If my refrigerator could talk, it would probably ask me how I am still alive.
My roommate has always been the healthier one. While my shopping cart is usually filled with chips, salsa, a one-pound chocolate bar and some Pasta Sides; hers has soymilk, rice, dried fruit and textured vegetable protein. She goes for organic while I’m reaching for Ben & Jerry’s.
My excuse has always been that healthy food is expensive. It’s much cheaper to buy off-brand macaroni and cheese than fresh fruits and vegetables.
So when I heard about the Michigan Bridge Card, I was intrigued. Here was something that could help me save money, buy more food and eat healthier.
The Michigan Bridge Card is the same thing as Michigan food stamps, except you receive your money on a prepaid card. Bridge Card users are able to buy food; however, they cannot use their card to purchase alcohol. The card is meant to help those who need a little extra money be able to buy decent food for themselves.
I went online to see how much money I could receive from this program, and according to the online Bridge Card calculator, I qualify for $162 a month in government aid. I was more than a little shocked when that number popped up. In a typical month, I spend roughly $50-60 on food for myself. Sometimes I spend a little extra when my roommate and I have friends over for dinner, but even then, I don’t think I’ve ever spent over $100 a month at a grocery store since I moved off-campus a year ago. For the government to give me over three times as much as I would normally spend seems to be over the top. Yeah, I could start buying healthier foods, and I might with the extra money. But more than likely, the cashier would see a few oranges, a bag of carrots and some broccoli mixed in with the Oreos and Totinos pizza rolls I could now afford.
In reality, the Bridge Card would allow me to buy brand name products and way more ice cream than I do right now. Sure, I could use the card, but I don’t need it.
Many Michigan college students are in the same boat as me: They qualify for the Bridge Card, but they don’t absolutely need it to put food in their stomachs. If I really wanted to, I could buy healthy foods and probably find them at a reasonable price somewhere. I just choose not to most of the time because preparing healthy food usually requires a modicum of work instead of throwing something in the microwave for three minutes, which is my method of choice when it comes to cooking.
And though most college students are living under the poverty line, they still manage to somehow scrounge up enough extra money to buy the newest Guitar Hero, or spend $40 every Saturday night getting wasted at the bar down the street.
Show me a college student who is only eating two for 79 cents burritos and Ramen noodles, and that is a college student who needs this card. Show me a college student who in one trip buys a 30-pack of Busch Light with his own cash and in the next spends $162 of my hard-earned tax dollars buying himself prime cuts of steak and that is a college student who is abusing government aid.
The Bridge Card was established as a means for needy people to have the means to buy healthy food for themselves and their families, not for college students who would rather spend their money on a trip to Cancun or an inflatable Corona bottle than healthy food.
I’m not going to lie, I was tempted to go and apply for the Bridge Card myself. I wanted to have an extra $162 in my pocket. Who doesn’t?
But that is $162 I am taking away from a hungry child, or a poor parent. It is money that could be spent on the guy who just got laid off from work, or the woman who fell on some hard times and needs a little help.
The Michigan Bridge Card is a necessity for some people. Without it, there would be no food on their tables. However, it’s a form of government aid that can be easily abused by less than needy students and should be used responsibly by the college crowd.