Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I live with my sister and her kids. My sister works, but she is a single mom and has received food stamp assistance for years. When the government was shut down, she lost that assistance for a while, and now it is happening again. I work part time, and we are all struggling to make ends meet. It is really scary, and we don't know what to do. My sister is not lazy. She works two jobs. I'm not lazy either. I keep looking for a more stable job, but I haven't found one yet. We don't know if we are going to have enough money to put food on the table for the kids. What can we do? -- On the Brink, Queens, N.Y.

DEAR ON THE BRINK: For 47 million people who receive support through the government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), i.e. food stamps, it is true that their benefits are to be reduced -- not eliminated. Nonetheless, it will be tremendously difficult for many families. You make a point that many do not know about SNAP recipients, namely that many of them work. The financial support they are given is supplementary and not intended to be the sole resource for feeding the family.

That said, if this has happened to your family, you will need to get creative with your meals. Buy more rice and beans, as they are filling and stretch to feed more people. Simplify your meals to create hearty options in soups and stews that will be filling and less expensive. Do not resort to affordable fast food. It is not good for your body.

Research food banks through churches, community centers and other outlets that offer free or discounted food for families in need. And definitely write to your members of Congress to complain about your loss and describe how devastating it is.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been trying to develop a project with a group of really interesting women. We all have good intentions, I think, but so far it is not working. There are eight of us in the group, and I suspect that with so many alpha women in the mix, it is impossible to get everyone to listen and take action. After several months of this, I am tired of trying. How do I bow out gracefully? -- Alpha Girl, Chicago

DEAR ALPHA GIRL: If your gut tells you that this project is not working, or at least is not for you, it is time to move on. You should be professional and clear with the others about where you stand and why. Tell them that you respect them and whatever the idea is that you have been developing, but that you believe that the group is unwieldy due to its size. Acknowledge that you do not feel that continuing with the group is a wise use of your time. Thank everyone for their ideas and their passion, and wish them well. This is fine to say to them on a group call. What's more important, though, is to document your exit in writing.