Wednesday, February 14, 2018

 

What people buy with "food stamps"


First, I need to say this: I think that the government should spend much more money to feed the hungry, here and in other places. And, yes, there is food insecurity for a lot of people in the United States, many of them children and the elderly.

How we do that is a fair question. I don't quite understand the Trump administration's proposal to just give out boxes of food ("like Blue Apron"), and I'm not sure that they do either. It sounds like it would be an administrative nightmare, and one that would not meet the varying needs of the many people who are in need of food assistance.

An article at Yahoo News yesterday described the top ten items purchased through the program that used to be known as "food stamps" (and is now called SNAP):

1.   Soda
2.   Milk
3.   Ground beef
4.   Bagged snacks (ie, chips and pretzels)
5.   Cheese
6.   Bread (which, oddly, is described as "baked bread"-- what other kid is there?)
7.   Cereal
8.   Fresh chicken
9.   Frozen snacks (ie, Hot Pockets)
10. Lunch meat

Generally, this tracks what non-SNAP buyers choose; for example, soda and milk are the top two purchases for non-SNAP buyers, though the order is reversed. I suspect that a lot of Americans would support taking soda and chips off the list of available items, but Coke and Lays are a powerful countervailing political force (and others will argue that SNAP recipients should have the same choices as everyone else).



Comments:
Honestly if you exchanged Soda for Fruit & Veggies that list doesn't look to bad. You can't have kids and not have some snacks or easy microwavable food available in the home. The people who use these cards know the rules. If you see someone using them at the grocery they generally have their order divided into two; one with covered items and one with the items not covered.

The whole Blue Apron concept makes me sick. Where would it be delivered? I can just picture home delivery of non-perishables being stolen from door fronts. Stigmatize people more by making them come to a warehouse to pick up their box? Local 'box' distribution centers? What a nightmare. Drop food into a community by air and let them fight over it like refuges? How dehumanizing...

I donate to a program through a grocery coop that sends kids in need home with some healthy food on weekends and somehow helps ensure some healthy food during the summer when not in school. There are so many children that rely on school lunches (meals) to receive enough to eat and some modicum of nutrition.

It is hard to understand the struggle when one doesn't have first hand experience. Thankfully I have always been well fed.

 
Wow -- I hadn't heard about this. This proposal is incredibly insulting to folks who receive food stamps. Poor people are unable to pick out their own food? And isn't this the same Republican party who constantly criticized Michelle Obama for simply suggesting (rather than forcing) healthy food choices? I also agree with you and Christine that this proposal is an administrative nightmare. There are so many bad assumptions in this proposal that I'm really at a loss for words.

By the way, best documentary I've seen on hunger in the U.S. -- A Place at the Table.
 
Why is it insulting to remove soda and snacks from the list? We already forbid cigarets and booze. Replacing them with fruit and veggies seems a no brainer! Soda and most packaged snacks and pop tart like so-called food are not good for children or adults. Maybe 'forcing' the choice of healthier food instead of junk would lead to healthy choices even after leaving the program. Childhood and adult obesity are epidemic - why not use this program to help with this as well?

Lee
 
I don't object to seeing soda removed from the list. Soda companies would not necessarily lose. Have you looked at their list of beverage products lately. As for forcing better, healthier choices... just remember the backlash Michelle Obama received for suggesting that school lunches be healthier. Parents made more of a stink about it than the kids. If a kid is hungry they will eat.

Also, what about people with food allergies - peanuts, gluten, whatever, how does such a program make appropriate accommodations. A friend of mine is diabetic; her triggers are rice, beans and carbohydrate laden foods. Foods that many consider to be staples.
 
Yes, I lean toward the side that says SNAP recipients should have the same choices as everyone else. Saying that people who've fallen on hard times should be further restricted (and assuming that they all have health problems, and assuming that they will never get off of SNAP) is unnecessarily punitive to people who, I'd bet, are not in that situation willingly.

I understand the argument, but it's like saying adult Medicaid recipients have to work--another Trump plan. It's akin to the arguments made by people in developing countries who are told by the West that they in the poorer economies can't use cheaper fossil fuels while they grow (although Europe and North America did).

I could go on for a long time about this, our country's punitive attitude to anyone who can't pull herself up by her bootstraps and get a traditional job. The financial system is nothing but punitive to people who start falling into financial trouble. Can't pay your mortgage? Let's wreck your credit! Let's take your house! Start racking up credit-card bills? Let's increase your interest rate while you get back on your feet, not decrease it!

Rant over for now.
 
Sorry, I got that last analogy backwards: Saying SNAP recipients can't use their benefits to buy soda and snacks is like the developed world telling poor countries they can't use fossil fuels because it's bad for the environment. Not exactly the same, but close enough. To me, in both cases the entity in power would be better off helping the entity in trouble, instead of the hypocrisy of dictating behavior.
 
When you don't much money to spend, soda provides cheap, quick calories.
 
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