicaid, I believe got cleared. I said, I saw a letter. I said, no, a lot of people have to contact you for that. My Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare, Ohio. I said, I'm pretty sure that's clear. He said, okay, that looks good. He said, but there, uh, your other stuff he said, we never got. I said, what? He said, no, he said, so send us, so they didn't even get other informa. He said, send us or resend us your, um, change of income increase. He said, we know everybody got it. He says, but still send it. I'm sitting there like, okay, you know, you got it, but okay, we send it <laugh> then send your, uh, utility rent and anything else that increased, you know, that's in your household. Speaker 9 01:14:13 The count is your budget. So I, I reach right over and uh, to Staples and um, took everything and faxed it over. I did not play. I waited cuz I know it's gonna be a time thing and there's tons of applications ahead of me and I don't want anything to go wrong in the system, you know, since they did send me the fall call and all these letters and each one was saying something different. So just my experience, that's confusing too. And I'm like, what's going on? Everybody passing the buck and telling me to call this number, call that number, call this number, call that number. So that can be frustrating for a senior citizen too, or a disabled person. I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about, um, and this is your ex your own experience and anybody else's, um, any of your other neighbors that you would like to share, but, um, do you have, um, what are some coping mechanisms outside of pantries that you use and, and I'm asking things like, is there savvy shopping techniques that you use, like couponing or shopping at multiple stores or, um, do you do anything like that? Speaker 9 01:15:09 I am so proud to say everyone laughs at me. I'm like, extreme coupon, you know, and I said, that doesn't mean I'm a uh, chief. I said, I'm a pity pitcher. And I said, I've, I've grown up with learning, um, from my family. Important. My mom, she was a, a coupon and I was a little girl. I saw her do it and I didn't see her ancestor do it, but I saw my mom doing it and, you know, that made me focus on it's value in cutting coupons. And so now online they have, um, you know, uh, YouTube and whoever, Instagram, social media, they have extreme couponing people that come on. It's a young lady named Dawn's deals. She comes on and she does Walgreens and all these other stores. So I definitely use coupons when I can. Sometimes our newspaper don't really have a lot of 'em, so I try to go on my phone on each store's, um, website and, um, look for the coupons on there and I click them so that'll go to my account. So I definitely, extreme coupon are, I say I'm a Chevy shopper. I, I'm pretty good. I go to the thrift store and those kind of things. But as far as food, um, I try to find deals buying bulk when I can or certain things that, like I said, just more of a fresh food person, so I only can eat so much at a time. So, so I, I kind of do that thing. Speaker 8 01:16:29 What would you like to say to folks who may not understand what it means to receive snap benefits? Speaker 9 01:16:38 Well, I would just like to say my own personal story as a senior and as a disabled person and as a mother when I had children and I had to apply for, uh, snap during, uh, loss of a mate, uh, up and down, bad health, good health, bad health, you know, life happens, life changes. So it's just good to know the system is in place like the rest of the universe, global society we live in to take care of as the scripture say, whatever religion you believe in, widows and orphans. I have been not an orphan, but my children had lost their father. So I, I could speak as a mother, grandmother on that part too, of, um, thank goodness, I don't know seriously where I would've been if I didn't have a system in place to say, I know I'm, I'm a good working global citizen mother, but I'm having a hard time. Speaker 9 01:17:36 I wanna fall through the correction. I need to go through help from the system until I can do better, you know, until, um, showing my children that too, that this is in place and we live in a fabulous country where we can do this and we don't have to feel ashamed. So I'm glad to say that I could speak on this, that I've been through, um, the system up and down through life changes and want, you know, we pay taxes and I wanna be able to, if I need an emergency, a life change or now I'm in the golden years and I need more fresh food in my life, I'm entitled to it because I'm a senior. You know, it's important. It's, you know, things need to change and we need to have more funding for Snap for a mothers with children, disabled people and seniors, you know, and, and just in life, if you lose a job, you know, uh, people are paycheck to paycheck in the middle part of society and working class, working people to working poor, all of these people, you know, it's, the world's not gonna change. Speaker 9 01:18:37 You're gonna have different parts of society. So if a person needs it, it's there and you can fall back on it temporarily. And or if you, you know, your income only allowed to your dying day to have a certain amount of money that's there to help you and you feel you are doing the right thing, you feel like you're equal to everyone else. You know, just like, um, there was something about global, global healthcare. You know, everyone in the world should be able to go to a physician, whether they're the president or the garbage man or the homeless man and get good healthcare so you can be a productive human being and citizen in the world. That's how I look at it, you know, that's what I wanna say to people. You know, you don't know till you walk someone's shoes. So just consider what it would be like to be in where I've been through ups and downs in life, because life happens, you don't know what's gonna happen, but you have to have like a little, like an insurance, a little life insurance plan so to speak, that you can say, okay, I can fall back on this if I lose my job. Speaker 9 01:19:38 Or, um, my spouse dies and I'm in the system. I'm applying for this, I'm applying for, but I need something temporarily to fill in that gap so that we won't become homeless. So, you know, or malnutrition. So it's very important. It's very serious, very important. And I'm hoping that the government, um, consider that when they're making their choices to help, you know, with the SNAP program. Yeah, absolutely. I'm living, I'm living proof <laugh>. Yeah, that was a favorite. I'm a cancer survivor as well, so having healthier food was important. Yeah. And well, is brother is and was <laugh> a couple things. One, um, you, you told us about how you were a cancer survivor and also I, I believe you told us that your mother, um, who's also an older adult, she's 84, um, and has cancer also, and it was also on Snap, is that right? Speaker 9 01:20:28 Yes. And what would you, um, how does, as much or as little as you're comfortable sharing, but um, you know, what is her experience? I, I would imagine that she's a little bit more home bound than you are, um, oh yes. And how does your mother and others in her position kind of cobbled together enough food, enough healthy foods to, to stay afloat? That that's what she had a discussion with me about. <laugh> stage four, homebound, one lung functioning because of the cancer, um, have an extension of life and her physicians definitely told her, um, because she has a reduced stomach and colon on top of that. So she has to eat a certain healthy diet of um, okay, I'll put it like this. A lot of things they say she can have that's soft, um, creamy food and all that. She's, uh, she was, she's malnutrition slash coming back to her healthy weight from when she was hospitalized and, um, in the nursing home in rehab. Speaker 9 01:21:25 So she's coming back, but cutting down on her food money again, now there's gonna be a problem she doesn't drive. So she has that barrier for her as far as transportation. But if she could get to like the, all of us help her, we, we can, we'll make sure if she have the money, we'll make sure you know her snap card. She lets, um, two family members besides myself, we can go get her food right at a, uh, grocery store or at a block and a half around the corner from her apartment complex. So that's important, uh, for my mom, the healthy food that she can eat. She was so happy about the pandemic cuz she could buy other food that she enjoys. She doesn't have a lot of time left, so she wants me to eat what she likes. Yeah, it was like I said, what did you say mom? Speaker 9 01:22:11 She said not the pandemic, but the pandemic stamps and on the extra income she said, I said, mom, we should be living like this anyway. Doesn't make sense to now. Just like cold Turkey, the way they did it, it was cold Turkey. They kept a couple announcements here and there, but it was just like, you just cut it off and I was like, okay, how about weaning it down? Maybe half that amount, then another half that amount of debt is all, I totally agree it was not done right either. Yeah, I, I I couldn't agree more. You said something else, Vanessa, about some stigma or some shame around benefits earlier in our conversation. Um, can you talk a little bit more about people that may feel a little bit ashamed around benefits, especially? I think, uh, intimidating is another good word for seniors that say they had the great job as they say, and then they retired and then uhoh, they, you know, here come all the changes, they get adjusted already to social security or pension or whatever. Speaker 9 01:23:09 And then you never maybe have had food stamps or so they, in their mind, oh, that's for people that's homeless, that's for super poor people. But like I I said, you're entitled, you're an American citizen. And I said, this is part of your food budget for your health, so you shouldn't feel. But still saying that, oh, I don't care what I was always taught, you know, that's, um, uh, that's for this group of people now. I said, well now you're in within a subdivision, so to speak of the subdivision because of your age and your disability. I said, it's not a lower place, it's just a shift in the income. I'll try to say it everywhere I could. They still would have a hard time digesting it. I, and I know what they mean cuz like I said, I went through all of those changes myself when I had life happened to me and I didn't know to expect, I didn't know what was coming next. Speaker 9 01:24:01 I just was trying to survive to make sure me and my children had what we needed, you know? And I, I didn't, some things I didn't know about, so I didn't know where to go, you know, finally I talked to enough people, church and community and whatever, but some people don't have that knack. They don't know to go to their minister or go to a two 11 phone call or they, and they're just sitting there like, you know, like I said, the guy with the, um, his girlfriend with the language in him, you know, they, it is like, oh, I could do that or you'll get this, or I, they always tell me I can't get it. Like I, he must have tried once or something. So some people kind of give up. So people need to feel comfortable and not feel intimidated or people be short with you when you're doing an application or they're asking you so much personal stuff just to get $20 or $10 or $50 of stamps, you know. So that's, that's a lot to this, you know, I know how you feel. I've been there too, I said, but I felt like if this is something versus nothing, it's more than what I had. Speaker 8 01:25:11 Hi Loretta, thanks so much for being on the podcast today. Speaker 9 01:25:16 Hi. Thank you so much for having me. Speaker 8 01:25:18 Of course. Um, I guess we could just get started with, with a brief introduction. Could you give us your name, your age, and where in Ohio you are from? Speaker 9 01:25:29 Sure. My name's Loretta Roberts and I'm 57 years old and I am in Lawrence County, Ohio. Speaker 8 01:25:37 Great, thank you. And what are your interests? What do you care most about Speaker 9 01:25:44 Family? First and foremost? Speaker 8 01:25:47 Absolutely. Speaker 9 01:25:48 I have, I have two children. I have six grandchildren. I have two great-grandchildren and one great-grandchild on the way they keep me hopping Speaker 8 01:25:57 <laugh>. That is awesome. Um, yeah, family is absolutely the most important thing. That's great to hear. And how long have you been receiving SNAP benefits? Speaker 9 01:26:11 Um, 13 years, give or take. Speaker 8 01:26:14 Okay. I know we talked about this a little bit in the past, um, in our previous conversations, but of course you live in a very rural county. What is the store variety like when you, where you live and how does that make shopping on Snap or just shopping in general? Difficult. Speaker 9 01:26:37 The area that I live in, I'm, I'm in the, uh, south Point Ohio area. I have two stores, grocery stores to go to, and that is Walmart and Food Fair. That's it. It limits, you know, you being able to shop for discounts, specials, all that. It limits you on, um, transportation-wise. I know people that don't drive, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they can't get to these stores, but yet if they subscribe to get like Walmart to deliver their groceries, they have to pay for that and they have to pay for the tips and you're already on a fixed income. How, how can you afford to do that if you're low income? Mm-hmm. Speaker 8 01:27:20 <affirmative>, Speaker 9 01:27:21 It really hurts people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and Loretta, tell me more about, so they charge for delivery, but do you, have you found, um, um, you use delivery services too for groceries, is that right? Yes. And, and have you found that the prices for the delivery have gone up or have changed kind of significantly since you started, started doing the delivery service? I won't say that the, that the subscription prices have changed, but what has changed is like, you have to have a minimum amount to even order. So if you're like, out of bread and milk and eggs, you can't just order bread, milk, and eggs and have it delivered. And, um, you're also limited in what you can have delivered. Like I can't have bottled water, for example, delivered to my house or a lot of heavy cans. They, they, they do what they call a weight on it, so you're stuck. Speaker 9 01:28:15 That's, that's wild. So a weight limit. So if it's too heavy, so you have no choice in, in trying to see if another driver, for example, would be capable of, of delivering it. They just said, no, this is too heavy for all the drivers. Is that, is that right? Oh, even, they've even went, they've went further than that. They've went to the point that on like Walmart's website, I can't even see bottled water on Walmart's website. That's crazy. So it, that's, yeah, that's limiting for many reasons and for many people. Um, yeah, like transportation is a huge barrier in rural counties. And, and tell me a little bit more about, um, access to public transit. What is this transportation situation like? In, in Lawrence County, you have absolutely no public transportation whatsoever. Um, we do have a cab service and it's expensive and I'm sure you can get Uber and Lyft here, but I have, I, I've never used it personally, so I'm not really familiar, you know, with the cost or the avail availability here. Speaker 9 01:29:19 So a lot of your neighbors, including yourself, are pretty much stuck shopping at the same two stores. There's not no variety neighbors in, in Lawrence County are are really having a tough time when it comes to access to food? Oh, yes ma'am. Yes ma'am. No, no, no doubt about that. And tell me a little bit more about healthcare access, which you obviously we all know and our listeners know is directly related to um, food access. Um, what is healthcare access like? Like are you, um, easily able to get to like an appointment? Um, obviously we just talked about public transportation, not existing, but, uh, well, if you're just for a general and it's usually not a doctor, it's a nurse prac that's pretty easy to get in this area, but outside of that, you're gonna have problems, especially anything with the vision and dental, you're gonna have problems. Speaker 9 01:30:12 We don't have a hospital in this county. You are going to have to travel out of state. We live, we happen to live in the tri-state area down here and, but you're still gonna have to travel to Huntington, West Virginia or Ashland, Kentucky to be able to get these healthcares. And I, and dental is just a nightmare to find anybody to take it, to find and then find somebody that who can get the glasses from. It's just a total nightmare. So your normal everyday, like day-to-day care isn't too difficult, um, to access, but you're like more extensive. You're, you're quote unquote extra healthcare services as if eyes and teeth or extra <laugh>. Um, but your ex, your extra services are a little bit more challenging to access. Right. And another thing, again, you know, no public transportation here, you can get the insurances most of the time to help you out is what I hear. You know, again, I don't have to utilize that service, thank goodness, but you know, there's a lot of people that do and um, I'm not sure if they transport you local or if it's just over a certain certain distance, cuz I've had people tell me both ways. But, um, how you get into the pharmacy, you know, and if you get any kind of what the government considers a narcotic, I mean, for example, gabapentin, they have a classified as a narcotic, so you can't get that delivered. Wow. Wow. Wow. Speaker 8 01:31:39 I, I kind of wanted to talk a little bit more about particularly healthy food access and like perishable foods. And I know that when we talked earlier, you had mentioned that, you know, you shop on Amazon, um, somewhat regularly and you aren't able to get fresh foods delivered through Amazon. Could you talk a little bit more about that, Loretta? Speaker 9 01:32:10 My understanding in certain areas, bigger places that aren't rural, you know, you can get that. But in my area where I'm rural, I can't order, you know, anything fresh off of Amazon. I can order any, I, there's some frozen foods I can order that they pack in dry ice and I can order canned foods and I can order, you know, like pasta or something in a box, but fresh food mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's not happening. Also the program, Ohio has certain produce providers that you can get double produce on a snap card that doesn't exist in Orange County either. Yeah, Loretta, we were talking about that a little bit via email. So they have that program just for our listeners where, um, it's pretty wide but obviously not wide enough if everybody doesn't have access to it. Um, where if you, if you utilize something called produce perks and they can, um, do $2 for every $1 you spend, um, on produce for local producers and local vendors. Speaker 9 01:33:11 Um, but, um, Loretta and I actually looked up the closest access point to her, um, and it was 50 miles away in Megs county. So that's not accessible and leads her back to Walmart to, to get her produce. So I'm a diabetic, you know, and so fresh produce is a big thing for me to help maintain my diabetes under control. Um, I also have high cholesterol and so these things help me out, you know, and between not having the access and the price, you're, you end up eating crap because that's what you can afford to eat. The ramen noodles, how big is their, how much, how much product do they sell in a year? And ramen noodle's, nutritional value is ridiculous. It's nothing. It's, it's pure crap. Walmart's not as bad about it, you know, because there's such a big chain that they get a deal when they buy. Speaker 9 01:34:07 But like if you live in Ironton, Ohio, for example, which is in Lawrence County, you are not close to a Walmart mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Now you, they'll deliver there, you know, if you, if you pay for the delivery service, but like to run into Walmart, that's not happening. So, you know, what they've got is the local grocery stores in town, and I believe that they have two grocery stores now down there and prices are higher at the, at these smaller grocery stores. Cause they can't buy at the same price as, as like Walmart number one and number two, they can gouge prices because hey, you know, it's a monopoly properly. Speaker 8 01:34:47 Right? Yeah. There's no nowhere else to turn to. Speaker 9 01:34:50 Right. That's another thing that, that I don't get, they won't include when they're figuring out your SNAP benefits, you know, it's based on bills also mm-hmm. <affirmative> and they won't include some bills like car insurance. If you're lucky enough to have a car, you have to pay insurance on it. It's a law. So why shouldn't that be counted towards your snap benefits? Because it's ca it's cutting your money that you have to pay bills and everything else in your house. Absolutely. Yeah. Loretta, I totally agree. I think that we need an entire reevaluation of what counts as a deduction. You know, it just doesn't, it doesn't represent, uh, the actual real lives of people that are, are trying to feed their families and themselves and clothes and, and by toilet paper it's just not representative of, of the reality of families today at all. No, it's not. Speaker 9 01:35:42 I I totally agree. It is, it's absolutely not. I know people out here that are having to make a choice between medication and eating, no one should have to fix that. Yeah. I, I'm totally with you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, actually let's, on that note, let's take a a a step back and you, you talked a lot about, um, you know, your health challenges and, um, I'm sure I, I mean honestly, all of our podcasters, um, on this episode have had some significant health issues. Um, do you, did you find that when you were receiving additional snap benefits that you know, you're, you were able to, to eat healthier or better or felt even felt better even if your doctor didn't attest to it or, oh yeah, it's, I I could buy plenty of fresh produce, you know, and cut back, you know, on the, the processed food. Speaker 9 01:36:30 You know, people are really forced into a vicious cycle, you know, because they can't afford to eat healthy and so they have to buy this other stuff, this processed foods that aren't healthy, then they gain weight, then they have health problems and the state's trying to save money. Well, it would make more sense to me to, hey, let 'em be able to eat healthy and we won't have so many health problems that we're having to pay for. Yeah, exactly. I'm, I'm so with you, food is medicine, literally. And if people are forced to, to buy crappy, cheap food, um, because it's all that's available or that's all they can afford, or both, then what do you expect to happen? Do you ever, um, like coupon, are you a, a couponer? Are you a a loyalty points girl or I loyalty point any way I can, um, absolutely any way I can. Speaker 9 01:37:23 And, um, couponing, I love coupons, but in my area, again, it's hard to get ahold of coupons. We don't have the same coupons in our newspapers that like a big town will have. So, and newspapers have risen in cost. They're, they're pretty expensive to buy a Sunday paper now. So I don't coupon much cause of it. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, if the cost of the paper itself exceeds whatever you might save in a coupon, then it's a wash. So Loretta, um, when, when it comes to the Snap emergency allotments, um, were you able, when you were receiving those, I know it's been about maybe about a month and a half actually since, since they last went out, but, um, did, did receiving those help you in like, other aspects of your life? Oh yeah, it really did. It freed up, freed up quite a bit actually, you know, more than I expected. Speaker 9 01:38:17 And, you know, I could buy myself a new pair of tennis shoes that I wouldn't have been able to before, that type of thing. Um, I, I wouldn't have to worry about, uh, worry as badly about how I was going to afford day-to-day essentials. Toilet tissue and shampoo and dishwashing, liquid and detergent and you know, just what it takes to run a household. Yeah, you're absolutely right. Those shampoos and the soaps and the conditioners and, and god forbid folks with kids, um, young kids, that is, um, I, oh, I felt so sorry for people with school kids. Cause if you're low income, there's a lot that you can't afford. And it's been this way for years and years. I'll give you an example. My granddaughter is now 22 years old and when she was first grade, I believe it was, I happened to live in California at that time and my daughter calls me, this teacher wants them to have these outfits for these stories that she's going to read them. Speaker 9 01:39:16 And it's like five or six different outfits. And she's not telling them where they can get the outfits at. They have to find these outfits on their own. And they're outfits like, you're, you're not just gonna find, like, I remember one of them was a forest ranger outfit to go with the story, which just so happened at that time. I was in a position where I had a friend that worked for Kns Ver Knottsberry farm and she made these costumes for my granddaughter, for me reasonably. And I shipped them to my daughter and it ended up the, the granddaughter didn't even wear the costumes. It didn't come to fruition. But at that point in time, my daughter didn't have the money to, to buy these costumes. And what happened to the kid if it couldn't get these costumes, if she would've went ahead and read all these stories and they were supposed to be in these costumes. Speaker 9 01:40:07 My daughter was in class when she was like in middle school and had a, had an instructor and he had told, he put 'em into groups and he had told, you know, each group, okay, you bring this, this and this. Well, you know, did a group that my daughter was in for some reason, nobody say, okay, I'll bring this, I'll bring this, I'll bring this. So when they, when they showed up, something wasn't there, they were supposed to have, and this teacher honestly looked at these kids and said, uh, really you couldn't bring it in here. What's wrong? Are you all welfare? And I thought, if there's a child here that is actually living on welfare, you just made that child feel like nothing. That's part of what kids that are low income have to deal with and it's not fair. I'm wondering about your experience of just applying for SNAP and and remaining on the program. Speaker 9 01:40:58 Do you have any, any thoughts on that? The application, I mean this, this program, one thing I have found is set up to keep people poor. You, you're not allowed to own a car worth a certain amount of money or that's considered an asset. And they will tell you, sell that car and live off the money and then come back and apply when you ran outta money. And they'll, they'll tell you exactly how much money they're allotting that you can live off of from selling that car. They wanna know every little tiny thing. It's unreal and trying to call to report any changes or anything like that, that's a nightmare. That's an, in fact, one of my neighbors came over here yesterday and she said, you know, calling that place is a nightmare. I've been trying to report to them that I don't, that uh, my job ended for two weeks and I can't get through. Speaker 9 01:41:54 That's, that's so ridiculous. Cuz then they're gonna send her a letter that's like, oh, we found out about that job, you know, or whatever Exactly we found out about and it's like, yeah, I tried to call you <laugh>. And what about like, the notices that they send you? The notices come quite often. There's too much paper in it. You'll have four or five, six sheets of paper in a notice to say your benefits went down when you do get through to 'em. I'm sorry to say this, I really am, but some of 'em act like this is coming out of their pocket. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I've I've heard that too. Yeah. And it shouldn't be that way. Yeah. So generally your experience trying to again, get on the program, stay on the program is not a positive one. Is that fair to say? Well, that's fair to say. Speaker 9 01:42:38 That's fair to say. Yeah. And another thing is, uh, people want social security and stuff. Their benefits got cut because they got a raise in Jan in January, but they don't take consideration that everything else raised too. I come out, I, I lose money when they give a raise. I don't come out ahead. Yeah. By the time my rent goes up, my electric goes up, you know, prices, uh, prices go up. Hey, you know, I lost money. I would, I would just assume not get the raise <laugh>. Yeah, great. You're not the first person to tell us that, that's for sure. Um, unfortunately things are really hard and really bad for a lot of people and it was a really bad time to stop the snap emergency allotments, that's for sure. Yeah. Oh, I think, I think it's, it's a bad time and it was unfair. Speaker 9 01:43:27 Yeah. I don't understand if they could afford to do it mm-hmm. <affirmative> during the pandemic, they gave this to people and they let people get used to Yeah. Living on this mm-hmm. <affirmative> and now people have to turn around and get unused to it. Well, it's like anything else, people were like this, you learned to live with the, to live with what you've got coming through the door. Yeah. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, you know, you're used to, it's like if you're working, if you have a job, you're used to living off your paycheck. Well, if you lose that job, then you have to learn how to live all live on less money. Yeah, exactly. Right. There was no sort of, not even a sort of step down process that that could have happened about like, you know, okay, so starting on this date, you're gonna get half of what you're getting and then half of that, and then half of that and then back to normal. Um, not that I believe that that's what should have happened. To be very clear with you, I think that, um, you know, for once people during the pandemic, it, it's incredibly unfortunate that so many people passed away and so many people died. Um, but, you know, for a lot of low income people for once they were made whole and, and finally getting the services that they needed to just, you know, maintain their basic needs, Speaker 8 01:44:36 The benefits weren't even a adequate before the pandemic. Like, it wasn't, it wasn't enough for anyone. Speaker 9 01:44:44 No. It's, it wasn't, you know, and it's, and it's still not now for a lot of people. Like, you know, I see people, I belong to groups, you know, where people talk about this and you know, I, I see people that are in there saying, you know, I get $23 a month and, and these are people that usually that are older, that are on a fixed income. Well, how do you expect them to stretch that far? Yeah. And, and not to mention, you know, you're leaving this person in a, in a position to where how do they feel, you know, what am I going to do? They're like, what am I going to do? How am I going to survive? So you're adding to their mental stress and I'm sorry, you know, and I don't wanna offend anybody, but if they would make these lawmakers live on this for a month, things would change dramatically. If they would just give the lawmakers one month, give 'em the maximum amount, amount of benefits that they would be able to get, you know, and let, let 'em live off of it a month. I promise you, when they go to pass these bills, their, their attitude's gonna change a lot. Speaker 8 01:45:53 Yeah. That, that goes into our last question that we were gonna ask you, Loretta. What would you like to say to people who may not understand what it means to receive Snap benefits and just try to make ends meet? Speaker 9 01:46:09 What I want to tell 'em is, you know, you, first of all, you don't know what anybody's cir circumstances are, so don't look down on somebody. Hmm. Any of these people that you see with a snap benefit card in a grocery store could be your mother, your sister, your child, very easily. And it's not like you know that it's free food. It's, it's really not. It's survival. It's that versus star innovation. That versus can I afford to buy the medicine that's going to keep me alive? That versus can I buy my child a pair of shoes that they def that they desperately need? These are the choices people have to make. You know, I understand that we have to have humanity within us and help other people, but you know, it's like with your family. Do you get out here and give all your money away and then come home to your family and say, man, the electric got turned off because I couldn't pay the bill because I gave so-and-so down the road all of our money. No, you don't do that. You take care of yours first, then you help people. Speaker 1 01:47:27 I hope you learned a little bit about what the end of the Snap emergency allotments mean to Heather, Mike, Audrey, VJ and Loretta, their stories are their own, but they are not unique. They all are seeing the same patterns between themselves, their families, and their friends. They're skipping meals, buying less healthy food, going without other necessities, all to make ends meet. I think they all described it well when our interviewees said that they don't understand why people must go hungry in the greatest and one of the richest countries in the world. I wanna thank Heather, Mike, Audrey, vj, and Loretta for entrusting Hope and I with their stories and allowing us to share with our Just a Bite. Listeners, please visit our show notes or our website, Ohio foodbank.org to learn more. Thanks for listening and we'll talk to you next time.

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