The Garbage Is More Deserving Than You!

I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday and there was a man in front of me paying for his items with food stamps actually, they use these special debit cards now, but you know what I mean. Anyway, the cashier told him his total after the government’s subsidy was six bucks and some odd cents. The man thought for a moment and then questioned having to pay anything at all.

“Didn’t I have enough on my card?” he asked.

“You have plenty left on your card,” the cashier replied, “but this chicken is from the deli and you can’t buy food from the deli with food stamps.”

“Oh.” The man looked like he’d been kicked in the stomach. “I thought I could get that. I am sorry. I have no other money.”

The checker removed the price of the chicken from the total and then something happened that caused my internal hard drive to skip: as the man stood there gathering up the bags of items that had been allowed him, he watched the cashier throw the chicken into the garbage. I don’t care who you are, irony making you its bitch to that degree is going to hurt a lot and for a good long time.

When it was my turn to checkout, I asked the cashier if she had in fact thrown the chicken away. She told me that it was required, since anything that comes out of the deli cannot go back to be resold. Health concerns. At that moment, I wanted so badly to go back three minutes in time and pay for the guy’s stupid fried chicken – not because I’m some kind of heroic comforter of the poor, but because of the frustrating absurdity of allowing to rot in a landfill perfectly good meat that a hungry person specifically tried to buy.

Now, I’m not stupid. I understand capitalism and the unavoidable dichotomies inherent in it. I get that the man should have known that the terms of the food stamp program do not allow for prepared foods. Nevertheless, there is something drastically wrong with a system that so badly wants to keep poor people from anything remotely constituting a luxury, that it is willing to unabashedly waste perfectly good food rather than allow those using food stamps to purchase it.

We humans must be capable of better than this.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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35 Responses to The Garbage Is More Deserving Than You!

  1. Kevin Wolf says:

    Jesus…she could have at least waited until the guy had left the story. That's just plain mean.

  2. JamesG says:

    That story makes you want to cry, or grab hold and shake someone. There's gotta be a better way! — JG

  3. Drude says:

    Oh, no… How f•cked up is that? Oh, the poor guy, that must have been so humiliating and infuriating.

  4. SweetMisery says:

    Your post reminded me of when my Grandmother would take about the great depression here in the USA. they were dumping food people could not afford to pay for. No food stamps back then. Also Roosevelt would come on the radio and say boil your coffee grounds over and over. It was the way she said it that always made to laugh. She said she new that son of a bitch got fresh coffee every morning. lmaoLove it………..So sad.

  5. Street Vein says:

    Give 'em the chicken for god's sake, lady! Unbelievable."You can't buy deli food with food stamps." ??? WTFCould rant for hours here.

  6. Scott says:

    This is nuts! Why can't it be up to individuals to make "inappropriate" choices with their subsidies? Hell, I really don't care if he wants to buy a goddamn lobster. It should be up to him to make the money last as long as he needs it to.
    Granted, some poor folks got there because they don't have good judgment in measuring out their funds. But how are they supposed to learn better money management if the choice is paternalistically taken away from them?

  7. snoringKatZ says:

    Yep – the same rules that let certain relatives of mine buy caviar and brie with food stamps do not allow this man to buy deli fried chicken. It's a terribly fucked up world and I'd like to leave, please.

  8. Jenn says:

    So sad. I can only imagine how humiliated that man was.

  9. Lauri says:

    Oh damn it. That is a gut wrenching story.I'm with sKZ. I'd like to leave, please. Horrible horrible story. Sigh.

  10. Xeyli says:

    For about 4 years, I worked in a cafe that was part of a big bookstore chain, two of those years I was the supervisor of the cafe. I tried to figure out a way to get the company to DONATE the leftover pastries to The Institute for Human Services (IHS) because I hated seeing so much food get thrown into the compactor outside. Sure, we wrote off all that food as food loss, but we also wrote off items as food loss AND donated it to IHS… why not the pastries? I don't get it.

  11. gt says:

    Yeah, why can't they donate it? Having separate fridge only for this kind of situations?

  12. jaypo says:

    Deli food = extras. You need food stamps, no extras. BS.

  13. jaypo says:

    p.s. also, you know those little sealed plastic tubs of half-and-half they use at quickmarts, restaurants and business functions? Unused ones go in the trash. Another wastefulness.

  14. Restaurants throw out good food every day, as do grocers, all for the same reason. Local stores and charities here have gotten in some trouble for bringing together food that needs to be eaten with folks who need desperately to eat. I guess in this country we would rather let 'em starve to death than choke on a donated chicken bone and sue somebody. Seems like you could just let them sign a waiver or something… Of course that would take an army of lawyers, advocates and bureaucrats to protect the "best interests" of those poor unfortunate homeless people. I bet the homeless would argue that a full belly is in their best interest.

  15. Kzinti says:

    So many things to think about. I tried several different times to form something cohesive to write here, but there are no straight and narrow answers to the myriad problems plaguing society today. <sigh>
    I'm with Kirk, I probably would have just stepped up and gave the guy the money to pay for it, cause I'm a softie like that…

  16. Erin says:

    That is horrible. If I was that cashier I would have paid for the guy's damn deli meat and let him know that it wasn't okay for next time. WTF?!I'm volunteering at a local woman's homeless shelter on Tuesday, and I keep thinking about how much food gets wasted at the closest grocer that could be used to feed them. The group I'm going with always brings a meal, and stays to hang out with the women. I can't help but be angry that local business can't help aid their community for fear of being sued. What a messed up country/culture we live in.

  17. Kzinti says:

    Blame the lawyers for taking all those fake cases that jack up everyones costs, or blame the morons who file those fake cases that jack up everyones casts. Look at malpractice insurance for an example. Because of all the lawsuits, the cardiology unit I went to for testing had three fourths of their staff, three fourths! leave the State to go practice in another due to the required minimums for insurance. That's like, 3 out of 4 doctors prefer to not pay out the ass for insurance mandated by the government at prices jacked up by the lawyers and their moron clients who file stupid lawsuits.
    Just a nice little note of disclaimer: There are legitimate cases and people who are really in need of that money to live after circumstances have been less than favorable. Not every case is frivolous, not every client is a moron and not every lawyer is a shyster. But sometimes it seems like an act of God to get the insurance companies to pay up. Holy Jebus!

  18. Sigh. I was on food stamps for roughly a year when my kid was little. When my [ex] husband disappeared, he drained all of our bank accounts, and since I was a stay at home mother, I was in a bit of dire straits. No job, no money. Back then, the stamps were little booklets with tear off stamps. I cannot tell you how many times a day I was humiliated for having to do it. But personally… that humiliation was the drive for getting off of them as soon as I could. I know it took a year, but it was really hard to do. There are bigger issues your post brings up, but specifically, if I were in that sort of situation, yes, I would have paid for the food for the guy as quietly as I could. Mostly to give the guy some dignity. However, if I was the cashier, I would have put the food off to the side and thrown it out later. Not right in front of his face. That's humilation tenfold. However, here's what I feel is more important: That sort of action from the cashier wreaks of contempt. That kind of contempt; latent hostility is something people don't talk about enough as far as I'm concerned.

  19. Brown Suga' says:

    Shit. That is horrible. To throw the food away in front of his very eyes …
    In India, people look unfavourably upon wastage of food, especially in the South. There's a Tamil saying: konnal paavam, thinnal poogum. It means, the sin of killing (there are lots of orthodox vegetarians there) goes away with eating – that is, a person who kills an animal for food has not sinned, since he is not wasting the food and is using it to satisfy his hunger..
    To throw away food that would drive out someone's hunger … I don't really understand the system there, but that is still a very contemptuous and demeaning thing to do to a fellow human being.

  20. CrowSeer says:

    Harsh. Very harsh.
    I watched a programme that went behind-the-scenes in a famous fast food restaurant once, and they seemed to have this rule (if I remember correctly) that if a burger isn't made exactly right, to the correct specifications of the chain, then it's thrown away… same thing if a burger happens to get cold waiting to be sold… and then they pour bleach in the bin to render it all totally inedible. It just seemed insane to me.

  21. Dancing Bear says:

    I have worked in restaurants and rather than let the employees take food home they throw it away. I guess because restaurant people are overpaid. The thought behind it was that if they gave it to them they wouldn't buy it. My argument was that we were allowed a meal at work, why couldn't we take it home to enjoy. It's not like you punch out at work and invite your family to your job to eat when you get off work. It was too expensive to eat there anyhow. The world clusterfuck continues. I lived near a fancy grocery store and they would take produce and set it on a picnic table so people could take it before it went bad. many people would scoff at picking through it but not me. i took home garlic, onions, radishes and all kinds of stuff. It has a day limit, not a shelf life. They could only keep it for so many days and then it had to be thrown out. Rather than waste it they put it out for the workers (it was beverly Hills) and they knew they were not losing customers by putting it out. None of us would pay $1.50 for a tomato anyhow. I thought that was decent of them. My boss who was a multi millionaire would pick through it right along side me and take it to her maid and let them have a cook out at her house on weekends and use the pool. Many would say she should have just bought stuff for her maid but she said she wouldn't let her buy it for them. She would accept it if it was free but she wouldn't take things fron her because it made her feel beholden.

  22. Well, you know me – I always have to look at things from many angles. And, I've been thinking about this post since I read it three hours ago.
    There are so many subjective points. The firstI thought of is that I've heard a story similiar to this one before. So that's interesting. The second thing I thought of was the time I bought a bottle of brandy and then walked out without it and drove home. When I realised I'd forgotten it, I said to Hubs, "if I phone them up, what manager's going to believe I walked out without the bottle? Hubs said,"Ring them. They've got it on camera." (!?) I had no idea, but sure enough, the manager looked at my receipt, the time of day was printed on it, the cashier stand number and he found the video of me forgetting the bottle. And he gave me another. So my thoughts are, perhaps the cashier had to throw it away immediately, or risk being reprimanded if she is seen not complying with the law on camera. Or maybe she just wasn't a very bright cashier. If her tone wasn't contemptuous when she spoke to the man, perhaps it was just a dumb mistake.
    Now, if she'd handed it to him anyway, for free, what's not to say he wouldn't come back and take deli food again to put on the food stamps, this time on purpose, now knowing he might get another free chicken?
    It seems the law itself is more the problem. I am not sure, but I think on foodstamps here, you can buy any food or drink except for alcoholic beverages. Who determined that 'ready food' is a luxury item? Whatever administrator who was assigned the job by the politican who was voted in. If we don't like that detail of the law, we can write a letter to our politican in charge of such and demand that people on foodstamps be able to buy whatever they like. After all, those are Canadian tax dollars, so in essence, you and every other taxpayer in Canada should be able to change that if you all so wish.

  23. Red Pen says:

    It is so wasteful and cruel to throw away perfectly good food.

  24. Duh! I'm sorry – I just released- this is Kirk's blog. Toe Knee sent me this post, tooso I thought this was his blog and we were talking about Canada. Hmmm- now here's whati nteresting about this, then. I know someone personally who was on foodstamps. I don't remember this 'luxury food law' being in effect here. So- maybe the advice I gave to Canada on this shoud be to us instead? Sorry, Kirk. I need a nap.

  25. Kirk says:

    "It seems the law itself is more the problem."That right there was my entire point though I'm guessing I didn't make it clear enough. This post is about how a food-stamp system that disallows prepared food is messed up and counterproductive. It sends the message that people born into wealth deserve better things than those who weren't. It perpetuates a "nothing to lose" mentality on the underprivileged. I'd like to see a food-stamp program that said, "Here, fellow human, have a fish. After you're fed, we'll show you how to catch them yourself. You won't always be stuck like this." As I see it, welfare and food-stamps are devised specifically to keep people dependent upon them. There needs to be more attention given to getting people off food stamps and less attention given to making them feel inferior.

  26. Gosh- we could discuss this one for hours. "welfare and food-stamps are devised specifically to keep people dependent upon them."
    I SO agree.

  27. Toe-Knee says:

    You should know better… I hardly ever plug my own posts, fear of vanity I suppose. But this one bugged me in a way that most sympathy or injustice stories don't, possibly because I see the whole thing as so senseless.

  28. Kirk says:

    "I hardly ever plug my own posts…"But I sincerely appreciate you plugging mine, Toe-Knee. 🙂 It's nice to know you felt as outraged as I did — so much so that you felt the need to share. And it is such a confusing rage, because the problem isn't so clear cut. All I know is something is decidedly wrong with that picture.

  29. I wish you would plug your own posts. I can't be on VOX as often as I'd like and I miss great stuff. I wish you and Kirk would send me posts. There are some who do and I never regret receiving them. : )

  30. snoringKatZ says:

    I'm with gunderson – tearing out those little coupons was enough of a humiliation for me to be sure I got off those (much appreciated but) accursed food stamps as fast as I could. But I also worked in a convenience store and little kids would come in and buy bags of candy and chips with food stamps. That was ok. But if they wanted a sandwich, that wasn't ok. If they bought a frozen burrito, that was ok. But not if they cooked it first. That wasn't ok.Then there's my #$)%(#* relative who has made a career out of manipulating and using everyone and everything. She was on food stamps at the same time I was (still is now) buying brie and caviar because "I like gourmet foods." I felt guilty if I foodstamped Oreos for my kids because I never would have bought them had I had to pay for them myself – too expensive. But I had so much money in food stamps that I couldn't even use it up unless I did buy brand name items that I couldn't afford on my own.That's messed up, too.

  31. Kzinti says:

    There was a story a long while back about a man who was on food stamps. he would buy food, cook it and sell it to make money. He then took the money earned and bought more food, some more plates and utensils, etc… He was building himself up a small restaurant and the government stepped in and stopped him. He was not trying to cheat the system, just taking what they had given him and making more from it, a new way of life, a self supporting way of life.

  32. What does it mean that the government would step in to stop him? Why on earth? How myopic and short-sighted is that? Oh, what a depressing situation.

  33. Kirk says:

    The easy counter-argument is that he is using the workers' tax dollars to build himself a small business. Once he makes a profit on the food he's bought with food stamps, he's no longer allowed food stamps because he has produced income. If he is allowed to continue drawing food stamps and using them in that way, the taxpayer has essentially funded the startup of his restaurant business. Whether this is a bad thing depends on just how liberal you are, I suppose.If he was doing it all simply to provide more low-cost food to a greater number of underprivileged people, then it becomes a definite question of ethics over economics and I'd probably be willing to turn a blind eye for a while. After all, I love people more than money. But allowing people to continue to make a regular profit off of food stamps seems counterproductive to me. Certainly someone that resourceful needn't be on food stamps for long, right?

  34. I know what you're saying and that's true. The aboutit is that we'd spend fewer tax dollars on someone as entrepenueral as this, instead of giving him moneyt for forrd for the rest of his life. I remember when I lived in Greece the European Union was giving one million drachmas ( about 4000USD) to any person who was starting up a first time small company. If you stayed in business for at least a year, you got to keep the money. That was how they protected this headstart from users who would take the money and spend it on a holiday or something. So many people utilised that money well. I unfortunately found out about this after I'd already been in busines for a year. But my point is the money helped a lot of people start business and they are not on the dole, but are business owners who pay taxes and contribute to society…

  35. paikea says:

    We humans must be capable of better than this.But, sometimes, it just doesn't seem so…This is so wrong on so many levels. I'm not one to vocally retaliate (My voice stutters and I'm much better on paper.) – as a matter of fact I've done it only one in my whole life – at the check-in desk at an airport. However, I think this incident would have spurred me to give that woman a piece of my mind and a lecture on how to treat her fellow human beings – just sell him the damn chicken, for gosh sakes – but to throw it out in front of him?! Maybe she could have given him the chicken anyways, paid for it – no fuss – afterwards. I mean, really! Where's the common decency? Like you, I probably would have seriously thought about (and likely done it) grabbing a fried chicken and giving it to the guy. I used to volunteer at homeless shelters all the time – this kind of waste makes me furious. Is it that it's cooked already? If you're homeless and you're on food stamps – do you have the convenience to cook food all the time? (Arggh – these government policies really are so counter-productive – who are these conscious-less, compassion-less, condescending twits who come up with ways to humiliate people who are already down-on-their-luck, anyways?) I don't know if that's the issue…You know we're all just a few incident of bad luck away from being on food stamps. It's a shame how people treat one another!

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