What Would a Million Dollars Worth of Tampons Look Like?

The Prompt: If you found one million dollars in the morning and had to spend it by nightfall, what would you do with the money?

This is not a big challenge.

1. I’d pay off my outstanding debts – I guess I’d have to use online banking. Hmmm.I wonder if there’s a contingency for paying but the  money not being removed from the bank by nightfall?

2. Here’s the boring part – I’d take all the rest and immediately invest in some sort of retirement account.

So let’s change the rules –  what would I do if I had to literally spend it, not invest it?

I would buy a few items for myself – a new laptop, some clothing, etc. I would buy us a new car to share or maybe a gently used car, a Subaru Forester which is Ledcat’s dream car for our little household.

Now there’s a temptation to do the “Anonymous $100 giveaway” to help random strangers, but I would not do that. I’m too much a believer in systemic investment so I would literally donate to a few key organizations that I support. Actually, I might go to the Pittsburgh Foundation and invest through them. That is not exciting blog fodder either.

So let’s go a different direction

On Friday, recipients of SNAP – food stamps – will begin losing benefits because of program changes. The family of four will lose about $36 a month. The total slash is around $5 billion. There’s a big automatic cut scheduled for Nov. 1, as a temporary boost from the 2009 stimulus bill expires.

Feeding America image of what a $36 cut looks like.
Feeding America image of what a $36 cut looks like.

More cuts could come as Congress continues to target the working poor, the disabled and senior citizens as well as children instead of corporate excess.

A few things to note

  • Most people on SNAP are already using food pantries and other food programs like free school meals. So there are simply not many places to go to replace that $36 hit.
  • Many SNAP recipients are on fixed incomes or underemployed so options to bring in a little more cash each month are very very limited.
  • 1 in 7 Pennsylvania residents are hungry, even with SNAP and food pantries. They don’t have regular access to the nutritious food necessary to grow and develop.
  • Obviously, they have to replace some of the food – rob Peter to pay Paul. So where does it come from? Late payments on utility bills resulting in late fees. Missing work to save gas money. Kids not participating in progams and activities because of fees. Or it doesn’t. Adults and older children go hungry. Sometimes neighbors and teachers and coworkers help.

$1 million won’t help with a $5 billion slash. But a food bank, like Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, can multiple my donation by 5 – I give $10, they get $50 worth of food. So you can best help my making a cash donation to your local food bank or food pantry and lettting them shop. You can also organize a food drive. You can volunteer for school programs and soup kitchens.

You can donate food to the GLCC – my current project – to help feed homeless and neglected youth & young adults.

So rather than distribute money directly to people, if I were being extravagant and trying to make a point, I would spend $1 million on tampons, pads, toilet paper, diapers, kleenex, dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo, toothpaste and the like. I would then have it all deliver to the offices of US Senator Pat Toomey for distribution and I would challenge each of you to do the same. Nothing wasted, no art or displays – each items into the hands of a family in need, from the hands of their government and supported by the public.

But  I also want to break free of this mythology of the charitable stranger. Some of you reading this are rolling your eyes about those damn SNAP/food stamp frauds which is as far from charity as you get. (or charitable.) The moment of kindness between two strangers is precious, but its not a substitute for a safety net that takes cares of all citizens in their hour of need.


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  • I also did the challenge question and I had many of the same problems you did: investing, saving, paying loans/debt, giving to the poor…

    I think your post had a great lead-in to encourage people to donate!

  • Found you through Blogher nablomosopososfn(bunch of letters I never remember) challenge

    Great suggestion. We do a lot with the food bank and a program called Backpack for kids. So glad to see someone else understands the needs!

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