Rich Fridge, Poor Fridge

Middle Class Refrigerator

EDITED September 16, 2015: Before anybody else points this out to me, I’d like to say that I know these probably aren’t genuine photos of poor people’s and middle-class people’s refrigerators.  I know, okay?  I’m simply talking about the message of the meme, not the authenticity of the photographs.  Please do not comment to tell me these pictures aren’t real.  I know.  I know.  I know.  Now back to your regularly scheduled griping, already in progress.

No, it isn’t opposite day.

There’s a kernel of truth to this meme, but probably not in the way the meme’s author intended.  I know people who have received food stamps while working in low-paying jobs, and they tell me that yes, food stamps enable one to buy a lot of food they would otherwise be unable to afford.  Contrariwise, in the months during which one’s income is barely above the cut-off to receive government assistance, keeping enough food in the refrigerator to ensure basic survival is a real challenge.

Now one might reasonably argue that a few dollars’ difference each month is not a fair way to determine who gets assistance and who doesn’t, and that’s a debate worth having; however, I don’t think the author was thinking of people living just above the poverty line when he made reference to the “middle class” in America.

Before we proceed, we should review the guidelines by which the government determines who is eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and who isn’t.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, a family of three is eligible for SNAP benefits (which used to be food stamps) if the following conditions are met:

  • The family has less than $2000 in countable resources (including bank accounts but not including the potential value of homes, cars, etc).
  • The family has a net monthly income of less than $1628 (after certain deductions are applied).
  • If there are able-bodied work-capable adults in the household who are currently unemployed, they must register for work and accept suitable employment when the opportunity arises.

It’s hardly a free ride, in other words.  Despite some peoples’ misplaced concerns that government assistance programs encourage sloth, you really have to be in dire straits before you qualify, and the conditions of the assistance are meant to encourage you to improve your situation as quickly as possible.

This meme insinuates that people who don’t work at all are better off than those who work for a middle class salary.  Is that really true, or perhaps more importantly, do people really believe that?  I conducted some informal research (I Googled it) looking for people that had consciously decided to give up gainful employment to suckle the government teat, and who were happier for the trade.

I found lots of people saying they should quit working and live on welfare, but no accounts of people actually having done so.  Aha, you might object, people who actually work for a living are too proud to ask for handouts, no matter how many free benefits they could receive by doing so.  But you know what?  I don’t buy that.  Pride always has its price, and I’ll bet that for a significant portion of the working population, the promise of free food will pay that price.  If people really think that living on government assistance is better than earning a middle class salary, then where are the people making the jump?

I think most people objectively know that living in or near poverty is awful.  Yes, government assistance can help, but it’s not a condition into which most people would willingly put themselves.  People who receive government assistance, particularly in the purchasing of food, do so because they have to, and they stretch their government benefits to the limit by buying low-cost food items.  Yes, the alleged “no job” refrigerator is full, but full of what?  Expensive wines?  No.  Gourmet cheeses?  Hardly.  It’s full of cheap, boxed foods, a ready supply of calories but not much else.

Regarding the “middle class” refrigerator being empty…so what?  Perhaps this person lives alone and rarely buys groceries.  Perhaps this family spends most of its income eating in restaurants.  Maybe the owner of this refrigerator buys groceries for a whole month, and it’s near the end of the month.  Who knows?  We don’t know the circumstances that led to this refrigerator being empty.  The implication that middle class families suffer while SNAP recipients live like kings is unfounded.

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15 thoughts on “Rich Fridge, Poor Fridge

  1. “Regarding the “middle class” refrigerator being empty…so what?”

    The “middle class” fridge is fuller than mine, because I can’t cook at all, everything is in the freezer and cupboards, which I notice they excluded from that picture but not from the “no job” one.

  2. You are really stupid, you know that? The average person on food stamps gets about $29 a week, hardly enough for that big fridge full of food. You believe everything that the right-wing tells you, like the good little sheep you are?

    • Are you addressing me, Shannon, and if so, did you even read my post in which I explained why this meme is so stupid? That’s kind of what I do on this blog, if the title didn’t give you a hint.

      If you weren’t addressing me, would you mind making it clear whom you were addressing?

      • I think the Shannon’s point is that you’re addressing the meme as if it really is a photo of two actual refrigerators, one genuinely belonging to someone who’s out of work, and the other genuinely belonging to someone who’s middle class.

        That’s giving the meme far more legitimacy than it deserves. You can rest assured that whoever created this meme simply did a google image search on “full refrigerator” and “empty refrigerator” with no correlation to the income levels or employment status of their respective owners.

        Even further, the one on the left has clearly been photoshopped to cram in even more labels and box-ends to hammer home the intended point.

        This meme was not an exercise in documentary journalism… It was just some jerk making up utterly dishonest nonsense to generate outrage.

    • I’m not sure where you are getting your number’s from, maybe old numbers, but it’s actually about $42.50, which for a family of four is around $680 a month! I have a family of 5 with both my husband and I working and making over minimum wage, and I don’t even spend that on a monthly basis.

  3. Brad, that wasn’t what Shannon said at all. I really think s/he misunderstood the intent of my post, but since s/he hasn’t returned to clarify, we can only speculate.

    Regarding your point: yes, I realize this meme is probably compiled from images culled from a Google search, but I don’t think I gave it more legitimacy than it deserves. I was really attacking the message of the meme more than the image itself. Apologies if I didn’t make that clear.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and for commenting.

  4. It’s not a freakin’ crystal clear picture of Bigfoot, it’s stock photos of two refrigerators! Just add words! Amazing how many people take it as some sort of photographic evidence.

  5. No actually the pictures are a spot on. I have received food stamps before and the fridge looked like that always. Now that I’m in the middle class tax bracket it stays bare. Not only my house but friends that are also middle class have the same phenomenon happening at there homes. I do also believe since I have to take drug tests to keep my job I believe that persons receiving welfare should also have to take drug tests as well.

  6. I get about $43 a week for both me and my daughter. I would love to have a refridgerator as full as the one in the photo, however, that simply isn’t possible with that amount of money. Moreover, most people I know, myself included, who use food stamps, dont spend them on frivelous things. We buy pantry and fridge staples that can be made into a variety of dishes. Bread, milk, cheese, eggs, flour, cheaper cuts of meat, and fruits and veggies that are on sale. It’s the easiest way to stretch your dollar while trying to stay as healthy as possible. Personally, I shop at stores that have a clearance area for fruits, veggies, and meats and frequently buy those and either freeze or use them as quickly as possible. It’s the only way I manage to feed us both adequately on such a tight budget. Less than $200 a month for two people? That is not living the high life, let me tell you. Especially given that I live in an area where food costs are consistently higher than the national norm. There is a lake on the far side of town, you see, and so they get to price everything with “Resort Pricing”. There isn’t a single resort in this godforsaken place. And there isn’t going to be one, either. There’s just us folks here that are trying to get by. And yes, sometimes we need help.

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