Food assistance has taken on a very dark stigma in this country. Thanks to word-of-mouth propaganda as well as legitimate real-life examples, those on food assistance are painted as lazy, crude, demanding, and manipulative. Rarely can you hear someone say they are on food assistance and assume something that isn't at least partially negative about them. But sometimes food assistance is the only way that hard-working individuals can make ends meet, especially in tough economic times. So when it comes to the stigma of food assistance, if you're fighting applying because you don't want to be accused of fitting the stereotypes, please reconsider. It's not worth going hungry to avoid an untrue reputation.
There are several different types of food assistance, although they all fall under the same general title. Food stamps are now like a credit card, and can be used for any food product the state legally allows; each recipient gets a certain amount of money to spend per member of their household, and they can grocery shop as they see fit. WIC support gives nutritious food to women, infants, and children in low-income situations who may potentially not be getting the right kind of nutrition from their diet (this means foods like milk, beans, and eggs are all valid WIC foods). Food banks hand out specific foods to people who come through, allowing a household to go home with some supplies to help out their pantry or refrigerator.
WIC has less of a stigma than the others, because it is only given out to very specific people. However, people receiving food stamps may come through a grocery store line to purchase nothing but an unhealthy snack food and some beer, leading the cashier (and those watching) to assume that those on food stamps are simply lazy and do not want to pay for the unnecessary things in their lifestyle. At food banks, people receiving the food can be demanding and picky, seeming to take for granted the generous bounty they are being given for free.
If you truly need food assistance, do not buy into the stigmas. Sure, strangers may lump you in with the rude people, but if you are polite and spend it wisely, you will have done nothing wrong. Your true friends will not judge you if you have to seek outside assistance; you'll quickly find out who your true friends are if you are going through tough economical times and must ask for help. All in all, it is much better not to starve yourself or go without proper nutrition just because you don't want to take advantage of a resource that is there, especially if you are doing your best to get out of the financial dip that brought you to that point in the first place.
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