Tommy Martin, MD – who specialises in both paediatric care and primary care for all ages – frequently shares videos to TikTok about his career and everyday life. In a video shared to his account last month, he responded to a since-deleted video from a woman named Shannon about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program is also known as food stamps, which are vouchers issued by the government to low-income families, with the stamps exchanged for food.
Shannon started off by claiming that the program was “supplemented by [her and Americans’] tax dollars,” before questioning where the “majority of those are being spent on”.
In his response video, Martin addressed the stigma surrounding the government service, while expressing how grateful his family was to have food stamps while he was growing up.
“I can tell you what we spent it on,” he responded. “When I was a child, we did not make much money and we needed help, which we are so grateful for our government being able to give us food stamps to allow us to have food, so we did not starve.”
Martin went on to recall how, throughout his childhood, he walked through the grocery store and “counted up” each item that his mother had in their cart, in order to make sure they had enough food stamps for their purchase.
After adding that he made sure that he and his mother didn’t run out of food stamps, he also described how other people would scrutinise his family for using the governmental program.
“Not only that, I also remember walking around the store until the people who would always give us dirty looks about using food stamps left the grocery store, so we wouldn’t have to check out in front of them,” he said.
Martin acknowledged that his food stamp cards bought him “all of his necessities,” ranging from “proteins, carbohydrates, and vegetables”. He also added that his family “did get snacks as well” with the food stamps.
He continued his video by playing Shannon’s initial clip again, in which she claimed that people were spending “10 per cent of SNAP card money” on foods with high-fructose corn syrup in them, like soda. She then alleged that “70 per cent” of that money was being spent on high-processed foods.
In response, Martin pointed out that Shannon didn’t share any data to back up her claims, before criticising her for sharing false data, which he said created more misconceptions about people who use food stamps.
“You are falsifying data to make your point, and stigmatising an already extremely vulnerable group,” he said. “You would be one of the people that made us walk around the grocery store for hours until no one in the grocery store would judge us for checking out with food stamps.”
Martin concluded his comments by giving some advice to people who might need food stamps, reassuring them that they’re “not alone”.
“Know that it’s okay to need help, and I was in your shows as well,” he said. “Do not let people like this make you feel bad for needing additional help and for using governmental services that could help you have the necessities that you need to actually live day to day.”
Martin’s video has quickly gone viral on TikTok, where it has amassed more than 293,000 views. In the comments, many people expressed how they could relate to Martin’s upbringing, noting that their families also used food stamps throughout their childhoods.
“We were on food stamps most of my childhood. I’m so thankful that was an option,” one wrote.
“We adopted our daughter out of the foster care system and were required to use WIC and SNAP,” another wrote, referring to the The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children that “serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women” and their children, as noted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). “It’s incredible how judgmental people can be.”
A third wrote: “I grew up on food stamps. I remember the mean looks from people. I’m a teacher now. I always have snacks for my students that need or want them.
The Independent has contacted Martin for comment.
In another response to Shannon’s video, a TikTok user named Liam, who goes by the username theplantslant, shared a study from the USDA about what food stamps are actually spent on.
In the study, the organisation found that about 40 cents of “every dollar of food expenditures by SNAP households were spent on basic items such as meat, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, and bread”.
“Another 20 cents out of every dollar was spent on sweetened beverages, desserts, salty snacks, candy and sugar,” the study continued. “The remaining 40 cents were spent on a variety of items such as cereal, prepared foods, dairy products, rice, and beans.”