Is Stealing Food For Your Family Okay?

woman-shoplifting-001

No fluffy introduction here, I’m getting right to the point, because I really want your opinion this time.  If you had children, was out of work on disability but not receiving enough money to pay for all the necessities of life, would you steal food for your children?

I ran into a story of a women who was arrested for stealing food.  Instead of having the book thrown at her, there has been an “outpouring of love and food” – at least temporarily – from the community.  I’d like you to read the story and then put yourself in her shoes.

And then put yourself into the place of a small business owner, struggling with your business where someone comes in to steal.  What about that owner’s perspective.

Is it ever okay to steal? Is stealing food any different from stealing money out of the cash register?  What punishment, if any is appropriate? You decide.

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64 Responses to Is Stealing Food For Your Family Okay?

  1. Money Beagle says:

    No it’s not OK. What if someone had to close their doors because people started stealing for these reasons? It puts store owners and workers in the same position and simply transfers and extends the problems. There are churches, foundations, charities, and such that are out there that can ensure that children and families don’t go hungry.

    • ITS OK! says:

      for any dumbass here who has a nice steady job GTFO you dont know shit about poor people needing food striving to live. you fuckers are prolly the reason were homeless or hungry! yes stealing is positively 100% OK if you have no other means of obtaining food to stay ALIVE! churches, charities cant feed everyone forever there are times when you have to stoop low enough to steal from a HUGE store like walmart or someone that can manage with a few SMALL food thefts. because society seems to grant a stupid way of not allowing anyone to sleep whereever, hunt wherever, etc like the old days now you are required to be a part of this shitty ass society to be a slave for you dumbass rich folks

  2. Michelle says:

    I don’t think it’s ever ok. You’re just taking money from other people.

    • Ray says:

      Yeah but in many cases, you’re taking money from people that need the food and money less than you- such as Walmart. Sure, if you steal in large doses at a time, but stealing a loaf of bread to keep your children alive should be something that should be done, as a last resort. If you’ve looked for jobs and spent your time trying to raise money yet failed, what are you supposed to do… let your child starve to death? Even though the government is trying to prevent this issue from happening by supplying more jobs and such, they should be responsible for the people stealing- as it is “their” people that are stealing

    • kathy says:

      if the supermarkets stopped throwing away and wasting edible food, there would be alot fewer hungry or undernourished people. some of the stores do donate to food banks, but many throw it in the dumpster instead of making it available to those who need it but can’t buy it.

  3. James says:

    You’ll go hungry for two days. On the third you’ll steal, on the forth you’ll kill.

    • Alex Aguilar says:

      Totally agree with James here – stealing food is inevitable if your only other choice is to starve or watch your children go hungry. Food should be a universal human right, regardless of one’s ability to pay for it.

  4. The book/play/movie Les Miserables was based on this very subject. It was 18th century France. People were ACTUALLY starving then. The main character stole bread to feed his family and then went to prison for 19 years.

    It is hard not to feel compassion for people in tough situations, however, in America, ther eis no excuse for this type of behavior. If you are not working, there are food stamps. If you do not qualify for food stamps but still do not have enough money for food, there are always churches and community organizations willing to help.

    While the story you mention is unfortunate, there are still things we don’t know. Does she smoke? Drink? This may sound cynical, but I have seen “starving” people who will spend their last $5 on cigarettes and steal food because they cannot steal the cigarettes.

    Forgive me if I sound jaded, but stealing anything is a decision that has consequences, regardless of the reason.

  5. No, it’s not OK. It’s just a band aid and you’ll be caught eventually. It’s better to try to find a sustainable solution. Hope she can find an alternative.

  6. krantcents says:

    I don’t think it is ever okay to steal, but I think people feel sympathy for people who find themselves in this situation. I think there are enough programs to help people who are desperate. There are food banks, churches and non profits that will help out.

  7. No, I don’t believe that anyone should steal. I believe there is enough support and outlets in communities that will in fact help families or individuals in need. When we steal from anyone you are just passing the loss on to the next guy. You may not see it as big but if everyone started doing it even the little guy will be closing their doors. Seek help and you will find it. There is always an alternative.

  8. In California it is actually not a crime to steal less than $25 worth of food. It doesn’t mean you won’t get kicked out of the store if they catch you – or if you continually do it and rack up a huge bill they won’t pin it to you, but in general, you can take and eat food and not be punished for it.

  9. Melissa says:

    I’m surprised to find I’m in the minority here, but I voted yes. Sometimes it’s OK.

    I mean, it’s never *OK* to steal, but you do what you have to do to survive. If you and your family are literally starving, and you have exhausted all food stamps/welfare/food bank options, and your only choice is to steal some bread and PB&J from the local grocery store? Well, I can’t begrudge someone doing what they need to do to survive. It’s a different story.

    Is it OK to kill someone? No, of course not. If it OK to kill someone who’s attacked you, in an act of self-defense? That’s a different story.

    Honestly, I’m more concerned with the fact that someone in a civilized society would HAVE to steal food to survive, than that the person did it in the first place. Where are the programs to make sure this doesn’t happen?

  10. Libs says:

    No, it is not okay to steal….ever. If she had exhausted all of her other options, she should talk to the store manager BEFORE just taking what doesn’t belong to her. Maybe she could have swept the floor or washed the windows or done some sort of WORK for the food. I think the store owner would have appreciated that more and may have even given her what she needed if she had shown that she was an honest yet desperate person.

    • The author of the post ALREADY said that the fictional character exhausted all options.

      You cannot enter the debate by calling the author of the post a liar.

      So you are saying that you would just lay down on the ground and die rather than steal? I respect your morals, but doubt your ability to make that call.

      Hungry people will do desperate things. They will KILL each other for food. Do you think they have any qualms about taking a loaf of bread?

  11. Wow.

    Am I the only one who is going to say YES! (besides Melissa)

    I think the question was framed in a way that posits you AREN’T getting enough resources. It wasn’t: if the choice was stealing or a food bank, would you steal. Of course no one would do that.

    If it came down to feeding my kids, I’d steal EVERY DAY to do that. I don’t get how people would admit to letting their family starve.

    I would guess that most people saying No would sing a different tune with an empty belly and some crying kids who can’t sleep at night from blinding hunger.

    Just don’t get how people are afraid of confronting their own humanity.

    If you are hungry, of course you are going to eat.

    I guess some people would just lay down and die.

    I won’t.

  12. Debbie says:

    I voted yes. When I was younger, my parents were extremely neglectful. I am not proud, but I did steal to eat. It wasn’t often that I could, and for just the couple of times I did, there were many weeks I went hungry. The majority of time, school lunches were all I ate. I can’t describe what that hunger is like. We did not have churches and food pantries back then.
    Another point is, that not every place has churches and food pantries. I do know in my town, you can only go every 3 months. That is it.
    I have done everything in my power to make sure my family has to never go through that.
    I am not going to judge someone that is in that position. Until you have been in their shoes, you shouldn’t either.

  13. I said yes also. In theory, I would like to say NO never shoplift, never steal from anyone because you don’t know their situation – maybe by stealing from them, you’re making it harder for them to feed their kids.

    On the other hand, if I were ever in that position where I was watching my kids go hungry and I had nowhere to turn, I can’t say that I wouldn’t do the same. I hope it’ll never come to that and there will always be community help but if there isn’t…desperation makes you do things you never dreamed you would do.

  14. Christa says:

    I also agree with Melissa and John. It is okay to steal in extreme circumstances, once all options are exhausted.

    In this case, though, there is one non-traditional form of assistance that the mother didn’t try: asking a grocery store for dented foods, old bread, and soon-to-expire dairy foods. The stores take losses on these foods and will often sell them really cheap to get something, but if she were to ask, many managers would give her all of the food for free.

  15. Charlotte @ thinkingreenhelps says:

    In America, it is never okay to steal and people know the consequences for stealing vary. The community is rich with resources may it be big or small. There is social services out there that provides food and other assistance to those in need. It’s a matter of reaching out to these services.

  16. Cindy Brick says:

    I really feel there’s more to this story than ‘poor woman steals to feed her kids…’ and that ‘more’ will not reflect as nicely as her as the facts we’re given in the article. There were other things she could have done — and they wouldn’t have been nearly as humiliating, at least in my mind, as getting caught stealing. The comment just before mine has some especially good ideas.

    These ‘what-if’ stories are hard…but once again, I don’t think we’re hearing everything. And you can stretch this to other ethical areas… like the misguided souls who are so worried about bullying that they *almost* get to the point of saying it’s ok to shoot your tormentors!

    http://cindybrick.blogspot.com/2012/02/bullies-and-other-evils-what-to-do.html

    • If you think there is more to the story it’s because you are choosing to insert your own moral feelings into it. This is a cognitive bias.

      The author of the post laid it out pretty clearly. She did not intend this to be a debate over food pantry vs. stealing.

      We MUST assume for the sake of the question that the person in the story has exhausted all other means.

      If you cannot answer the question within the framework it was asked, then I don’t know what to say. That is disrespectful to the person who asked the question.

      You are also passing judgement on a FICTIONAL character! It scares me that so many people are so quick to judge that they will judge people who don’t even exist.

      You are also reframing the debate to uphold your own personal opinions. This is a diversionary tactic, and I think it’s important to steer everyone in this thread back to the question that was asked.

      • Nick says:

        when I was 17 until I was 19 I stole food because I had no money and no house. I was kicked out of my house at 17 and was never told about food stamps or any of that good stuff. When I gained access to a job and found out about food stamps I didnt need to steal anymore cuz i wasnt hungry. I realize that if u need food u need food. but i also have to explain when i apply for jobs why i have a petty theft on my record. Its a painful memory for anyone who can come out of being homeless and hungry. dont judge if u dont know what its like. it kills some people and makes others stronger if they can last.

        • Nick says:

          and also u can tell whos experienced this and who hasnt cuz if uve experienced it then u dont have to ask, “what would u feel like? or what would u do?” u already kno its not a joke and society is not playin. cuz wen u cant live healthy/normally just because u dont have dollars or access to food, u go into survival mode. im still tryna snap out of survival mode to this day and me and my family eat well.

  17. Cindy Brick says:

    I really feel there’s more to this story than ‘poor woman steals to feed her kids…’ and that ‘more’ will not reflect as nicely as her as the facts we’re given in the article. There were other things she could have done — and they wouldn’t have been nearly as humiliating, at least in my mind, as getting caught stealing. The comment just before mine has some especially good ideas.

    These ‘what-if’ stories are hard…but once again, I don’t think we’re hearing everything. And you can stretch this to other ethical areas… like the misguided souls who are so worried about bullying that they *almost* get to the point of saying it’s ok to shoot your tormentors!

    http://cindybrick.blogspot.com/2012/02/bullies-and-other-evils-what-to-do.html

  18. Sandy says:

    Hi guys,

    My purpose here was to get you to think of YOURSELF in this situation. What would you do, and do you think that it is morally okay? I didn’t mean for you to read more into the particular woman’s story or whether she had explored all of her option, that’s an entirely different situation.

    If YOU were hungry what would YOU do?

  19. Sandy says:

    Hi guys,

    My purpose here was to get you to think of YOURSELF in this situation. What would you do, and do you think that it is morally okay? I didn’t mean for you to read more into the particular woman’s story or whether she had explored all of her option, that’s an entirely different situation.

    If YOU were hungry what would YOU do?

  20. I’d like to see the results of that survey! I don’t think stealing food is EVER okay. There’s always other ways to get food if need be, but not only is stealing downright wrong, but it’s setting a horrible example for your children. No excuses.
    I would utilize food banks and soup kitchens, grow food in my own garden, turn to family and friends etc. There’s just so many options.

    Disability (or welfare) DOES pay money. Maybe not much – but bags of dried beans and rice don’t cost much either. You can ALWAYS live within your means.

  21. I’d like to see the results of that survey! I don’t think stealing food is EVER okay. There’s always other ways to get food if need be, but not only is stealing downright wrong, but it’s setting a horrible example for your children. No excuses.
    I would utilize food banks and soup kitchens, grow food in my own garden, turn to family and friends etc. There’s just so many options.

    Disability (or welfare) DOES pay money. Maybe not much – but bags of dried beans and rice don’t cost much either. You can ALWAYS live within your means.

  22. I’m with Melissa here and agree that while this issue may be black and white and stealing is never ok, i believe everybody will do whatever it takes to help their family survive. and if there was some huge disaster and my family was starving, you can bet your butt I would be stealing whatever it took to keep my family alive.

  23. I’m with Melissa here and agree that while this issue may be black and white and stealing is never ok, i believe everybody will do whatever it takes to help their family survive. and if there was some huge disaster and my family was starving, you can bet your butt I would be stealing whatever it took to keep my family alive.

  24. Donny Gamble says:

    I don’t think that you should ever steal food from anyone because someone might return the favor back to you.

  25. Donny Gamble says:

    I don’t think that you should ever steal food from anyone because someone might return the favor back to you.

  26. No, not under any condition. It’s a slippery slope and once an illegal behavior that harms others is justified under one excuse, then all excuses apply. It’s wrong, end of story.

  27. No, not under any condition. It’s a slippery slope and once an illegal behavior that harms others is justified under one excuse, then all excuses apply. It’s wrong, end of story.

  28. Miiockm says:

    Considering how desperate you would have to be to steal food, I find it amazing that people come out so harshly against the theft. You think standing by your principles is more important than having a little humanity.

  29. Miiockm says:

    Considering how desperate you would have to be to steal food, I find it amazing that people come out so harshly against the theft. You think standing by your principles is more important than having a little humanity.

  30. Anna @ Good Cents Savings says:

    I also voted yes – in an extreme circumstance I believe that while it might not be “ok” – it’s also not “ok” to sit by and not exhaust ever possibility to feed your children. I recently read City of Thieves by David Benioff (highly recommend!) about WWII Leningrad and can’t even imagine what it would be like to try to raise a child under those conditions.

    BUT – in the US we have so many legal channels you can go through when you aren’t able to make ends meet. I can’t say I can come close to understanding what it would be like to walk in this woman’s shoes, but I feel that through food stamps, welfare, churches and other charities, shelters, etc, it should always be possible for parents to keep their children fed.

  31. Anna @ Good Cents Savings says:

    I also voted yes – in an extreme circumstance I believe that while it might not be “ok” – it’s also not “ok” to sit by and not exhaust ever possibility to feed your children. I recently read City of Thieves by David Benioff (highly recommend!) about WWII Leningrad and can’t even imagine what it would be like to try to raise a child under those conditions.

    BUT – in the US we have so many legal channels you can go through when you aren’t able to make ends meet. I can’t say I can come close to understanding what it would be like to walk in this woman’s shoes, but I feel that through food stamps, welfare, churches and other charities, shelters, etc, it should always be possible for parents to keep their children fed.

  32. No. It’s not okay. I don’t live in the USA, but aren’t there places where people can get food for free? In Barbados we have organisations that provide breakfast for some children on mornings; and a snack abd lunch is provided by School Meals for about $2 per week per child.

  33. No. It’s not okay. I don’t live in the USA, but aren’t there places where people can get food for free? In Barbados we have organisations that provide breakfast for some children on mornings; and a snack abd lunch is provided by School Meals for about $2 per week per child.

  34. Like most situations in life, this is not as black and white as many would make it out to be. I certainly agree that stealing is wrong but I’m telling you now there is nothing that I wouldn’t do to protect my kids. If they were starving and I had no other options, damn right I’d make sure they got some food. I wouldn’t be proud of it, but out of desperation I think anyone would do the same. Anyone who says they would let their kids starve rather than steal a loaf of bread isn’t being honest with themselves.

  35. No, stealing food is not okay. In the U.S. there are plenty of resources she can utilize. First, she had her church. There are also government services available. There are charity organizations as well. It may just be that she is not fully aware of her options, but people need to seek out other methods. Stealing is not an option in this case.

  36. No, stealing food is not okay. In the U.S. there are plenty of resources she can utilize. First, she had her church. There are also government services available. There are charity organizations as well. It may just be that she is not fully aware of her options, but people need to seek out other methods. Stealing is not an option in this case.

  37. Brendan B says:

    In most cases stealing food in my opinion is wrong. I feel that it is not ethical to make others take a toll for your own benefit but it kind of depends on where your stealing from. If you were to steal from a mom and pop grocery store, struggling to make ends meat on the limited supply that the have to stock their shelves, then why make them suffer as well? Why not just go to Cosco or some other massive big box store and take some free samples, or steal from them because with the massive supply and stealing some food does not hurt them at all financially. In most places there are soup kitchens and other places where you can get discounted dinner or free dinner which is what many unemployed and struggling people have to do. There is no reason why this lady couldn’t have gone to her church, a charity organization or even the government if she was in such a desperate state. Bottom line, there are other more ethical options than stealing and it should be used as a last resort type option.

    • Sandy says:

      If you think that stealing, even a little, doesn’t hurt large store financially, I can tell you that you are wrong. We all pay the price for a little theft. Merchants just simply raise the price on everything to make up the difference. sure, food prices go up every year, but they also go up because of theft as well. But as you say, do you just sit by and watch your family starve? It’s a hard choice.

  38. Brendan B says:

    In most cases stealing food in my opinion is wrong. I feel that it is not ethical to make others take a toll for your own benefit but it kind of depends on where your stealing from. If you were to steal from a mom and pop grocery store, struggling to make ends meat on the limited supply that the have to stock their shelves, then why make them suffer as well? Why not just go to Cosco or some other massive big box store and take some free samples, or steal from them because with the massive supply and stealing some food does not hurt them at all financially. In most places there are soup kitchens and other places where you can get discounted dinner or free dinner which is what many unemployed and struggling people have to do. There is no reason why this lady couldn’t have gone to her church, a charity organization or even the government if she was in such a desperate state. Bottom line, there are other more ethical options than stealing and it should be used as a last resort type option.

    • Sandy says:

      If you think that stealing, even a little, doesn’t hurt large store financially, I can tell you that you are wrong. We all pay the price for a little theft. Merchants just simply raise the price on everything to make up the difference. sure, food prices go up every year, but they also go up because of theft as well. But as you say, do you just sit by and watch your family starve? It’s a hard choice.

  39. Alice says:

    humans have moral behaviour because it helps them survive. As in, it’s an instinct nearly everyone feels because such instincts help social dynamics and thus overall survival, this is why people will try and justify any action they take post event.

    Stealing is one of these behaviours… I recognise that my moral state is nothing more than this.
    Thus I do, and I also have no problem with stealing food when hungry.

  40. Lizzie says:

    I voted no. It’s not okay to steal, but desperate times call for desperate measures. My elderly mother and I are literally starving right now. We haven’t eaten in three days despite the food we received from our food bank. They expected us to eat rotten fruit and out of date products that you wouldn’t dare eat. Would you eat stale bread and expired moldy bread? Moldy tomatoes? Moldy strawberries? Smelly moldy fruit salads? I bet not. This is what I had to bring for my mother and I. I threw away most of it. As for the lady who said we can just eat beans and rice, how much can you eat? Are you diabetic, if you are, you can’t eat the rice. Beans? You’ll get tired of them in no time especially when you have to eat them every single day for a whole month.

    You think that soup kitchens and food banks keep people from starving. They don’t. They give you very little food to live off of and you can only go there every 30 days for your daily ration. My soup kitchen’s open once a week in the afternoons. We’re also both on disability and are struggling with excessive hunger. I can’t even tell when I’m thirsty anymore because of the hunger, so I’m on the road to starvation now.

    • Sandy says:

      Lizzie,

      Are you able to apply for SNAP? I know that it’s not much but perhaps it can help somewhat with what you also get from the food bank. Food banks are bursting at the seams with people needing help these days and what they get to distribute is not always pretty. Hunger is a growing problem and I’m afraid it will get worse since food prices are set to rise soon from low corn yields. I had an applicant for my apartment who worked at Taco Bell only because he could get free meals. It’s a touch situation. I wish you the very best.

  41. Lizzie says:

    I voted no. It’s not okay to steal, but desperate times call for desperate measures. My elderly mother and I are literally starving right now. We haven’t eaten in three days despite the food we received from our food bank. They expected us to eat rotten fruit and out of date products that you wouldn’t dare eat. Would you eat stale bread and expired moldy bread? Moldy tomatoes? Moldy strawberries? Smelly moldy fruit salads? I bet not. This is what I had to bring for my mother and I. I threw away most of it. As for the lady who said we can just eat beans and rice, how much can you eat? Are you diabetic, if you are, you can’t eat the rice. Beans? You’ll get tired of them in no time especially when you have to eat them every single day for a whole month.

    You think that soup kitchens and food banks keep people from starving. They don’t. They give you very little food to live off of and you can only go there every 30 days for your daily ration. My soup kitchen’s open once a week in the afternoons. We’re also both on disability and are struggling with excessive hunger. I can’t even tell when I’m thirsty anymore because of the hunger, so I’m on the road to starvation now.

  42. Joslyn says:

    Yes, i would steal food in a heartbeat. To all of you that said no “suck my fat nuts” You don’t know what it is to wake up so hungry you can’t go back to sleep to subside the pains. To go days and even weeks at a time with no food. Food pantries and churches are the greediest, most stingiest places i know to go for food. I bet most of you who said no have plenty of money to splurge on food, don’t you? I bet most of you don’t even have hungry mouths that depend on you to feed them either, do you? You will never know what a day for a poor person is like NEVER. I hope you feel the wrath of hunger pangs one day and wake up to the cruelty of giant corporations who make mega-millions and hoard majority of food that grows freely on the land behind a price sticker. Don’t judge the next person for what they may have to do to make it in this life because one day it could be your turn.

  43. Not having other options says:

    This is something that I am thinking about myself. I live in a 3rd world country in Asia and there are no food banks or soup kitchens as some people wrote. There are no resources like that or food stamps. Many employers refuse to pay wages and the police do not care. My last few jobs refused to pay my wages. I am running out of food and am considering this as an option although I’m not proud. I talked to a few “elders” at a church I was attending, but they told me that they could easily help me with the amount of money they have, but that I will be stronger if I endure suffering, so they will not help me.

  44. The author of the post ALREADY said that the fictional character exhausted all options.

    You cannot enter the debate by calling the author of the post a liar.

    So you are saying that you would just lay down on the ground and die rather than steal? I respect your morals, but doubt your ability to make that call.

    Hungry people will do desperate things. They will KILL each other for food. Do you think they have any qualms about taking a loaf of bread?

  45. Ray says:

    Yeah but in many cases, you’re taking money from people that need the food and money less than you- such as Walmart. Sure, if you steal in large doses at a time, but stealing a loaf of bread to keep your children alive should be something that should be done, as a last resort. If you’ve looked for jobs and spent your time trying to raise money yet failed, what are you supposed to do… let your child starve to death? Even though the government is trying to prevent this issue from happening by supplying more jobs and such, they should be responsible for the people stealing- as it is “their” people that are stealing

  46. kathy says:

    if the supermarkets stopped throwing away and wasting edible food, there would be alot fewer hungry or undernourished people. some of the stores do donate to food banks, but many throw it in the dumpster instead of making it available to those who need it but can’t buy it.

  47. Alex Aguilar says:

    Totally agree with James here – stealing food is inevitable if your only other choice is to starve or watch your children go hungry. Food should be a universal human right, regardless of one’s ability to pay for it.

  48. ITS OK! says:

    tell that to the starving children 2 blocks away, a warning bag sealed would not make them responsible

  49. Nick says:

    and also u can tell whos experienced this and who hasnt cuz if uve experienced it then u dont have to ask, “what would u feel like? or what would u do?” u already kno its not a joke and society is not playin. cuz wen u cant live healthy/normally just because u dont have dollars or access to food, u go into survival mode. im still tryna snap out of survival mode to this day and me and my family eat well.

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