The next time you walk into McDonald’s and shell out your three bucks for a Big Mac, it is worth remembering that the real cost of your “food” is more than that. The person who cooked your burger is getting paid so little that you, the taxpayer, pay $7 billion per year to help fast food employees make ends meet.

A group that advocates for better pay in the fast food industry released a recording yesterday of a phone call between a McDonald’s employee and the company’s worker-assistance hotline that reveals that the $7 billion figure is no accident. McDonald’s wants its employees to rely on federal assistance.

In the recording, posted as a YouTube video (below), an operator with the fast food chain’s “McResources” line tells a struggling employee that she should get on food stamps and Medicaid in order to provide for her family.

Nancy Salgado, a single mother of two in Chicago, makes $8.25 per hour at her McDonald’s job. That’s the exact same wage she got when she was first hired in 2003. Salgado has never received a raise.

Of course, in reality Salgado has received a pay cut. The $8.25 per hour she still earns is now worth only $6.49 when adjusted for inflation over the last decade.

McDonald’s operates its “McResources” line to offer counseling to financially struggling employees, which is most of them. More than half of all fast-food workers’ families receive some sort of public assistance.

And when Salgado called the McResources line, that’s what the woman on the other end of the phone told her to do.

“You can ask about things like food pantries,” the McResources operator told Salgado in the recording released by Low Pay Is Not OK, a fast-food workers advocacy group. “Are you on SNAP? SNAP is supplemental nutritional assistance program — food stamps. Do you have kids?”

Salgado says she has two.

“You would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits,” the operator says. “It’s a federal program. The federal money comes down to the states and the states administer it.” When Salgado asks about getting her kids to a doctor, the operator tells her to apply for Medicaid.

“Medicaid is a federal program,” says the operator. “It’s health coverage for low income or no income adults and children.” The operator also offered to find a phone number Salgado could call to apply for Medicaid assistance.

According to estimates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a single parent of one child would need to earn about $21 per hour just to make ends meet in Chicago.

Salgado was ticketed for trespassing earlier this month when she interrupted a speech by McDonald’s USA President Jeff Stratton to complain about low wages.

“It’s really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day,” Salgado told Stratton. “Do you think this is fair, that I have to be making $8.25 when I have worked for McDonald’s for 10 years?”

“I’ve been there 40 years,” Stratton replied, before Salgado was escorted from the room and ticketed.

A McDonald’s spokesperson later said that Stratton was “caught off-guard” by Salgado.

Sources: International Business Times (2), National Public Radio, YouTube