What it’s like to get rejected from food stamps

Caroline, in her frustrated element.

Did you know that student loan debt doesn’t factor into your qualifications for food stamps? Neither did Brokelyn’s Caroline Shadood when she bit the pride bullet and went in to apply for government food assistance; and was ultimately rejected. Caroline (who you may remember from such Brokelyn posts as “The inside secrets of retail jobs revealed!” and “Tricks to get big-time buzz for your band“) wrote up her experiences for XO Jane in this piece titled “It happened to me: I was rejected from food stamps,” in which she lays out the humbling and illuminating experience of being broke, in need of food and still considered over-qualified for the program. Writes Caroline: “I have enough self-awareness to accept my privilege (having gone to college and being currently employed, to say the least) and understand that my cultural norms and ideas about poverty are different than someone else’s. I may be in a stint of poverty, rather than lifelong cycles, but who is to know how long the “stint” may be for the duration of paying my loans on time — aka the next 8-10 years.” It’s worth your time to read, especially if you’re hungry and considering your options


  1. Donna

    It’s funny because I too am in the same boat. I went to college, I work full time on a crap salary AND with 2 small children and yet I still did not qualify. There are so many wrong things I couols say about that.

  2. Terence

    Buying food is more important than paying student loans on time. It doesn’t seem like this woman has any assets, so what is the worst that can happen? If you are litterally starving, the student loan companies can wait to get paid. IMO – the food stamp office made the right decision. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the price for people taking on debt irresponsibly.

  3. ueside

    I have much sympathy for those who need assistance. Seems to me that someone who “chose to work in a creative field” isn’t one of them. Megan should get a fu***g real job like the rest of the people who can’t make a living in their preferred creative field.

    Here’s a clue Megan- if you have enough money for brunch, you shouldn’t need food stamps.

  4. dl4001

    I read her entire piece, and it’s tough because I’m trying really hard not to sounds like an ass. I truly do sympathize with someone who is trying to decide where their next meal is coming from.

    But at the same time, it’s equally hard to read these types of stories and not form a mental laundry list of “well has she tried this, has she sacrificed that, has she given up her precious “this” thats a comfort item and not a necessity?” questions.

    Ultimately foodstamps (and other public assistance) are about maintaining life, not about maintaining a lifestyle. I don’t doubt she works her ass off, but it’s hard when a college educated, “creative field”, iphone-owning, living-in-the-most-expensive-city-in-the-country, voluntarily-entered-into-such-debt individual is the one asking for assistance.

    Even if you really feel for them and want them to make it…it just resonates in your mind as “this person is asking for help with a lifestyle CHOICE”. I would have no problem if she had moved back in with her parents or out of the city while working a bunch of crappy entry-level jobs until she could work her way up to a position where she could both support herself AND tackle that debt (or even if she was trying that plan…lord knows its tough out there to land even that kind of gig).

    …im just going to stop typing now, because i sound like an old coot.

    • Patrick F.

      No that actually is a valid argument against a topic like this. I too am a hard working idividual with a salary of $60,000 – $63,000 a year and yet I still have to put in overtime just to mop up the last bits of taxes that come out of my pocket that go straight to a family with 7 friggin’ kids. While their mother is out there driving a Mercedes buying groceries with food stamps, I have to sit and watch MY two kids eat ramen noodles because apparently, all of my taxes towards charity goes to a family who don’t work, have no education, and just sit and watch politics while theyre complaining that their welfare checks aren’t high enough to cover their kids “needs”. I totally agree its bullshit!

  5. thejadedentrepreneur

    This girl needs a major reality check. She’s not starving. She’s just choosing to buy frivolous bullsh*t over food. That’s her problem. Time to buck up 20 somethings. You aren’t “entitled” to anything.

  6. I agree with fellow MENSA members ueside and thejadedentrepreneur. Young people should give up on their dreams and just be happy working for sub-human wages at whatever business will have them. Furthermore, government assistance will now only be available to human beings that have circumstances straight out of “Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire”, regardless of whether or not said humans pay taxes to the very same government they’re asking for help from.

  7. dl4001

    putting knee-jerk name-calling and hyperbole aside for a minute, you’re advocating an unrealistic approach to charity and social safety nets.

    sure, it would be nice if society was replete with the resources to nurture every creative aspiration on top of basic necessities. but that aint reality…not even close. and of the tax dollars we all pay, they aren’t all allocated to support the dreams of young people. if you think they should be, mobilize society and vote to get more funding for those types of things.

    i get it. its a shit economy and its no fun out there for most. but be real… “sub-human wages”? Have some global (or even national) perspective and realize if you give up the dream of working a “creative job” in brooklyn…you can do more than ok in this country as a white, college-educated 20-something.

  8. deachick

    Sorry Megan, I feel no sympathy for you. If you have an accountant, go to brunch, and spend needlessly at Trader Joe’s, you don’t need food stamps…you need a part time job. As far as the student loan, they have something called Economic Hardship, that allows you to pay just interest on your loans until you can afford more. So cry me a river, but there are more worthy people than you.

  9. thejadedentrepreneur

    Ha, I actually AM a MENSA member and one that works a job, that while I don’t necessarily LOVE it, pays my f*cking bills so I don’t have to live on the government dole. Get a clue kid. This is real life.

  10. Urbanexplorer

    Next option seems to be investigtaing Food Bank/Pantry & dumpster diving to keep your belly full. Tons of safely packaged and edible food are thrown out by stores every day. Don’t defer your loans interest will create a larger problem down the road and keep paying on time or your credit score will tank which will come back to haunt you when you get out of this cycle and try to buy property in the future.

  11. dl4001

    food stamps (and other manifestations of the social safety net) should be a measure of last resort to people that are either going through a rough patch they couldnt reasonably foresee happening (lost their job, got sick/injured, etc.) or as assistance to “level the playing field” because someone didn’t have the opportunity others had (the “based on the novel push” type person the other commenter described).

    its tough because I dont know ALL of this woman’s life particulars…but i dont think either of those two apply to her. she sounds like she was raised in an environment where she could reasonably be aware of the debt she was taking on. im not arguing in favor of outrageous college costs and the shady loan industry, but she doesnt sound like someone who was taken in by some predatory loan.

    and now that shes in this predicament, which im sure is insanely stressful, she still has had the upbringing, education, and (from what it sounds like) family/social outlets for assistance. ill gladly provide tax dollars for someone who grew up in a shitty environment, in shitty schools, with very little opportunity to advance. because i’m actually currently looking to hire people for good jobs, but those people simply can’t perform those functions because they dont have the skills necessary to do that job.

    from the sound of it, this woman COULD do that type of job..she’d probably be perfect for it…but she sounds like shes hanging on to the dream of doing a “creative” job in expensive brooklyn. i cant tell you how frustrating it is to have friends, and friends of friends that are smart, capable, and could land jobs that most of the country would kill to have…but they dont want to be locked into a “soul-less corporate hellhole” or whatever they have decided a 9-5 job is.

    yikes im ranting now so ill stop.

  12. tiastrother

    The common thread here seems to be judgement, Im going to try something different and comment with a “hope”. That hope is that after the author took the time to rant and rave about her foodstamp rejection which is normal when you are rejected for something you believe you need, she started the process of doing some foot work to find other alternatives to food stamps, realized that brunch isn’t a necessity and that MILLIONS of people live on less and MAKE IT WORK!!!! I also hope that this has spurred some ideas in her head about the backwards perceptions, fucked up systems and other things that we should be working towards fixing that could make it easier to live like humans and have our basic necessities met while maintaining our dignity and pride.

  13. Nikki-Jo

    LMAO — “. Her story inspired me and gave me more hope and made me feel okay about having an iPhone.” Are you KIDDING me, writer?

    I have an iphone, too. And the bare minimum I could get my bill down to per month is $90.00 — That’s 90.00 per month where metro PCS offers a 40.00 per month deal for all the same services. I am not even that broke and I still consider the metro-pcs deal because of the potential cost-savings to be had. How can you seriously complain about not having money to get your shoes fixed when you’re writing off a monthly bill that could easily put a helluva lot more grocery products in your cupboard?


  14. ChasingAlyssaJones

    Dear 20-somethings, we don’t give a fuck about your dreams. Welcome to the real world where people have to work jobs they don’t like so they won’t have to go asking for a handout.

    The American Taxpayer

  15. I am just pissed off that she wasted the time of the people in the welfare offices. And the fact that my taxes (ironically enough, as a gainfully employed “creative”) could have potentially contributed to providing for someone who just can’t get their shit together. Move out of Brooklyn, for christ’s sake, or go back to mom and dad’s house

  16. Based on the contents of your fridge and pantry, I’m guessing that you belong to a CSA–the pickles, the granola, they Saxelby cheeses. Unless those are items you are bartering for or picking up free from work, try to remind yourself that those are luxury goods. Think about dropping them and joining the food coop if you aren’t already a member. You can stretch your money for quality food more effectively, with or without food stamps.

  17. Paul Abruzzo

    Um, No. You’re a hipster and you don’t deserve to exist, much less get food stamps. Pack your cliche’d ass up with your hipster glasses and dress and go back to where it is you came from because it sure as hell isn’t Brooklyn.

  18. 90sbrooklyn

    You may of chose to eat instead of toiletpaper but you also chose to live in the “cooool” part of Brooklyn that you guys ruined instead of living with your folks back home.Plus the pics of your fridge don’t make me shed tears for you,your eating good..i have eggsalad and baking soda in my fridge.
    GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!

  19. amanda

    I am college educated and unemployed. I make $340/wk after taxes and was turned down for food stamps because I make too much money. Hah.

    Luckily my friends and family are extremely supportive. One friend in Texas even sent me a care package full of food and some cash to pay bills with.

    I’m pissed that the food stamps program (and other programs as well) don’t take rent into consideration. I have to pick and choose which bills I’m going to pay each month. And I always feel like an asshole standing in line with the elderly people at the food pantry each week.

    • thejadedentrepreneur

      Do you not understand that they don’t take rent into consideration because YOU CAN FUCKING MOVE YOU TWIT. What the hell are they teaching in American universities these days? I mean, it’s so fucking simple. BASIC. Welcome to real life brat. You bring home $1200 and you have no kids and no job, therefore no need to travel anywhere. You don’t have to have any of those other things, including utilities. Many people on food stamps have to choose between food and lights. Wake the fuck up.

      I weep for the future of this country.

    • stephanie

      Your KIDDING right?!? ” I have to pick and chose which bills to pay each month” I RAISED AN INFANT ON THAT KIND OF SALARY.I was a CNA and I raised a child on that,paid rent,phone,cable,bought groceries,daycare,gas car payment ect ect ect… !! You need to live within your means bitch!

    • Wow.. okay...

      Your kidding right? I know this is an old post but for anyone just reading this,this woman “amanda” doesn’t have her head where it belongs.”I am pissed”… for what reason? TAX PAYERS aren’t paying for your food??? You have been to college,guess what? WHO CARES.. your not employed so that “education” of yours is not doing you a darn bit of good is it? Stop spending your money on bs,I raised a child on my own with less money than that and I did just fine and was NOT at a food pantry each week.Grow up.

  20. seriously?

    Dude you have enough eggs to last you a week. Spinach omelet? Throw some salsa on them shits. You’ve got a jar full of something that looks edible. Eat that. You’ve got a bag of something on top by the cucumber (which should be eaten also). Maybe you forgot it was in there, but you should probably eat that. Is that a loaf of bread on the bottom? I saw two jars of peanut butter in your closet, you should try combining the two! Nice fancy cheeses. Eat it. Your fridge has way more food than mine.

    And about that “radical stance” of yours. Your radical stance is, plain and simple, wrong. Your “poverty” is a direct result of your poor choices. You took out (presumably) exorbitant student loans so you could go to college to get a degree in something that puts you on the path to being a struggling artist. Well, guess what? Now you’re a struggling artist. You’re a walking cliche of what’s wrong with the education system in America, but from the sounds of your upbringing, you have no excuses for not knowing what you were getting yourself into. You aren’t impoverished, you’re broke, and it’s 100% your fault, and my hard earned tax dollars that I get stolen from me after working my ass off 9-5 or 6 or 8 every single day better not be paying so you can eat artisan pickles and drink craft beer with your buddies.

    – a 23 year old

  21. Johnny Cashless

    Give me a break. This girl goes on to cry about how she got rejected from foodstamps while she refuses to defer her student loans, wont look for a real job, has an accountant, an iphone, a fridge full of overpriced organic foods, drinks craft beer, eats $15 dollar brunches, and has a Netflix subscription.

  22. smilingcal

    Please. Why don’t you follow the advice you provided in the retail employment piece you wrote for this publication only one year ago before asking for public assistance?
    How creative are you really? You can’t even properly stage food in your cupboard and refigerator photos in a manner effective or pathetic enough to generate any sort of sympathy. Have you considered that you’re not able to pay the bills as you work in a creative field because you’re just not that imaginative?

  23. eric_silver

    Someone should have read Caroline her Miranda rights before she wrote her article: “Anything you say can and WILL be used against you on the comment board…”

    I’m not really interested to hear what is essentially a rehashing of anything fiscal conservatives have ever said against social services–this idea that being financially comfortable means you “did something right” is just Predeterminism with a messenger bag and an iPhone.

    Helping people shouldn’t be about shaming them for asking for help and justifying their choices in life, or if it is, I would hope we have professionals with more constructive advice than “Stop eating brunch and move back in with your parents” or “Make an omelet.”

    On that note, are there any people who have experience in public policy, and would like to comment and perhaps give a little insight into the myths and truths of what living below the poverty line means?

  24. Marisa

    What we need to be addressing is the fact that SO many people are going hungry in America. Obviously, Supply-side economics only works for the wealthy, since we started cutting taxes on the wealthiest, we’ve lost net jobs, and they’ve reaped billions in profits. Minimum wage needs to be raised, and the wealthy need to be taxed for the phenomenal gain they get from society… subsidies to oil companies need to end. Why is it OK to give billions to the profitable oil companies, but when a family needs food stamps, we start nit picking about whether or not they have a tv? It’s hypocritical and frankly, it makes me SICK.

  25. Dear Author,

    Please look up cultural capital; you have plenty of it. It’s not that America wants you to starve; it’s that (as so many have said in response to your article) you have the resources you need to avoid that.

    Incidentally, when I was your age, I did not have a college degree, my parents were dead, and I lived on a $6,000 disability income. No food stamps. I bought all my clothes at thrift shops (no, not vintage stores), my furniture was milk crates, I didn’t own a tv, I frequented the library, I cooked my own food, a date was a walk and maybe an ice-cream. I was pretty happy actually, glad to have food & shelter and appreciative of what came to me. But I grew up poor. I think poverty when you’re young actually makes you more creative. By the time you have kids or health issues, you’ll be fine (due to your heavy “cultural capital”).


  26. Salome

    Here’s the choice that the richest country in the world gives you:
    You can eat expensive, healthy food, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, dairy, protein, a few carbohydrates, run out of money, starve to death, and DIE now; OR you can eat unhealthy food, pasta, more pasta, much more pasta, and, of course, lots of carbohydrates, develop major illnesses but live longer, and DIE later. I’m sure you noticed the keyword.

  27. OK. I understand you want to be healthy and that is a great thing. Plus, your body feels crappy when you have to eat processed junk. But…when I saw the Ezekiel bread in the fridge??? That stuff is expensive. And the fresh cheese wedges? That’s how Whole Foods earned the nickname “whole paycheck.”

    Stop shopping organic and move to generic for 90 days. Buy the thin cheap bread and toast it….then it won’t be so bad for sandwiches. You can cook really tasty meals with pasta, potatoes, rice, eggs, etc. as the main ingredient. If you don’t “cook” a lot then find a foodie friend who can show you how to come up with some awesome dishes.

    But buying “brunch” when you are barely making ends meet is just being careless with $$. That is def. living beyond your means.

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