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Dec 27, 2012 12:22 AM

Mark Bittman's take on SNAP (food stamps) and Soda


The buzz from this article has mostly been about Bittman's call for food stamps to stop subsidizing soda. While I agree with him on this point, I wish he'd spent more time on the issue he mentions at the end of this article where he touches on how New York State doubles the value of SNAP "dollars" for food bought at farmers markets and he pushes for that doubling (or incentivizing) for "real" foods in grocery stores such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. I think its fine a well to double the value of "real" foods but that doesn't solve the problem that many people who take advantage of food stamps are the working poor. Often they don't have easy access to good grocery stores never mind farmers markets. Many don't have fully working kitchens nor the many kitchen tools we all take for granted. Throw into it working more than one job and balancing those jobs with kids and/or other family members

      Mark often spouts that the poor should "just roast a chicken". I don't believe its as simple as that. My husband and I work full time, are middle/upper middle class and its hard for us to find the time to "roast a chicken" and make a healthy meal. It is a priority for us so we do it but its hard and we have every convenience.

      Many many people do it, hell my parents raised 5 kids with no assistance. Food was tight, disposable income was non- existent but they managed. But they did not have cheaper alternatives. There were no fast food places.

      These days you can feed a family of four for less than $10 at any one of the chains that seem to be on every corner in the urban neighborhoods. Its fast and easy. That roast chicken dinner would cost twice as much and take 4 times longer to prepare.

      56 Replies
      1. re: foodieX2

        Mark often spouts that the poor should "just roast a chicken". I don't believe its as simple as that.

        I agree it isn't that simple. In theory, it sounds like an easy solution. In practice, not so much.

        Through a former job, I visited a local halfway house type of center (I don't what term to use, it is a place where families can live short-term until permenant housing is found, not a open-up-nightly type of place).

        The director took me on a tour of their kitchen and shared with me that nearly all the residents have little to no cooking skills. Simple tasks such as browning ground beef seemed too hard for the residents because no one ever taught them. They think they can't do it so it becomes easier to turn to fast food. Part of the program was a requirement that all residents, children included, participate in meal planning and preparation. The director said it takes weeks for them to stop pushing back and become comfortable in the kitchen.

        In our own lives, I have the opportunity to share part of our beef and pork halves with someone in need. This person was perplexed when I handed it over, they had no idea how to prepare a roast in a crock pot.

        I do think some restrictions on what can be purchased with SNAP are not unreasonable.

        1. re: cleobeach

          As someone who used to be a case manager for welfare programs (including food stamps) this is spot on. Doubling food stamps for "real" foods won't do any good without education. People on food stamps need education about basic nutrition, and the negative effects of eating non-nutritious foods. They need education on how to store food, how to prepare food, etc. Heck, you could feed a lot of people for very little $ on rice and beans, but it doesn't work if they don't know how to cook non-"minute" rice and don't know how to prepare beans.

          They also need education on how to make food flavorful. If they manage to cook something but don't know how to season it, the food won't taste good and it will just encourage them to not "waste" their time in the future and instead go get processed prepared crap.

          1. re: LurkerDan

            absolutely -- I know it's hard to scrape together a couple of hours of free time, especially for the working poor, doubly if they have young kids, but the end result would be so much better for everyone.

            I'd like to see something like a slow cooker or pressure cooker as a "reward" for completing a short course on basic shopping, cooking, and nutrition...teach them AND give them the tools to feed themselves and their families better, healthier such a manner that cooking at home is less hassle and cheaper than packing everyone into the car to go get fast food.

            1. re: sunshine842

              They also need a house to live in with electricity, pots, pans, etc. For the homeless - some of whom live in tents in beach parks around here - they cook on hibachis, but have to buy charcoal, and can keep food in coolers for a day or 2, but have to buy ice. It's not always as easy as some (mis)take it to be. Oh yeah, and you can't pay for charcoal with food stamps.

              1. re: KailuaGirl

                as I posted simultaneously downthread -- teaching someone basic nutrition still goes a long way....whether it's being eaten on the spot, thrown on the grill, or taken home and being put in the refrigerator of a section-8 refrigerator...and we can find exceptions to every scenario. Hopefully eventually we'll stop looking at why it won't work, and start making progress with helping folks however we can manage to do it.

                there are better choices than bellying up to a bucket of chicken, a bag of Doritos, and a six-pack of soda, and feeding your kids that crap.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I was a Legal Aid lawyer for ages and a lot of my clients lived on the beach because they were homeless. No one had a cell phone. I had to go to the beach parks and homeless encampments to find them to remind them of court dates etc. I sometimes took along some food (gov't cheese and peanut butter, powdered milk, and Bisquick were the norms) or juice. They cooked on the BBQ, got fish from the ocean as well as some seaweed and, on moonless nights, a really delicious type of crab. They also ate some wild grasses that were strange to me but tasted pretty damn good - kind of sour with a bite. Their cash budget was used on things like charcoal (although I hooked them up with a local charcoal maker who provided it for free after that - he was a restaurant supplier so made huge amounts of charcoal in his kilns), school supplies, gas for their ancient truck (the kids had to ride unrestrained in the bed), personal sanitary items such as shampoo etc., and occasionally a bottle of good wine to have with a special dinner. Their food stamps never lasted the entire month so they had to hit Food Banks most months. And that was with all the good, free food that the ocean and surrounding hills provided them.

                  1. re: KailuaGirl

                    and more power to them!

                    But these are not the folks that this thread is primarily addressing -- they are definitely making the most of their foodstamps, and know how to stretch that to its absolute maximum...and doing it without subsisting on junk food.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    The actual key word in your statement, sunshine842, is "choices". I certainly would not want someone dictating to me which choices I can make regarding the type of food I consume regardless of that food being purchased with money I earned or food stamps.

                    If you were relegated to living on food stamps would you want a vegan dictating that you should not spend that money on meat, cheese or milk? I certainly would not be so arrogant as to order people to eat one type of food as opposed to another type of food. But I believe in allowing people to make their own choices.

                    1. re: Fowler

                      Fowler - by saying you believe in allowing people to make choices, then I'm curious as to what you think about allowing/not allowing alcohol to be purchased with food stamps. If technically the point of the program is to provide calories, that alcohol definitely fits into that category.

                      The reality is that there currently is a SNAP ban on alcohol as it is not considered a "legitimate" way to get calories/prevent hunger. I see no difference in debating the value of soda to reach those goals.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        Hello cresyd,

                        I was speaking of what the majority of us consider food, but there are probably some people that consider alcohol and/or soda their "food".

                        1. re: Fowler

                          If I misunderstood your post about what food choices you were advocating for, then I apologize.

                          If we're talking about what the majority of people consider to be food - then I think that's where there is room to open debate. The discussion on "alcohol as food" essentially ruled that no, alcohol does not count as food. And I think it's fair to open that debate on soda, and could have greater long term benefits to drink labeling in general. Basically making greater effort to draw a greater line between juice/soda.

                        2. re: cresyd

                          Alcohol is already limited to people 21 years old or older. That precludes children getting any of those calories, which in and of itself should prohibit the sale of alcohol using FS. I'm not opposed to people on FS purchasing alcohol with regular cash. To each his own. That cash could have been collected from recycling cans, received as a gift, or earned (remember, the majority of FS recipients are the working poor).

                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                            and I reckon it's the same with soda/chips/junk food.

                            1. re: KailuaGirl

                              Since the post in which I provided this link to counter all of the ignorance appears to have been deleted, I will provide it again. As you can see (by simply clicking on it and reading) there is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding who it is that recieves SNAP benefits. Mostly these folks are either old, infirm, or working for low wages. A few may abuse the system, but most are truly suffering. Then again, what does an old guy like me know. . . . I think a tea party involves little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

                              1. re: MGZ

                                just reporting what I see on the streets, all day, invite to come see for yourself

                              2. re: KailuaGirl

                                That's not entirely correct. Purchasing/serving alcohol in businesses follows the 21 rule - but a number of States allow parents to determine/oversee alcohol servings to their children.

                                But that was essentially not my point regarding alcohol and soda. While the debate with soda has a heavy emphasis on children and children's health, it's hardly as though soda becomes nutritionally brilliant for adults. My relating soda and alcohol was not strictly related to the consumption by children, but rather a substance determined (by SNAP) as "not food".

                                1. re: cresyd

                                  What else would you put on the "can not buy list"?

                                  If the problem is calories and sugar/sodium content, then I would venture that most processed foods would fail the test.
                                  How about seasonings? Should they be able to be bought with SNAP, or should folks be relegated to bland food, again, for their own good?

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      To me sodas are the only thing that is really black and white. I don't see anything too egregious about giving a kid a PB&J sandwich, a few chips (or cheetos) and a cookie for lunch.

                                    2. re: bbqboy

                                      There's no "cannot buy" list. Just items one must buy with other money, from working or cash benefits.

                                      1. re: bbqboy

                                        What I think is most interesting about the soda debate is that it opens up more questions and debate about food.

                                        Even if soda is banned, there is going to be have be a discussion on what soda is. Is Sunny D soda? Is Nestea soda? How much fruit juice needs to be in a bevarage to be soda and not juice? So ultimately "soda" won't be banned, but rather drinks with x percentage or quantity of y product.

                                        And honestly, more discussions of that nature I don't think would be a bad thing. Looking at products like cereal - I'm sure there are those that have a percentage/quantity of sugar in them that could logically be taken off of SNAP. I don't think that all "occasion" foods should be taken off of SNAP (chips, candy, desserts, etc) - but I think that there should be thresholds to test what a reasonable/unreasonable amount of certain ingredients are.

                                        Soda is an easy target not just because its a worthless food product, but because mentally it's easy to understand. It doesn't take being a scientist, doctor, or dietician to fully understand that soda isn't exactly part of a healthy diet. But going from that point, I think that further discussions shouldn't be of the nature of "ban call candy" - but rather foods that meet xyz criteria are no longer covered by SNAP.

                                        1. re: cresyd

                                          I agree - its not so clear that any sweetened beverages or even juices are beneficial. if I were raising children today, I would not buy and feed the gallons of apple juice and juice boxes I gave my kids when they were growing up.

                                          Sodas are bad in and of themselves but they are the tip of the iceberg for whole classes of manufactured food products that are good for no one.

                                        2. re: bbqboy

                                          Canned soups are one of the biggest offenders in the high sodium sweepstakes. It has a long shelf life, though, and doesn't require refrigeration or much of a kitchen to be able to cook it and serve something hot to your family.
                                          The high salt content is what makes many foods, including restaurant food, taste good. How about white bread for empty calories and high salt/sugar content? Should we restrict purchases to multi-grain bread with lots of fiber?
                                          Or maybe we can do as you suggest, tongue in cheek. Just require that everyone receiving any assistance must eat and prepare nothing but bland food. That should motivate them to go out and get a job (even though the majority are already working one or 2 full time minimum wage jobs).

                                  1. re: Fowler

                                    if and as veganism becomes a lifestyle followed by the average person, then that will become open for debate. But it's not, so it isn't.

                                    But if I were truly in need -- well, yeah -- free vegetables are better than an empty stomach.

                                    The point -- once again -- is that Doritos and soda and candy are calories, yes -- but they are only calories, utterly devoid of anything that will stave off hunger and well-being....stuffing your kids full of high-priced garbage might mean their stomachs aren't growling, but let's not continue with the farce that it means that they aren't hungry.

                                    1. re: sunshine842


                                      I am sure we both agree that nutritional education is absolutely important and a bag of oranges is most likely better for one to consume rather than a bag of Doritos.

                                      However, it is most telling that when I cited an example of one group dictating what another person could not eat, you said that is not open for debate. That is definitely emblematic of people that insist upon determining what others can or cannot eat with their food stamp funds and disagreement is simply not allowed.

                                      You have made some great points but I just cannot agree with a cavalier attitude where one dictates what another may eat regardless of where the money comes from.

                                      1. re: Fowler

                                        No, I said that when the average person follows a vegan lifestyle, then it might become a valid issue. But the average person is not vegan, so it's a straw man discussion that doesn't apply to this situation.

                                        And I also said that free is still a rather powerful motivator to make the best with what you get, and if god forbid I should need government assistance, I'd happily accept free beans and vegetables. Beggars can't be choosers, etc, etc. etc.

                                        Restricting empty calories that come at a high price is hardly making anyone's life miserable, nor is it a particularly slippery slope toward totalitarianism....and if someone wants to use their cash to buy sodas, I'm cool with that.

                                        If you're going to take a pot shot at my statements, you have to take the entire statement, in context.

                            2. re: LurkerDan

                              Very good points. Yes, rice and beans can go a long way, but it's the investing in some onions, salt, pepper, and some other flavors to make it more interesting to eat. Not to mention that under/over cooked rice and/or beans aren't good to eat either.

                              That being said, I think that in general people are very adaptable to the circumstances that they're put in. I learned how to cook in the US in regards to food availability, kitchen equipment, food prices, etc. Then at 26, I moved to another country where all of those things were different. At first it was easier to stick to what I already knew, and if it meant paying more for certain ingredients I preferred and was used to using, so be it. But over time I adapted to the products that were more readily available at a higher quality, expanded my cooking capabilities greatly and stopped reverting to old standby items.

                              I completely agree that the assumption that roasting a chicken or making rice and beans is simply something that "can be done" doesn't take into consideration a number of things. However, if stuff becomes cheaper and more accessible - people will find ways to adapt to use that.

                          2. re: foodieX2

                            "These days you can feed a family of four for less than $10 at any one of the chains"

                            This seems very unlikely Even with a 'dollar menu' it's going to take $12 a day to give each family member 1 inadequate item to eat for 3 meals a day.

                              1. re: foodieX2

                                $30 per day for food seems high. We spend $90 per week for 2. At these calculations it seems as if the family would waste $30 per week on fast food over grocery store.

                            1. re: foodieX2

                              Mark would do better teaching people how to cook the way my great grandmother did: in bulk. Make enough soup stock for the entire week, and then toss some noodles in each day. Voila! Instant diet food, and good for you to boot!

                              1. re: foodieX2

                                The 'I don't have time' argument always seemed like bullshit to me. I worked 80-120 hour weeks and still insisted on finding time to cook nutritious meals - often one-pot wonders that would keep for several days - but nutritious none the less.

                                1. re: mugen

                                  did you have children you needed to parent, a house to clean, and a commute on public transport, too?

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    No children, but a commute, a house to clean, and conference calls at 2 AM. What I mean to say is, "cry moar; I don't buy it"

                                    1. re: mugen

                                      your hearing might be better if you've ever been a single parent with children.

                                  2. re: mugen

                                    Again, like I already mentioned to someone else, you KNEW how to make those one pot wonders that would keep for several days. Many people, and not just low income, do not know how to cook even easy things. I have friends with kids (females, in their late 20s/early 30s) that live a middle class life in nice homes, with good jobs, who don't know how to cook and rely on boxed foods. I only know how because I taught myself in my mid-20s when I was single and had some free time on weekends.

                                    It's easy for those of us who know how to do even basic cooking to say "well why can't they just make "_____" (insert random easy to make meal here). But if they don't know how to cook even the easy stuff, it's not going to happen. That's why education is so important.

                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                      that was my point as well. sadly, most of the parents i know rely on Trader Joe's and takeout. my neighbor who has a masters and her husband has a PhD can't cook. she's admitted she can boil pasta and make grilled cheese. they go to costco and buy all frozen and packaged foods. she said she tried to teach herself how to cook this past year but it was just too hard with an infant and a 4 yr old who will only eat cheese and bread.

                                      so at least in my part of the world, it seems a lack of food education transcends socio-economic factors.

                                      1. re: trolley

                                        "a 4 yr old who will only eat cheese and bread."

                                        This is as distasteful to me as buying candy and sodas with food stamps. Another thread though.

                                        1. re: kengk

                                          Agreed, don't get me started on that one....

                                          1. re: kengk

                                            yes, i agree and these are middle class parents who are both educated beyond most people. and sadly, i'm finding out they're not outliers either. i thought maybe she's just finicky but as a mutual friend points out, you're a product of your environment. and if you're parents can't and refuse to learn how to cook, well.... i think she eats yogurt and some fruit but the young child subsides on grilled cheese.

                                            1. re: kengk

                                              You don't really think that eating cheese and bread is as bad as eating candy and sodas, right?

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Depends on the cheese and bread. Many are highly proceeded and full of the same artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Many commercial breads have added sugars as well.

                                                Hopefully this was purely rhetoric and the childs diet, when looked at over a longer time period is more balanced.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  No, it's hyperbole on my part. What if a mother on foodstamps says; my child won't eat anything but snickers and coke?

                                                  As I said: it's another thread and a quickly locked one at that.

                                                  1. re: kengk

                                                    How about this scenario? My husband used to drink abundant amounts of water. Since he had a stroke, the only thing liquid that appeals to him is cream soda. It's a taste issue, and this is usually dealt with by being happy they drink anything. At first I tried to fight it, but I'm not going to IV route. If not for his glass of OJ in the morning, maybe a cup of hot chocolate if I'm lucky and then about 24 oz of soda the rest of the day, he's getting by. What if we had to go on food stamps (not out of the question in our situation) he wouldn't understand the difference and would dehydrate to the point of hosptialization. I have a feeling social services would prefer the cheaper way of dealing with it.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      we can come up with situations that don't fit anything that anyone can throw at us...what if, what if, what if.

                                                      Not trivializing your husband's situation, but it's a little easier to deal with the exceptions than to say "but if this...well, then we can't do anything"

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        I would just go out and pick up empties from around the neighborhood and cash them in if I had to, I wouldn't let him dry up like a leaf. But what I'm wondering is why soda is so widely hated, and I don't drink it myself. It's not nutrition but it is hydration so it serves a function to some. What I'm also wondering is why I keep wandering away from Home Cooking ;-)

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          As it applies to this thread, it's simply because soft drinks can't really be called "food". And they aren't very good for you. In my opinion.

                                                          I drink one or two diet cokes every day. I would prefer not to give them up but I could. Unlike the smokes and bourbon. : )

                                                          1. re: kengk

                                                            I too used to think of soda as worthless junk, but am so glad that it is the one thing my husband will drink now. Guess it isn't a big deal to the world in general really, just my own little take on it. Thought I'd throw it into the mix just for fun.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              I remember reading a story about some arctic explorers who found a cache of food and took some flour but left the sugar behind because they didn't think it was "food". The story said it would have saved them from starving.

                                                              Don't know if the story is in any way true.

                                                              As you say, sodas have water and sugar so they aren't necessarily devoid of value. Just not a good source of nutrition for most people.

                                                              1. re: kengk

                                                                Better than the stories about people drinking their own urine. I hope I'm never that desperate!

                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                I know I'd read that juices and soda with sugar are not good for hydration, so I went and found this link: with the answer to the question: "Why are soft drinks, sports drinks and juice unsuitable for rehydration?"

                                                                Sweetness doesn't require sugar, but even non caloric sweeteners have been found to stimulate overeating/hunger.
                                                                That's not your husband's problem, but it is more widely.

                                                                Clearly, you want to get whatever fluids into your husband that you can, but more generally, that's not the rehydration formula you'd opt for.

                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                  Actually he lost most of his appetite, so for us it might work in our favor! It is so weird to have to beg him to eat and drink now, so whatever he wants I'm happy. Not your typical problem, though.

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    I know what you're saying, atypical prob and a big one.

                                              2. re: juliejulez

                                                "I can't cook" is an even more transparent attempt to excuse laziness. If your friends have the capacity to read a recipe and to hold a knife, they are capable of assembling (which is the most accurate description) innumerable wholesome meals.

                                                To the extent that you or they disagree, effectively what you are proposing is that they are adults of ordinary competence and intelligence who nevertheless have some inexplicable restriction on the results that Google presents them, so that they cannot even search for basic recipes, and then, in the execution of them, cannot (for example) slice a piece of pumpkin and place it on a baking tray, as a part of assembling a warm, roasted vegetable salad.

                                                I don't care if someone chooses not to cook because he or she cannot be bothered or does not sufficiently value a wholesome, home-cooked meal; that's his or her choice. I do become irritated when what is obviously sheer indolence is sought to be excused with bullshit like a lack of time or skill.

                                                1. re: mugen

                                                  I agree that there is no excuse for my friends who have the means to find recipes online (or watch the Food Network, that's how I learned originally), and the ability to buy good ingredients, to not be able to cook simple meals for their families. There is an element of laziness there, for sure.

                                                  But when someone is low income working a minimum wage job (sometimes 2 jobs), they probably don't have access to a computer, many of them (at least where I'm from in central CA, and now here in Colorado) can barely read and speak English. So, hopping on the internet to find a recipe on how to roast pumpkin (as simple as it sounds to me and you) isn't really an option for them. Again, that is why education is of utmost importance.

                                                  Think back to how YOU learned to cook. Did you learn from your parents? Buy cookbooks and teach yourself? Buy ingredients from the store and experiment yourself? All of these things either require parents who knew how to cook, or to have extra income to buy the books and equipment and ingredients that might possibly be ruined by experimentation.

                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                    I learned to cook my sophomore year in college. Two friends' mothers were excellent cooks. One of the friends, who became my roommate, worked for his family's fish company twice a week, and I learned how to make the fish he brought home.

                                                    I would have learned to cook anyway. Living off-campus would have meant pizza all the time otherwise (I'm older; there weren't all the Asian options then), and once I was exposed to my friends' mothers' cooking, there was no turning back.

                                                    My other friend showed me how to make her mother's fastest, easiest meal, flank steak marinated in Kraft Italian dressing (plus salad and fresh veg). From there, I figured out marinades on my own. I probably made flank steak once a week for an entire school year. And fish and seafood even more often.

                                                    I also got a copy of The French Chef Cookbook from my mother, who was also learning to cook. This was 1973. Adding Julia to my fish cooking = MMMMMM. Sole Meuniere. Coquilles St. Jacques (which I made with red wine the first time--it *tasted* great); Bouillabaisse.

                                                    As well and as easily as I took to cooking, I know most people don't. None of my best friends can be bothered. They don't eat soda and Doritos, but one eats frozen veg. Another buys prepared foods at Trader Joe's nearly exclusively.

                                                    I decided a long time ago not to judge. I mean, it's not like I have the power to change anyone. I gave up a couple of years after my "You buy bottled salad dressing?" days. What other people eat, from Kraft Catalina to Coke to cannellini, is really none of my business.

                                                    Obviously, some people still want to exert control over others this way.

                                          2. Pardon my French, but Mark Bittman needs to STFU and walk a mile in someone's shoes first. Poor people aren't children and choosing dignity over condescension would go a long way in my book.

                                            Soda sucks and is terrible for you but it's already demoralizing enough for people to BE on food stamps, much less being talked down to about what is appropriate for them to buy.

                                            As for his notion of healthy, well, grains and legumes are the farthest thing from healthy for me. If I was on food stamps and the powers that be decided that was all I was allowed, I'd blow up like a damn balloon and no one would want to be in the same room with me, ifyouknowwhatImean.

                                            33 Replies
                                            1. re: Violatp

                                              the only thing I would counter that with is to ask if you've ever stood in line behind someone buying food with food stamps, whose cart is full of Coke and Doritos and microwave crap...and not so much as a single apple of box of cereal or jug of milk alongside the three or four kids with dirty faces and no shoes.

                                              I didn't (and don't) feed my kids all that crap, and it pisses me off to see others taking the money that they are being given from my (and everyone else's) salary and blowing it on garbage -- and not even cheap garbage at that.

                                              They might not be going to bed with an empty stomach...but it's not much better to send them to bed with a one-way ticket to obesity and malnutrition.

                                              I don't begrudge them the money -- I pray I'm never in a place where I need help -- but I can begrudge them wasting it on garbage.

                                              I have seen folks buying $25/pound shrimp at a seafood market with food stamps -- and not just a little for a celebration - -a five-pound bag of it. That got right up my nose because I was working my ass off 50 hours a week, and I couldn't afford $25/pound shrimp! Want to buy shrimp? That's fine - everybody deserves a treat....but learn to live with the $15/pound shrimp like all the working folks were buying that day!

                                              Just to put it into perspective...I happily slid a $5 across the counter to help out the guy shopping with his kids who came up short -- he had fruit and vegetables and beans and rice and bread...he was doing everything in his power to get the most nutrition out of those food stamps that he could. More power to him, and I hope he's found better days.

                                              I could see something like a limit -- x dollars of junk food per week....but that becomes a nightmare to administer.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Then you ignored people like me who are on food stamps. Who have rice, beans, fresh fruits and veggies. With nary a cookie or soda in sight. And if I'm buying lobster, it's because lobster is on sale that week and I usually get the smallest lobster as well, it's not an everday thing. I make one pot meals, I make healthy meals. I buy veggies and fruits. I hate being lumped in with the lumps of the world.

                                                1. re: YAYME

                                                  all good choices...but the pinnacle cotton candy vodka? Brave soul

                                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                    That bought was with my own hard earned money. And yes it was a waste.

                                                  2. re: YAYME

                                                    First of all, I saw these people in this market on a regular basis (they both had a very distinctive appearance) and they bought the most expensive fish and shrimp every single time I saw them. It was only ever two of them, I never heard them mention a party or family or friends in any of their too-loud-to-ignore conversations.

                                                    A small lobster on sale would fit rather snugly into my sentence about "That's fine - everybody deserves a treat."

                                                    So you and your small lobster-on-sale with your fruits, veggies and other actual food wouldn't have gotten so much as a second glance from me. You are not a part of the problem, and I didn't lump you in with them.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      It's just the sentiment is all. I feel like being on food stamps, I'm tarnished with the same brush as these people. Hell I even shop local going to the farmer's market when it's in season (the cheaper one not the weekend money blow out) and a local butcher. I have a disability and it's hard to for me to find work.

                                                      I've seen those people too. I've also seen families at the farmer's market brandishing WIC coupons and wooden tokens, I've seen their children excited to get eggplan or the first peaches of the season. Why can't we talk about that? That there are people trying to make healthy choices. When soda and ramen are cheap and plentiful.

                                                      1. re: YAYME

                                                        then YOU are tarnishing yourself (and you shouldn't), because those who fill their carts with sodas and junk food and expensive shrimp are the ones being tarnished here.

                                                        Not those of you who are working your asses off to make ends meet, and just need a little elastic to get there. I have nothing but respect for you and those like you.

                                                        This entire thread is revolving on how to better educate those who don't/can't/won't buy anything but garbage...not those of you who are trying their dead level best, and have enough knowledge to buy and prepare healthy food.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          "This entire thread is revolving on how to better educate those who don't/can't/won't buy anything but garbage"

                                                          Not exactly, not entirely... a lot of it is focused on how that can't help many with food stamps who have no adequate storage nor cooking facilities with which to employ such knowledge. Some of the folks failing to make good choices are also doing their best.

                                                          "Best" differs from person to person, and it's a subjective term as used here.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            and an enormous amount dedicated to those who simply don't know any better. Don't know anything about nutrition, don't know how to shop, and don't know how to cook.

                                                            As I've said several places here -- at some point we have to quit looking for a one-size-fits all solution, because there isn't one.

                                                            We need to be helping as many as we can, however we can...

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              +1 - teach a man to fish....As a product of public schools, I know home-ec was a requirement, and my nephews had it only a few years ago. Is it not offered in all states?

                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                Nope, sadly.

                                                                We had to take a semester each of home ec and shop-- boys AND girls -- so we could make macaroni and cheese, and sew a button on a shirt, and re-wire a light fixture, and fix a door hinge.

                                                                Not a bad thing to keep around, but budgets just aren't there.

                                                                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                  Home Ec was never a requirement at my high school in California. It was offered as an elective class, along with music, art, shop, and computer classes. Everyone had 2 elective periods a day. I took the music and computer classes. I graduated in 2000.

                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                    I graduated high school in 1978. Boys took shop, girls took home economics. I should have made them let me take home ec, might have got a date in high school. Doubtful. : (

                                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                                      I graduated highschool in '80. I took both home ec and shop in 6th grade. Both required. Massachusetts. Neither was offered in my (private/alternative) highschool.

                                                                    2. re: juliejulez

                                                                      I'm 60, graduated HS in 1970. When I was attending JH and HS,
                                                                      boys couldn't take Home Ec/Cooking or Sewing and girls couldn't take
                                                                      Metal/Wood shop classes. That changed in later years, but by the time my kids got to JH and HS here in Oregon a few years ago,
                                                                      none of those "practical" classes even existed anymore.
                                                                      From Sexism, to Liberation to Extinction all in 40 years.
                                                                      They both learned to cook when they were very young though,
                                                                      just as I did.

                                                                      1. re: bbqboy

                                                                        my jr. high with required shop and home ec was in the late 1970s in northern Indiana.

                                                                        1. re: bbqboy

                                                                          aha, proves a point I made that was deleted....How did you learn? it doesn't take a village, it takes a coupla parents

                                                                          1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                            ...not necessarily genetically related. Lots of people learn to cook from Meemaw, Aunt Rose, or the nice lady down the street.

                                                                            Mom and Dad can't teach you if they're at work, or if they don't know how to cook, either.

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              parents, family, sure....meemaw? From the South?

                                                                              1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                Grandmother (or some other female acquaintance who fills the role of same) whether she's from the North, South, Timbuktu, or Mars, actually related to the cooking student, or anything else.

                                                                                All that matters is that she cares enough to share her time and knowledge.

                                                                                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                  My nieces call my Mom, Mema (or now that they're older, Meem) and they live upstate NY.

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    Heh I call my mom Meem sometimes. Brother and I always have.

                                                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                      It's so cute, they're in their thirties now and I love they have a special name for "grandma".

                                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                  Exactly. Nobody taught me. I learned watching the food network and a few cookbooks in my mid 20s. I had been baking since I was very small, but never cooked really. I bought a condo with a beautiful kitchen and felt it was a shame that I didn't use it, so I started to learn. That was 6ish years ago and I'm still learning. But, I have resources available to me that someone low income would not... ie cable television, computer and internet access at home, and the ability to buy cookbooks and cooking equipment, and the most important resource to learn how to cook, TIME. If I had a few kids running around and worked a night shift, I probably wouldn't have had the time or much desire to learn how to cook.

                                                                                  My mom is actually a decent cook but she went back to work at a hospital lab (ie on her feet all day) when I was 6, and rarely made meals that involved much cooking... mostly frozen stuff or things like rice a roni or hamburger helper. She never taught me to cook though (I remember an incident in college where I managed to screw up blue box mc n cheese), nor was I all that interested since I was very busy with extra curriculars. Her mother (grandma) only did basic cooking as well, as she was from a well-off family who employed people to do that, and so her mother (great grandma) never cooked either. My dad's mother was a great cook in her earlier years, but as she got older she didn't cook that much, and she passed away when I was 13. So you can see, it's a domino effect.

                                                                                3. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                  'Everything' takes a village (i.e. a society and/or governmental structure).

                                                                                  1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                                                    I had parents who loved food and eating, whether cooked at home or eating out, everywhere from drive ins and Mexi joints to fine dining. Was taught to make scramble eggs at about 3-4 yrs. old and went from there. Family recipes passed down. My dad died at 6 and mom worked, so my older sister and I made many evening meals. Passed down the same to my son and daughter
                                                                                    who both love to cook and bake. Daughter has worked in many restaurants and helps pay her way through college as a sous chef.
                                                                                    Was taught to sew too,BTW.

                                                              2. re: Violatp

                                                                I've heard this guy on televison. I'd leave off the "walk a mile" part.

                                                                1. re: Violatp

                                                                  There are already a ton of requirements about what you can spend food stamps on--for example, my understanding is you must buy the cheapest alternative available. When I shop at an ethnic market, they have stickers on these items (WIC eligible).

                                                                  I have been in line behind someone who dared not to choose the cheapest (I think she got a brand name juice concentrate) and I had to listen to the cashier read her the riot act (and it was clear that that sucked).

                                                                  I wouldn't really have a problem with soft drinks being ineligible--I have eliminated them from my own diet. As I understand it, the idea behind food stamps is to make sure people are getting the basic food and nutrition they need. Soft drinks are something no one needs that provide negative nutritional value. Why would we subsidize that, exactly?

                                                                  1. re: foiegras

                                                                    WIC is a seperate/different program. Yes ago, I did data entry at a social service program office and from what I remember, WIC is a USDA program that is basically a dairy farm subsidy program that benefits women, infants and children (WIC). The requirements are different and yes, the program specifies what products are allowed to be purchased under the program.

                                                                    1. re: cleobeach

                                                                      OK, thank you. If those limits are reasonable for WIC, and I think they are, then I guess I don't understand why they aren't also in place for food stamps. I guess that's the beauty of the federal government.

                                                                      1. re: foiegras

                                                                        The WIC program is for women (especially pregnant women) infants and children. The primary goal, other than supporting dairy farmers, is to make sure the women, infants and children have access to adequate amounts of milk and milk products (cheese, for example) and that pregnant women get enough calcium for prenatal care. For the infants and children milk products are seen as essential to healthy teeth and bones.

                                                                  2. re: Violatp

                                                                    Wrong. If you're spending other people's money, you don't get to dictate the terms.

                                                                    1. re: Violatp

                                                                      "Soda sucks and is terrible for you but it's already demoralizing enough for people to BE on food stamps, much less being talked down to about what is appropriate for them to buy."

                                                                      I don't think it involves telling them what to buy with any other cash they might have. It's about what the public will waste money on. Poor folks have either home relief or other dollars in their pockets and can then decide with those how important soda is to them.

                                                                      Since poor folks tend to be obese due to empty and high carb/high calorie foods simutaneous with being malnourished, it's just flat out dumb to subsidize the products that only promote that.

                                                                      I think offering a higher rate of reimbursement for proteins and vegetables makes really good sense, too.

                                                                    2. What I don't understand is that some will happily spend (or use EBT) $20 at a fastfood chain to feed their family of 4, stating it's "cheaper" than buying fresh groceries, when they spend ridiculous amounts of money per month for diabetes medication.

                                                                      I could only imagine the increase of medical costs once their children get the same case of diabetes from eating all the "cheaper" junkfood.

                                                                      It's not really cheaper if you look at the bigger picture.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Novelli

                                                                        The whole country is pretty bad at looking at the bigger picture ...

                                                                        1. re: Novelli

                                                                          Yes, because for that same $20, you could buy beans, rice, etc. that would be two or three meals -- not just one.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            Exactly, but some seem all too happy to feed themselves and their families on 99 cent burgers and burritos, yet plunk down 100-200 dollars a month in cholesterol/diabeties medicine.

                                                                            1. re: Novelli

                                                                              you'll have no argument from me, other than mentioning that the population as a whole has an ugly tendency to do the same thing...

                                                                              1. re: Novelli

                                                                                Actually, many of those folks may also be getting meds paid by Medicaid, or dialysis paid by federal funding, etc... the cost of junk food to us all in terms of suffering and health care dollars that could be put to non preventable disease is huge.

                                                                          2. The original comment has been removed