Norma Rose’s Story
“I never used to worry about taking care of myself. With prices the way they are, my $20 in food stamps doesn't buy much food.”

Norma Rose, Montana

I never used to worry about taking care of myself because I grew up in England during the Hitler regime and we had to ration everything – petrol, clothes, food. But I am 78 years old now, and my Social Security has only gone up $250 in 17 years. Yet the milk is more, the gas is more, the bread is more. That’s ridiculous.

I was born in Derbyshire, the middle of England. I came here in my late 20s to work as a nanny for a U.S. military family. Before that, I worked as a professional hoofer – dancing my way through Europe. I’m widowed once, divorced once and heartbroken forever over the death three years ago of the grandson I raised. I am rich with friends, but my savings is gone. The only thing I have of value is a topaz ring a dear friend gave me. I get a $60 a month pension from England and $870 a month in Social Security. On a fixed income of $930 a month, I can’t afford to get my teeth fixed or repair my1989 Buick, which is my independence. I won’t live out of my son’s pocket to have more. I couldn’t do that. I had to move into government-subsidized housing and go on food stamps. I’ve gotten my utility costs reduced through a low-income residents’ program, but that only helps a bit.

Most of my friends don’t even know what I’m going through. I don’t want them to. When food stamps were actual stamps and not a plastic card, I would go to the store at 11 o’clock at night or six in the morning when nobody was there because was I so embarrassed. Getting food stamps on the card makes it a little nicer. It’s just pride, I guess.

With arthritis and my gall bladder removed, it is very important at my age to eat healthy. But with the wheat bread costing $3-4, my $20 in food stamps doesn’t buy much food. If I wasn’t able to get food from the Livingston Food Pantry, I’d have to pitch a tent out in the valley and live off of cold cheese sandwiches and rice. I don’t like everything I get from the food pantry, but I find a way to use it. I’m not crazy about ramen noodles, but you can make a good salad out of ramen noodles. I don’t really like canned chicken, but I’ll make soup out of it and tell myself it’s tuna because I like fish.

Even though I’ve lived and worked in America most of my life, people here still consider me English. Someone once said to me, “Oh, your Queen keeps you poor and takes all your money.”  I said, “Really? Well, we always had bread and butter in England. In America, not everybody even has even that.” I hope the people up on Capitol Hill will take better care of the children and elderly and not make them choose between medication and food. Let’s keep them healthy.