Friday, October 8, 2010

Food Stamps

I tried to get on a radio show today.  I didn't get on, but I still have to tell someone what I think; I'm telling my only audience.

The radio program was discussing the statistic that only 1/3 of people in the United States eat at least two servings of fruit every day.  The number for vegetables is much more abysmal:  26% eat three or more servings every day.  This number has virtually not changed in the last thirty years.  They (Science Friday on NPR) were discussing why people aren't eating more fruits and vegetables and trying to come up with ways to encourage healthy eating.  They brought up many good and interesting points, but one idea they neglected completely.  And I would like to address it.

According to Reuters, 37.9 Million Americans receive food stamps.  That is one in eight people.  While I do appreciate that the government steps in when people are in a real bind, food stamps are abused and the program guidelines are broken.

Case in point: ours.  While we fall well below that qualifying income for food stamps, we cannot receive assistance because we have an IRA.  They want us to cash in our IRA then use it up then re-apply.  So, for these few months when need a leg up, they want us to disregard all preparations for the future.  (Incidentally, I do think a family should do all they can before going to Uncle Sam for help, but the tax penalties for early withdrawal would cut our saved money in half.  If there were some kind of reward for being careful with our money, instead of a penalty when the savings was needed, then we would have cashed out our retirement savings.)

Second, my "food and household" allotment (groceries, diapers, Windex, McDonald's) is $300.  Food stamps for our family would hover around $1000.  That is three zeros.  One thousand dollars.  Are you kidding?  I'm not sure if I could spend that much on food each month.  When I applied for help a few years ago, I told the man that I didn't need 1K, I just needed a little help.  Even $100-$150 would make all the difference.  Nope.  All or nothing.  He told me that he has people quit their jobs because they do better when they are on public assistance.  Well, I should say so.  $1000 every month is some fine eatin'.

Finally, and this is the main point I wanted to make on the radio today, food stamps covers just about everything at the grocery store.  You can take home Twinkies, Mountain Dew, Liquor, TV dinners, Kool-Aid, potato chips, cheesecake and Jimmy Dean.  When you go to the store with a virtually inexhaustible pocketbook, why wouldn't you buy all the crap at eye level?  The packages are enticing, the kids are begging, and it's a quick and easy fix to the growling in your stomach.  Why go home and soak the beans or de-bone the chicken when the deli corn dogs and jo-jo's are hot and ready?  When people claim that it is cheaper to eat junk food than it is to eat healthy, they have never seen my pantry.  Beans, rice, oatmeal, whole chickens, potatoes, carrots and onions are not expensive.  Sometimes my menu doesn't see a lot of variety, but we eat and we are more healthy than, apparently, about 30% of American society.  If food stamps only covered the healthier choices (not unlike WIC), I think we would see a dramatic change in the way we eat.  We would see obesity and diabetes plummet.  We would learn how to wait until dinner is ready, instead of eating whatever we can grab.  If everyone had to pay for those Oreo's, I bet a lot more of us would only buy them as the rare treat they should be.

For at least the most vulnerable 13%.

At least, that's what I think.


  1. the best part is when I stocked your fridge with food with my food stamp money because the government was giving me too much money- I couldn't spend it all on our family!- I Couldn't spend it all if I tried- I was buying everything organic- tons of produce, expensive brands and I still couldn't spend the money! that is when Joette said, Let's help Emily!" That was so fun.

    Chay and I were seriously so incredibly broke during the college years. We tried so hard not to borrow too much- So for that short time, food stamps came in handy. But it was short-lived and we are grateful to make enough money to take care of ourselves now. I am also thankful for Medicaid. Kenzie is a medicaid baby- that saved us at least $7500.

    What turks me is how long people stay on food stamps and how much money families are given. My friend gets $700 dollars a month for food and she was so excited when Costco started to accept food stamps. It doesn't seem fair that we work hard and have a $300 dollar budget and those who choose to be dependent on the government get to eat better than us.

    honestly I wouldn't mind if there were more food restrictions for those who use food stamps- I'm sure it is coming- especially when the majority of those on food stamps will be recieving free health-care. It only makes sense the government will force its people to be healthy to cut costs- won't work, but they will try.

  2. I've never been on food stamps but WIC is another thing. I think all food stamps should be like WIC. You can buy milk, oatmeal cereal, cheese etc for young babies and pregnant moms. it's specific foods, like only Cheerios or Kix, no Captain crunch or Fruity Pebbles. It only amounted to 40-50/ month but it helped alot.

  3. April~~ Exactly! We will end up being taxed for the health care of the sick brought on by poor diet of those who are eating courtesy of my taxes. Grrrr. (I know, that is a generality. Not all food stamp people eat poorly and not all who are sick are sick because of their diet. But a lot are.)

    Momma Rhyne~~I agree completely. WIC is done smartly, in the way of allowed foods. My state also recently started covering a bit of fresh fruits and veggies. SOO helpful. Though, I could do without the sometimes snooty nutritionists. (;

  4. Do you really live on $300/month groceries? I am impressed! We do eat a lot of fruits & vegetables - I feel better when I do. I wish food stamps would only cover the healthy stuff. It would change what people eat.

  5. Amen!!! I appreciate you telling it like it is.

  6. I agree. and FYI for $1000 I could buy groceries for my family and the 12 childcare kiddos I feed during the day and still have money left over. And, we buy all organic natural foods. but, when you leave the processed foods at the store your dollar stretches further!