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The hard debate over nutrition standards for food stamp benefits

"Nicole Blakey says she can’t stand watching other people buy junk food with the government-issued food-stamp debit cards she’s used to raise three children while earning $9 an hour at a dry cleaner.

'It makes me sick when you see people at the store, and they have 12-packs of pop,' the 37-year-old Columbus, Ohio, resident, said in a telephone interview. Taxpayers 'would probably be more supportive of the program' if people weren’t allowed to buy unhealthy items, she said.

That view is being defied by an unusual alliance of food producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, libertarians and advocates for the poor who are thwarting efforts to require recipients to buy healthy items with their food stamp benefits as Congress debates reauthorizing the law that governs the program."

" 'It's a very uncomfortable debate,' said Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change, a Bay Area group that advocates for sustainable and local agriculture. 'People are forced into making purchases of food with little money, and it feels like another injustice for them to be told what they can or cannot buy. At the same time, logically speaking, it's a very difficult situation for us as a nation to be supplementing people's purchase of unhealthy food.' "

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  1. Imagine if we called them "nutrition stamps" instead of "food stamps".

    1. The hypocrisy of it all is galling. When we are spending our own hard-earned money, those on the left would dictate (and narrow) our health insurance choices, our residence choices, our food and drink choices (when paying with our own money), our automobile choices, our gasoline choices, and so forth and so on, but when it comes to placing a narrow definition on what a food stamp recipient should do when spending taxpayer dollars, they are against it. So they have no problem dictating choice for taxpayers spending their own money, but they are totally against dictating choice when it is taxpayer dollars being spent (and wasted) by welfare recipients.

      The last time I was in a checkout line behind an EBT-user and paid attention to their basket, this is what was bought: chocolate rose-shaped lollipops, several largest size bags of doritos, monster energy drinks and a handful of snack-sized bags of chips. Note that none of this is actual food, yet it all qualified for EBT. I never buy these things, and they shouldn't be allowed for EBT purchases either.

      Just look at the alliance of folks in favor of loose or no restrictions, and add JP Morgan. The loudest voices are the junk food producers and Wall Street. Shame on them, shame on the politicians who have pushed for greater dependency, and shame on those who take advantage of these government programs (not the truly needy, but the leechers and moochers who could and should provide for themselves). It's time to stop financing and growing the ever-increasing welfare state.

      77 Replies
      1. re: janniecooks

        I'm not sure upon what you are basing your assessment that the right is for nutrition standards and the left is against. It is more complicated than that, which is the point of the linked articles.

        Per the SFGATE link, the food industry and House republicans are OPPOSED to nutrition standards and the mayors of both SF and Oakland (I'm guessing both are on the liberal side) are open to nutrition standards. Also named as pro-standards advocates: an Oakland public health activist and a UCSC professor. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service is on the fence because of concerns about who gets to define what is a "junk" food.

        1. re: janniecooks

          It sounds like you're more interested in punishing welfare recipients or taking the money away completely, than thinking through whether these rules would be a benefit to society.

          1. re: calumin

            Earlier this week I was in line at the grocery store behind a couple using EBT. They had two separate orders at the register. One order was for what appeared to be normal grocery items. The second order was a case of beer and a couple bottles of wine. They paid for the first order with their EBT then paid for the beer and wine with cash. Shouldn't they be using their cash to pay for their groceries instead of my tax dollars?

                1. re: Veggo

                  When they are using public money to pay for their groceries and private money to pay for luxuries like beer and wine, it is a public concern. Because I am part of the taxpaying public...it is my concern.

                  This idea that it is none of my business what people do with taxpayer funded subsidies is absurd.

                  1. re: jpc8015

                    Well, since I'm on Social Security, I hope you're never behind me in the checkout line.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      To my knowledge there are no rules attached to social security payments regarding what are acceptable purchases. You probably get a direct deposit into your checking account every month and that is the end of it.

                      SNAP is different. These people have gone to the state of Oregon and claimed to be so desperately poor that they can not possibly hope to feed themselves (I don't know if they have any children or not). The good people of the state of Oregon have graciously given these poor folks a form of payment that is only good for purchasing food.

                      They then take their cash and buy alcohol with it. They clearly do not need the subsidy they were given if they can afford to buy alcohol. This is nothing short of wasteful and abusive.

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        Have you actually read this entire thread? I have and not only learned a lot but modified my opinion.

                        1. re: jpc8015

                          I don't have any kids. Why should I pay taxes to finance the schools in my district?

                          I don't drive a car. Why should I pay taxes to finance roads?

                          Paying taxes for the common benefit of society is what makes a society work, and what makes it different from a bunch of Randian savages who only give a shit about themselves.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            I don't have kids or acar either but it is clear to me why our entire society benefits from schools and an educated population and a better infrastructure.

                            I have a hard time equating those societal functions with purchasing alcohol.

                            As a practical matter, if you give a needy individual or family x $ to spend on food, once they have the $, there is virtually no way to have any say whether it gets spent at farmers markets, organic foods, on cheese doodles or beer. Despite all efforts to have some control, very efficient black markets exist that will allow people who choose to buy cigs or alcohol.

                            BTW, while society does provide schooling, there are a great number of people whop choose private schooling, and while it is subsidized by public tax dollars, individuals can choose to pay more for a perceived better "product."

                          2. re: jpc8015

                            They purchased the alcohol seperately because you're not allowed to use food stamps to buy it. Fair enough... but what they do with their own money is none of your (or my) business. You can't buy toilet paper or shampoo or many other basic necessities of modern life with food stamps either... We're not the shopping cart (or food stamp) police. It also happens to be the holiday season in case you've forgotten... alcohol is a normal part of most people's lives at this time of year.

                            1. re: Kajikit

                              The original thread dealt with food stamp benefits and whether the recipients spend the $ on nutritious and healthy food for themselves and family. Alcohol is neither nutritious or healthy; especially for some.

                              The purchase of alcohol and drugs is an an unintended consequence. I am aware of the holidays but the holidays are of little concern to many alcohol users. Every day is a holiday.

                              I can' t quote statistics but some large number of our underclass happen to abuse alcohol or drugs. That may not be the sole reason but its certainly a contributing factor in why those poor folk are where they are.

                              We're not doing alcoholic people a favor by allowing them to get to buy "free" , booze no difference on the season.

                              BTW, in Boston this AM, going rate for $100 worth of "food stamps" was $30/40 for drugs..50ish for booze.

                              Happy holidays!

                              1. re: 9lives

                                "I can' t quote statistics but some large number of our underclass happen to abuse alcohol or drugs."

                                Yah, I bet you can't.

                                And let's not forget that cause and effect might matter ever so slightly.

                                1. re: 9lives

                                  Not sure why alcohol is "neither nutritious or healthy."

                                  I'm kinda betting that there are even a larger number of wealthy people who are abusing substances. But I also don't have the data to prove that.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    There are data on welfare recipients that were widely posted online during one state's discussion of random drug testing all welfare and food stamp applicants. Edited to include a discussion of various study findings, how wide the different measures are depending on how questions and "use" or "abuse" are defined. http://www.politifact.com/florida/sta...

                                    Something that must be considered is that there are a substantial number of folks on public assistance due to psychiatric disability, which is commonly associated with substance abuse, often in an attempt to self medicate, or as clients used to say to me: "I was trying to slow everything down." These folks weren't doing crack or amphetamines, they were using alcohol snd pot, both of which do exactly that.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      Much has been made of the fact that Florida Rep Trey Radel (convicted in DC on cocaine charges) voted for a bill testing food stamp recipients.

                                      Florida and Utah have been testing welfare recipients, with relatively low results. Testing is costing the states more than they are saving.


                                      1. re: paulj

                                        So it's pretty much like voter fraud. It rarely happens. Thanks for sharing this.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Paul, passing out money, whether the BP Horizon settlement, hurricanes, Boston marathons, vast sums of cash in Iraq and Afghanistan, Newtown CT, Haiti, Nigerian oil, Kenyan rice, ALL involve graft and misappropriation.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            "Passing out money" is an unfair characterization. Any time money changes hands, period, someone is looking to grab some of it.

                                            With any retail operation theft by employees is at least as big a concern as theft by merchandise walking out the door. Those security cameras all around the registers aren't there to watch customers for the most part, but cashiers.

                                            But one point from your comment: BP settlement, hurricanes, Haiti, etc, all involve graft and misappropriation. But the only laws we pass target poor people, making their lives more difficult and gaining little or no social benefit.

                                              1. re: ennuisans

                                                If someone can afford to buy beer, then they can afford to buy food. If they can afford to buy food then why are they getting a government handout for it?

                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                  Well, first of all, as has been mentioned here (time and time again) the SNAP-benefit doesn't come close to buying all their food. But to answer you, why should beer not be okay but meat (for example) is? Nobody NEEDS meat, do they? I'm guessing people can eat a completely nutritious diet on nothing but canned fruits and vegetables. Throw in some rice and beans. A calcium supplement is probably cheaper than milk. Why not?

                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                    Yeah, and they can afford to be raped, or assaulted, or robbed at gunpoint.

                                                    People make sacrifices to afford beer.
                                                    Other people make sacrifices to afford a car.

                                                    We set limits on gross assets and income for SNAP. We don't say that you must spend your money on a good steel door, or on beer, or on testing yourself for AIDS.

                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                      There has to be some personal accountability and responsibility. These people are going to the state and telling them that they need help buying food...then they magically have money for luxury items like beer and wine. If they can afford the beer and wine, why can they not afford food? Because they make poor choices. I should not have to subsidize other people's poor choices.

                                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                                        Did you see my post just above? Why meat?

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          I'll bite; because meat is the most bioavailable way to get quality protein to sustain the body's healthiest tissues. Protein and fats are the only biologically essential nutrients, they should not be restricted for that reason. Everything else is optional.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            "because meat is the most bioavailable way to get quality protein "

                                                            Can you provide me a citation for that?

                                                            So, then, ONLY meat. Optional and then not to be covered by SNAP would be fruits, vegetables, carbs, dairy, etc..

                                                        2. re: jpc8015

                                                          Whiskey makes fine medicine, and costs less than Triaminic too.
                                                          If you want to say that the only people who can have foodstamps are the ones who don't earn any money, there'll be a lot more legs being spread under the table, if you know what I mean.

                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                              Neither should I, but I had to pay taxes to subsidize the so-called "War on Terror" cooked up by Bush and Cheney.

                                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                                            If people can afford to buy a present for their kid, they shouldn't get food stamps.

                                                            If people can afford to go to a movie, then they shouldn't get food stamps.

                                                            If people can afford to take a subway ride to coney island on a Saturday afternoon, then they shouldn't get food stamps.

                                                            Is this your idea?

                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                              Well said! This thread has been so very enlightening to me.

                                                          2. re: ennuisans

                                                            Huh? SNAP, Earned Income Tax Credit, Section 8 housing vouchers, forms of public transportation, Sallie Mae student loans, and unemployment compensation were all implemented to assist the needy. ACA will be another. Forbes Magazine estimates that these programs reduce the effective number of people living in poverty in the US to about 2%.
                                                            What laws make life more difficult for poor people?

                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                              Laws that require people to undergo drug testing to receive help with buying food. As Paul mentioned, to which you responded and then to which I responded. It's not like I said that out of the blue.

                                                              To my knowledge, most of the programs you mention here were enacted back when we were a decent society. We are less so now, and want to restrict or even eliminate those programs.

                                                              1. re: ennuisans

                                                                At least a few drug testing initiatives were abandoned because they cost more than they saved. I don't see anything unfair about the concept.
                                                                We were a decent society when our national debt was not $17 trillion. Things changed. Our middle class is struggling also.

                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                      Ohhhhhhhhh trust me I'm doing my best to support that data! I can attest to the fact, you ain't gotta be poor to abuse alcohol.

                                                      Although this most recent turn this thread has taken has lead me to a stroke of GENIUS!!!! Nutritionally balanced booze!!!!! I will be the healthiest man in the world!!!!!!

                                                      (I swear if any of you steak this idea I will hunt you down!!!)

                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                        LOL! You're already a billionaire! You will rule the booze industry! So when is your first product coming to market? I know of a few alcoholics who have great need for it! '-)

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          Caroline darlin', I join you in a holiday toast to Jr!

                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                            Hey! I'll drink to that too!! Thanks Guys!

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          It's quite the fad in wealthy circles to maim oneself with botox. Just look at Mrs. Mccain.

                                                          1. re: Chowrin

                                                            Most of them resemble poor embalming jobs, or they tried to kiss a speeding train and survived the experience.

                                                        3. re: 9lives

                                                          Moderate use of alcohol is pretty well confirmed as having specific, measurable health benefits.

                                                          But again, it's none of our business.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            But, again, it's none of our business!

                                                            1. re: c oliver


                                                              And I'm pretty sure they're not buying it specifically for the cardiovascular benefits.

                                                              But it's nunnamybidness.

                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                You're talking about the non-SNAP recipients, right?

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I don't follow... If you're talking welfare recipients, it's pretty typical for Medicaid and food stamps to be part of the benefits package. Or SSI, for the disabled who are indigent. That's what the chronically mentally ill typically end up with, and it's paid out of state welfare monies. Some folks might be on SSDI based on their work history, but also qualifying for food stamps.

                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                    Thanks for your info. But I was just being a twit and referring to non-welfare recipients abusing substances. Sorry.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Can we substitute the word "abuse" for over indulge? I don't want to feel like I'm an "abusive" person.

                                                            2. re: 9lives

                                                              but do we really want to go there? To tell people, not only what they may do with their food stamps, but what they must do with their "other" cash? Do we want to say, only generic brands of toilet paper please. Only water, no soda ever. Please no "fancy" cereals. Only store brand fiber cereals. Really? And as another poster wrote, let's make sure they are not keeping their house warmer than 68 degrees. Because *I'm* paying for it.

                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                Totally agree! And, hey, we turn our heat down to 50 at night and UP to 60 in the morning!!!!!

                                                              2. re: 9lives

                                                                A liittle reading tells me that firm numbers as to percent of SNAP recipients are alc or drug a busers is hard to come by, but the numbers run from 8 to 40 percent.

                                                                My anecdotal experience is that if one were to survey homeless, the numbers would be considerably higher.

                                                                As to how our tax $ is spent, maybe it isn't your business but it is mine. I don't have a direct say but I can vote for legislators that represent my interests. There is a limited pie and depending o Fed or State, the limited $ have to go to defense, schools, maintaining infrastructure, social service along with dozens of other essential functions. Every eligible voter has that right. It's not a requirement to be a taxpayer.

                                                                If the govt grants me a student loan, they have every right to require that I spend it on school. Same as with food stamps. There are income asset thresholds that define whether I qualify for these types of benefits. Of course, I hypothetically could misrepresent those numbers, but who would ever do that?

                                                                1. re: 9lives

                                                                  "A liittle reading tells me that firm numbers as to percent of SNAP recipients are alc or drug a busers is hard to come by, but the numbers run from 8 to 40 percent.

                                                                  My anecdotal experience is...."

                                                                  Please -- since anecdote *still* isn't the plural of data, would you share your sources? Particularly since there is such a vast difference between 8 and 40 percent.

                                                                  The pie is limited b/c the defense budget is completely overblown. And again, you seem to have zero issue with your tax dollars paying for corporate welfare, which costs *you* a lot more than any food stamp program.

                                                                  1. re: 9lives

                                                                    "If the govt grants me a student loan, they have every right to require that I spend it on school. Same as with food stamps."
                                                                    In what way, exactly, are said food stamps not being spent on food? (outside of the black market trade, which is already illegal).

                                                                    The first matter at hand in this discussion is whether it would be a good idea if food stamps were only redeemable for 'healthy' food choices... A suggestion somewhat troubling in its logistics, and in that for some of our poorest neighbors, it would constitute a de facto banning on making the same dietary choices most everyone else makes.

                                                                    The second matter... am I actually understanding this correctly?... is whether people who receive government assistance should be allowed to spend their own money on legal purchases as they desire.

                                                                    You do know that more or less everyone in the US receives government assistance in some form, right? I do. I'd bet the farm you do too.

                                                                    In either case though, food stamps are being spent on food.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      I had an earlier post go MIA but one point I made is that I'm on Social Security and Medicare and I've gotten no notification that I can't drink alcohol.

                                                                    2. re: 9lives

                                                                      Let's not be disingenuous and separate homelessness from mental illness, particularly in the population in question. Having had experience with student loans, they can be had for living expenses, determined by the student, not the nanny state.

                                                                      I could have sworn I posted actual study results and analysis, not just personal "anecdote." Oh, yeah: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9264...

                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                        Ah, yes. The mysteriously disappearing post. A familiar experience :-D

                                                                        Apparently it is OT to try and put welfare "fraud" in relation to corporate welfare by providing links to facts and numbers.

                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                          Did you actually read the report you linked to?

                                                                          The results were firmly inconclusive.

                                                                          1. re: 9lives

                                                                            Yeah, I read it with an eye for nuance, subject selection and criteria employed for measurement.

                                                                            If you don't just skim for the punch line, and read for depth of understanding, you realize that's not the case.

                                                                        2. re: 9lives

                                                                          The government and others may have the "right" to require student loans be spent on education but it's not something that's written into the small print evidently.


                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            I spent my student loans on my education. What was leftover went towards alcohol.

                                                                            1. re: porky pine

                                                                              Shame on you :) You should certainly have been flogged for that!

                                                                          2. re: 9lives

                                                                            Homeless people probably don't get that benefit. Even here in Canada, which still has better social programmes, it is hard for homeless people to qualify for social assistance.

                                                                          3. re: 9lives

                                                                            Actually, studies have shown that wealthier people drink more.

                                                                            It is pleasant to drink, in moderation. You have no way of knowing whether those people are abusers. It is possible that a friend or family member gave them some money as a holiday gift.

                                                                            When it is possible, I always buy a bottle of wine for Christmas food baskets.

                                                                            Moreover, while I don't live in the US, I don't believe food stamps are only for people on welfare. Many low-paid workers are entitled to them as well.

                                                                            1. re: lagatta

                                                                              Yes, and disabled people, and vets, and seniors.... none of whom apparently deserve a modicum of dignity.

                                                                    3. re: jpc8015

                                                                      Not really. Look at it this way: Those people also pay taxes. Trust me on this one! The SNAP program is designed to help those with a genuine and proven need to get assistance to buy the food they need. By simply looking at those people, why do you think that you know more than the government agency that investigates and approves their eligibility for SNAP? How do you know that they were not using the SNAP benefits to shop for a friend or family member who is physically handicapped and cannot go to the store for his/herself? How do you know that person is not a member of the military who qualifies for SNAP because his pays scale as an active member of our enlisted armed forces qualifies him/her for them? How can you stand in line and be so very judgmental of people?

                                                                      Even if there are a few who scam the program, they are very very far from the majority! Personally, I would rather feed one or two scammers in order to feed the poor and homeless, the victims of disasters, the physically and mentally handicapped, those souls who are chewed up and spit out by our society today, than I would be in favor of cutbacks to "crack down" on the very small percentage of those who do not honorably and with justification qualify for the SNAP program.

                                                                      I don't know about you, but I get my highs from helping people. Try it! You'll like it! '-)

                                                                2. re: jpc8015

                                                                  and should they flagellate themselves for having the need for foodstamps? do you want to also tell them where to live and what books to read, since the fact that they get foodstamps means that they must answer to you for every aspect of their lives? They are using the foodstamps for food. Get over it.

                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                    Do you honestly think the cost of a case of beer and a couple of bottles of wine was going to lift these people out of poverty? This attitude that the poors don't deserve to ever enjoy the smallest luxury is really prevalent and it makes me sad. Maybe they were buying it to celebrate a birthday, and ten people chipped in a couple of bucks apiece. Maybe they saved up. Maybe that amount of alcohol lasts them six months. Of course it's also possible they drink that amount every night and don't really need their benefits, but based on everything I've seen about SNAP fraud that's highly unlikely. Do you want to go home and check their thermostats too and make sure they aren't being profligate with with the heat while wasting "your" money on food?

                                                                    1. re: ErnieD

                                                                      I believe someone above referred to these as "vices."

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I don't know where to place this so I'm just piggy backing here C, if you don't mind. I think we all suffer from a touch of "Afluenza"* which makes it very difficult to judge fairly.

                                                                        *except for those who have admitted to being benefit recipients

                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                          Not a problem, j. I gotta say, while not as vehement about the subject as some, I started out reading this being a little more on the side of 'don't let 'em eat cake.' I've reversed that opinion. This has been and is a very valuable thread and hopefully others have evaluated their own thoughts on the subject.
                                                                          PS: That "affluenza" case makes me sick to my stomach.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Yeah, I had to work that in somehow it's an absolute abomination of our legal system and "class" system. If that's the way our country is headed, forget about the corporate welfare state things are far more askew on a much more lower level.

                                                                            But I digress from food, so let me tell you this C, I cooked all day today. (See my new thread on home cooking) I've also had a few* cocktails!

                                                                            *fingers crossed cause I lied, it's a lot more than a few

                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                              HAHAHA! I'm on my way also :)

                                                                              The SNAP program (to be on topic) is too important to allow it to be further crippled with prejudices that aren't based on facts. later, gator, C

                                                                3. re: janniecooks

                                                                  I don't think you can assume that the Left is for food stamp laissez-faire. I am politically about as far left as you can get, and BTW I am also a social worker, and I absolutely favor purchase restrictions on food assistance. Not only are the giant bag of chips and the case of soda pop a bad nutritional message, they are also a terrible psychosocial message: "It's okay for you to regard life as playtime because that's all you're competent to do". Let's get a chicken going in the stew pot and have some noodles handy---let's feed the family a real dinner.

                                                                4. I've been saying for years that the Food Stamp program should be vouchers like WIC. I was a grocery store cashier in college and the stuff people would get on FS was amazing! For every one family that would actually buy food and make the most of their dollars there would be twenty buying complete crap. Not just pop, but the most expensive pop one can buy (cases of Mt. Dew....standard). I have also been saying for years that it would never change because big AG will never allow crap with a lot of CORN products (everything processed, at this point) to go off of the FS program. Everyone wants less welfare unless it's big AG profiting off of it.......

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jes7o

                                                                    Consider that it could be: A) that junk food is cheapest and stretches the most B) the purchaser is not really knowledgable about healthy foods C) the purchaser does not have the facilities or equipment to prepare proper meals.

                                                                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                      Junk food is good for "relieving" stress, which a poor person is under.
                                                                      You try living in a food desert, folks. Have it take an hour each way to get real food home.

                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                        On public transportation and carrying your heavy groceries and pushng a stroller

                                                                    2. re: jes7o

                                                                      Here's a little hint for you: More Nutritious Food Is More Expensive.

                                                                      There was a local news story here some years back about two whistleblowers on the police force who were fired; they sued.

                                                                      One of them was asked what was most surprising about their lives since the problems began. He replied that he had gained 20 pounds, because money was tight and food that's nutritious costs more -- way more.

                                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                                        "More Nutritious Food Is More Expensive"

                                                                        No it's not. Junk/cheap food is way over nutritious. That's why people on a very tight budget who live on it sometimes get a little porky.

                                                                        1. re: Robin Joy

                                                                          Nutritious doesn't mean high calories/fat/etc.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            I know, I know. It's just that a lightly mischievous phrase in my family for someone, say, John Candy shaped is "a little overnourished"

                                                                            Didn't mean to make light of the issue jmckee.

                                                                            1. re: Robin Joy

                                                                              It couldn't be less funny. In fact, the most obese are often the most malnourished among us, particularly those living in poverty.

                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                And growing children need an adequate supply of protein to develop properly. Not to downplay the importance of vitamins and minerals, but it is well established that growing children who are deprived of the necessary quantity of protein in their diet will develop poorly. And by that I mean, significant cognitive deficits and other disorders from which they can never recover.

                                                                                1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                  And muscle mass and bone health, and good immunity. Fat and protein are essential, everything else is optional and a matter of choice.

                                                                    3. As people start to weigh in on this - have you ever applied for foodstamp benefits?

                                                                      Have you ever had that fun experience of sitting all day with your bank stubs, copy of your lease or mortgage, birth certificates, utility bills and pay stubs in a crowded, dirty county office waiting for your appointment for a low level beaurucrat to deem you eligible or in eligible for a card to buy food? To be threatened with loss of benefits and jail if the information is incorrect.

                                                                      It's goddamn humiliating. Do some people do it to live without hard work - absolutely. But the rest are trying to survive.

                                                                      The majority of recipients are missing hours from work to make sure they recertify for their benefits which happens every 6 months. Or they're elderly. Or serve our fucking country. Or work jobs that we haven't had to work or even worry about.

                                                                      That person with the cart of soda and chips - guess what - they're probably not going to smack the foie gras out your hand, or the coffee beans picked by elves or that prime, grass fed, organic free range meat out your basket.

                                                                      See the majority of people getting benefits paid their dues. I'm not going to judge them or their choices because they've already gone through enough. Just as I don't want someone judging my shit because you don't know jack about it.

                                                                      I have a millionaire aunt who wants to critique my food choices every goddamn time she's at my house. She's gluten free, non GMO, organic macrobiotic. I work my damnest to make sure she has choices to partake when she stays. But the last time she critiqued my pantry I took her to Whole Foods- had her pick out appropriate substitutes for what I had at home and quantities that matched our consumption rates and made a giant shopping list to the tune of $600 for about 2 weeks of food. Then I said to her, since she was so concerned about my family's eating - when can I expect her to send payment for this new lifestyle choice.

                                                                      I'm still couponing, shopping at Aldi, Harris Teeter and the Asian market.

                                                                      It's real easy to stand on a pedestal and look down at the choices of others, but when given a chance to do something is it one you are prepared for?

                                                                      I'm not cooking and planning meals for any one else's household.

                                                                      I pay my taxes but I can't tell the corn farmer how to work harder or the dairy farmer how to milk his cows or the giant agri conglomerate not to use hormones and pesticides to maximize their profit without giving us all cancer. I trust in that those government checks and balances are working and someone is making sure those corporate subsidies and tax breaks are doing the right thing for our GDP and economy. For the portion of "our tax dollars" that go to food stamps- it's a bit like my aunt, that $100 in the Christmas card is great and I'm ever so appreciative. But it's not enough to give her the right to dictate what or how I buy.
                                                                      Ill get off my soapbox now. Sorry for the rant.

                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                      1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                                                        And I'm just going to put this out there - if someone wants to link nutritional value to the health and public good. I will point out that we live in a society that despite there being more shooting related deaths that frighten and scare us, but there's still no universal background check.

                                                                        So how about this - if we are going to become a Nanny State even more and dictate food choices, lets go ahead and pass those gun laws restricting automatic weapons and making background checks and mental health checks mandatory. Certainly because as a tax payer I pay for the Emts that respond to shootings, those public hospital bills, not to mention the cost of police hours and judges/prosecutors who investigate gun related violence.

                                                                        It's easy to talk about loss of personal liberty when it's not your own at stake.

                                                                        1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                                                          Are you seriously going to attempt to equate my right to own and carry a firearm, which I bought and paid for, with your privilege to get food stamps, which I bought and paid for?

                                                                          In order to get a CC permit, a background check was performed, complete with fingerprinting at the sherrif's office, classes and tests that needed to be taken and passed. Payment of license fees, which must be renewed periodically. Each time I purchase a firearm, background checks are performed, and I pay for my own purchase. And the BGC is paid for by me.

                                                                          Even after all this, I am still not allowed to purchase any weapon I desire, there are restrictions. Why should food stamps be any different?

                                                                          1. re: Bigjim68

                                                                            Because some nut with an axe to grind never blew away a bunch of school kids with food stamps?

                                                                            1. re: Bigjim68

                                                                              No, my argument is that if we are going to become a Nanny state and dictate whats healthy or how people can spend foodstamps because of the justification of its our tax dollars, then fuck it lets go balls deep and do it. Lets not half ass and stop with the tired, hungry and poor, lets hit every population that ends up being a fiscal burden. So logically that was the gun industry. It just grinds my gears everytime someone with a gun decides to shoot innocent people. Don't they understand as a taxpayer I'm footing the bill for those emergency medical costs, I'm paying overtime for those first responders, that's network news coverage diverted that's interrupting my 5pm news intake. The nerve of those people. <sarcasm/>

                                                                              I think as a society when we begin to deprive rights from others we need to have a damn good reason. So my rights are just as equal as your rights sir. Now lets be very clear, I own guns and I don't receive foodstamps. I pray that my financial situation maintains so I don't have to worry about this being a personal right. However as an American citizen who has been deprived of my rights arbitrarily in other social aspects, I will wholeheartedly support protecting those who are usually not in a position to defend themselves.

                                                                                1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                                                                  I don't think gun control legislation is about becoming a Nanny State. But I do think telling food stamp recipients that they can't be used for Doritos is.

                                                                                2. re: Bigjim68

                                                                                  It's $200 to the guvmint to buy a tank. Whyfor you need an assault rifle, dude?

                                                                                  1. re: Bigjim68

                                                                                    There have to be some rules for a sane society to function, surely Bigjim? An easy example is what if we could drive on whichever side of the road we chose? Everyone accepts that sensible regulation is required for this, and for my money the same should apply to firearms. Both examples can have a direct effect on others around you and simply cannot be left to a "I want to so I will" approach.

                                                                                    Sorry Mods, way off topic!

                                                                                    1. re: Robin Joy

                                                                                      Yeah, this is another of those sub-threads that is probably branching too far from food. We'd appreciate it if we could keep the conversation a little more focused. Thanks!

                                                                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                        O Chowhound Team, food IS about poverty and self-esteem and showing off and making it finally and relationships and comfort and family history and travels afar. It's also about anger and retaliation and resistance---bad stuff as well as good. What could possibly be more about life than food? Let us chat here about more than meat and potatoes.

                                                                                3. re: ncghettogourmet

                                                                                  I remember waiting all day in the 80's when I first started out. I got 7 bucks a month and still made minimum wage.

                                                                                  1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                                                                    We don't have food stamps anywhere in Canada, as far as I know, but at one point several years ago I did apply for welfare. It was NOT a matter of not having worked in my case, but of a client going bankrupt and not paying me what they owed me for freelance work.

                                                                                    I had to go around a huge humiliating rigamarole to prove I had no income. Never got it; had more work before I was ever able to prove my need. Went rather hungry...

                                                                                    This is a nightmare I hope I never have to endure again. It is NOT easy to get on benefits. This has the perverse effect of preventing some, especially with dependent children, from finding short-term employment because the whole procedure is a nightmare.

                                                                                  2. I think it's very important to teach folks who are receiving food stamps how to use them to feed their families to the best advantage. Not nearly enough of that is done.

                                                                                    It's demeaning enough for most recipients that they have to rely on the assistance. Pretty hard to tell them what they MUST NOT buy...

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                      SNAP-Ed is available to people who receive (or are eligible for) SNAP. I can only speak for what is done in New York State.....here it is run through Cooperative Extension sites. Educators are community members, many who have previously participated in classes and 'walked the walk', so to speak.

                                                                                      These classes are meant to be participatory, not derogatory, and teach/reinforce budgeting/cooking/meal planning skills that can increase comfort level with affordable, "healthy" staples.

                                                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                        Chef June, while this is certainly the ideal, and as an ideal I would endorse it, but the reality is that the vast bulk of those who receive food stamps would be heavily penalized if they had to take time off from their low paying Walmart, Kroger, and fast food jobs to attend the classes.

                                                                                        It is a problem that is so vast I can't see any hope for simple answers. You push down on one problem and three dozen more pop up. My heart bleeds for the young working parents who have lost their jobs, their homes, their hopes, who are now working for subsistence wages who must rely on food stamps, and have no time to cook for their family because they are so very busy scrambling to keep body and soul together.

                                                                                        I know people -- friends -- who were totally wiped out by the 2005 economic crash, have lost their million dollar homes to foreclosure, and are now, despite their degrees and qualifications, working at minimum wage jobs and whom I worry about greatly because depression has them teetering on the edge of suicidal thoughts and they can no longer afford or even access healthcare.

                                                                                        It *IS* a major problem. Can it be addressed effectively? God, I hope so, but I have nagging doubts...

                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                          Some of those people, with all their education and degrees and other qualifications, can't even find jobs at WalMart. It's tragic! The market is just terrible, even for minimum wage jobs! Those working full time at minimum wage jobs still need SNAP benefits (Food Stamps) to feed themselves and/or their families.

                                                                                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                            I had a doctor appointment yesterday, and when I was called into the treatment room to wait to see her, what to my wondering eyes did appear? a recent issue of Time magazine with the cover story of how the financial crisis of 2005 could easily happen again! At any moment.

                                                                                            No wonder I have a subscription to just about every news magazine invented by man but hide from them! They scare the hell out of me...!!! <sigh>

                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              In which case you should steer clear of The Economist, the most prescient of them all, and hardly optimistic at the moment. I think you know I am a contributor..:)

                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                I wish I could figure out an emoticon with a tear rolling down the cheek!

                                                                                      2. I have no problem with regulating how they use their benefits, nor did I have a problem with Bloomberg's ban on super sized soft drinks in NY for everyone.

                                                                                        I don't know if it's lack of education, lack of motivation or lack caring, however we do have an obesity problem in this country and something needs to be done to thwart it. (myself included)

                                                                                        Dare I say that I do believe a majority of food stamp recipients probably don't have a firm grasp on nutritional values, let me go further to say that most probably go for the easiest and least production value foods available.

                                                                                        I'm all for placing restrictions on food stamps and restrictions on certain things for the rest of us as well. While it's harder to restrict the "free spending" public, you could certainly tax the hell out of foods and drinks that exceed certain "healthy" levels, then if the "free spending public" wants to purchase/consume those items, they can do so at a premium.

                                                                                        You think Obamacare is a joke now, wait till you see what happens in a generation or two if our obesity problem continues and you don't have a "healthy" base of young insured to off set the the less healthy or elderly insured.

                                                                                        I'm not a fan of big brother, but something needs to be done. In my opinion of course, and this has nothing to do with race or income, I say across the board our eating habits need to change.

                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                          For many, the convenience factor out weighs nutrition. The majority of families on Food subsidy work. So what can be available for the kids to eat while the parent(s) are gone. Combined with what will kids eat. Could they put on a crockpot of beans /protein and tell the kids to eat it. Absolutely. But lets be honest, how many kids in your lives want to come home to eating beans every night.

                                                                                          At my neighborhood store when it's the first of the month sandwich meat/bread, chef boyardi, cereal, milk, oodles of noodles, Mac & cheese are the first to empty off the shelves. As are ready made drinks along with hamburger helper and ground meat.

                                                                                          It's not always a lack of knowing whats good it's also having the time. Time to shop. Time to plan and prep and execute meals. Plus having the appliances and apparatus to store, cook and clean.

                                                                                          It's cheaper to buy food at Walmart but most people going to this grocery store don't have cars and are walking to this grocery store. Combined with the fact that corporate purchasing is abysmal - whenever meat goes on sale they never have enough. Thanksgiving Turkeys went on sale week the of for $0.47/lb. this store got 10 of them. The one across town that is in the biggest shopping district next to 3 other grocery stores - they had 300. The grocery store in my neighborhood is the only one for about 10 miles in the most populated direction, 15-20 if you go into the country.

                                                                                          People on food stamps are struggling with more than just trying to pick something nutritional.

                                                                                          That being said your idea works for me. If it is applied to everybody equally then fine. It's the picking on one group of people that grinds my gears.

                                                                                          1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                                                                            I would offer that bloomberg's proposals and policies pick on only one group, those he considers stupid and unable to make decisions for themselves.

                                                                                            Is there a real reason that the customer in Harlem needs nutrition advice but the park avenue person that eats at Smith & wollinsky does not?

                                                                                            1. re: cstumiller

                                                                                              A similar analogy has to do with the high net worth requirement for investors to qualify as "accredited", and therefore have access to superior investment opportunities. It's a polite way of saying that non-millionaires are stupid.

                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                Maybe it's a polite way of saying that we as a society take extra care that non-millionaires aren't preyed upon and that millionaires can afford to pay someone to give them good investment advice if they want it.


                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  I understand both points of view. The Economist magazine, to which I am a contributor, cites the condition that the wealthy have privileged access to the low hanging fruit as a factor in the widening wealth gap.

                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                    ummm... Excuse me, but the protectionist policies of our government for corporate America, AND the "outsourcing" that is RAMPANT in this country is the singular most devastating "financial flow pattern" in our country today because it is slowly and surely eradicating the middle class!

                                                                                                    Think I'm kidding? Trace out the cause and effect of the bankruptcy of the City of Detroit. Detroit was healthy when the major American car companies manufactured and built their cars there. Over time, the "outsourcing" began to creep in and eventually car components were manufactured outside the U.S. (for a while it was predominantly in Mexico), then long haul trucking companies picked them up at the port of entry and took them to assembly plants located in parts of the country where labor was cheapest, and then the corporate offices of the Detroit centered American car industry merged and melded with other countries car industries and.... FLUSH! The economy of the City of Detroit, as well as the economy of the State of Michigan, are down the drain! CAUSE AND EFFECT are critical to understanding any problem, and boy, as Americans, do we have problems!

                                                                                                    Long ago, in a different century, there used to be a popular song that went something like, "The head bone is connected to the neck bone, the neck bone is connected to the back bone...." and it went on down to the toes. How does that relate to what's happening now? EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED! But that seems to be a long forgotten concept in today's world.

                                                                                                    And please note: It is primarily middle class jobs that are being outsourced. Can ANY entity, whether a government or a building or a tree, expect to survive when you remove it's middle??????????

                                                                                            2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                              I'm with you. My husband was in school for the first seven years we were long-ago married and we had two babies in those years. We were seriously, dangerously, no-bullshit POOR. No Food Stamps, either. But I don't think that chips and soda pop were ever in our home--- they would have been fun but we couldn't afford them since our pitiful food money went for things like eggs, potatoes, cheese, and once in a while a bit of meat. I baked my own bread twice a week. I made oceans of thick hearty soup. We ate omelets. We grew tomatoes in our bitsy yard. It is possible to cook nourishing meals on a shoestring. but you have to know how to do and a lot of the population we're thinking about here simply doesn't KNOW. They can be shown. A century ago poor people had access to settlement houses where nutritional cooking was taught. Now they have access to TV urging them to buy crap. It doesn't have to be this way. I remember making social work home visits to families where no meals were ever cooked or served---when the kids got hungry they went and fixed themselves "bread and mayonnaise" and you can bet the bread was the disgusting soft white kind. Yuck.

                                                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                ha. you should see the houses where the kids eat flour and butter. (this is why you should cook for the six year olds).

                                                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                    Isn't that a matter of family background? My family was poor too, but we never had any junk - any treats such as cake (occasionally, for birthdays and such) were made at home.

                                                                                                1. I think food stamps should be like WIC, with more restrictions on food that is not nutritious. As previously pointed out, big food has their hand in everything, and I am sure that regulation won't happen, because big food won't accept a narrowing of their audience. Almost everything we eat is controlled by big food.

                                                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                    Why do food stamp reciepients lose their personal choice. Why can't we give people the money that society says you are entitled to because of their economic situation and just allow them to do what they want. Just because you are poor, Big Brother should not be telling me what to cook.

                                                                                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                      give 'em more money and they'll eat right.
                                                                                                      it's not like folks don't know that collard greens are good for 'em.

                                                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                        Give schools more money and they will make kids smarter too right?

                                                                                                    2. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                      The sfgate article made the point that WIC and school food programs have restrictions so why not SNAP. I agree.

                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                        Maybe because it's important to teach kids to eat healthy; but food stamps go to a large number of seniors and handicapped, where getting them to eat anything at all is more important than the "healthiness" of it.

                                                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                                                          I hear ya. But those programs aren't 'just' teaching them. They are in fact feeding them healthy(er) foods. But I do acknowledge the argument that a lot of healthy food is more expensive. Actually I think this is a pretty complicated problem.

                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            I had a friend that was involved in a farmers market SNAP matching program:


                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                              That's outstanding and I understand that others do that also.

                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                Several farmers markets I shop at have SNAP matching programs. I don't know for sure if it is related but I have really noticed a broader demographic shopping in those markets w/ SNAP matches.

                                                                                                                1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                  One of the problems is that they need to have machines that will process the SNAP cards - just like charge cards. Some of the larger Farmers' Markets have them, those in smaller communities often don't.

                                                                                                                  1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                    Don't know about elsewhere, but here you buy tokens at the market in increments of $30, since most stalls won't have debit machines anyway.

                                                                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                  I wasn't talking about the cost, just that as you get older things don't taste the same, and lots of old favorites are actually disgusting. So just getting something, anything into your stomach can help you stay alive. Hopefully it wont happen to you, but if it does, you are forewarned!

                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                    Agreed. I've seen threads here where family or friends are bound and determined to get their elderly relatives to eat healthy when, in fact, it's hard to get them to eat so leave them alone.

                                                                                                          2. It all comes down to folks who think that because the government gives you money to buy food (and you only get it if you are poor) that we have the right to tell them how to spend it on food. The law says they can spend it on food; not alcohol, not prepared foods (no rotisserie chickens), not paper products, not tobacco, etc.

                                                                                                            So perhaps we should be able to tell folks how they spend their Social Security, or tell corporations how to spend all that money the politicians give them every year in tax breaks. What a bunch of sanctimonious crap.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: dinwiddie

                                                                                                              Do you really think monitoring what kind of food is purchased under a food program is the same as monitoring how people spend their social security? Brilliant.

                                                                                                              1. re: cstumiller

                                                                                                                He makes a good point. Why should we tell people who get food stamps that they can't use them to drink Coke, when every one else in the country drinks Coke? These people are in financial need, but they aren't little children.

                                                                                                                It's like that senator who got busted taking cocaine left and right, while he was forcing drug checks on food stamp recipients. Way to live your values.

                                                                                                            2. EDITED A SECOND TIME TO REMOVE LINK

                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                The author Linda Tirado is a fraud. That story is a work of fiction, a scam to collect money from well-meaning people.


                                                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                  Oh my, wow . . . let me edit my post to remove the link. I had no idea. I apologize. Thank you Melanie Wong for the correction.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                    Fraud is a harsh judgement. The Nation has a counterpoint to the Epoch piece:


                                                                                                                    For what it's worth, she did a pretty accurate job of describing what it's like to be poor for many Americans. I don't know why there has to be some litmus test for poverty.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                      Thank you ennuisans for posting this counterpoint. At this time, I've read quite a lot about this situation and what I come away with is this: whether this woman has committed some fraud in doing an internet fundraiser for herself is not for me to decide. What is important to me is that her writing caused me to think more deeply about an issue that is important. Her writing caused me to consider angles that I hadn't previously. I find value in that.

                                                                                                                      1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                        There is much in her tale of her circumstances that unfortunately is true for many Americans living in poverty. However, she presented it as her own reality, and has since said that it was not the truth. To set up a fundraiser for herself and tug at heart strings based on describing her life as seedy motels and stabbing cockroaches with toothpicks when she actually resides in a house given to her by family . . . gosh, I can't help thinking of "fraud". There need not be a litmus test for poverty, but there is one for honesty and she has been caught in a lie that she herself admits.

                                                                                                                        At this point, I would believe little of anything that she has to say about her intentions, no matter who repeats it.

                                                                                                                  2. In addition to the other points already made, there's also the issue of what's healthy. Some people say low fat high carb is healthy, other people say low carb higher fat is healthy. Some say vegetarian is healthy, others say meat-heavy diets like Paleo is healthy.

                                                                                                                    So, if we are going to only allow food stamp recipients to buy "healthy" food, what kinds of foods would that be? Would the vegetarians start freaking out because they're allowed to buy chicken? Would the low carb folks freak out if they are allowed to buy potatoes and rice?

                                                                                                                    Now, I get that yeah, stuff like sodas and cookies are not healthy. But if you start limiting foods like that, it just opens the door to even more limitations and could get out of hand.

                                                                                                                    And BTW, if I found myself on food stamps, you bet I'd still be buying my Diet Coke.

                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                      I agree, juliejulez! Didn't mean to copy your point in my comment. I hadn't seen yours before posting.

                                                                                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                        "But if you start limiting foods like that, it just opens the door to even more limitations and could get out of hand."

                                                                                                                        Good point, and.....

                                                                                                                        We have some restrictions already that turn out to be a bit weird and undermine the "primary" purpose of EBT which is simply preventing hunger (not making people healthy).

                                                                                                                        You can't buy vitamins with EBT but soda pop is fine, you can't buy a roasted chicken, but cookies are fine, etc. I am not sure if they changed it but a packet of Ranch dressing was coded as a "prepared food" a few years ago- and was not allowed. Sometimes the strangest things turn up as "prepared" and not allowed.

                                                                                                                        The restrictions for no prepared foods or already cooked foods from the deli ( like burritos, taco's, hamburgers, etc) can be a real hardship on homeless people and people living in hotel rooms or couch surfing. They have no way to prepare their food. These people are not just "supplementing". these folks cannot use food bank food much -as you need a kitchen and cooking implements. A bag of beans, rice, and dried noodles are not helpful for them.

                                                                                                                        Criminal elements aside (and they certainly DO exist) it is quite common for generally non criminal/ decent folks to "sell" their EBT cards to get cash so they can contribute to rent or a heating bill at a friends house where they are staying, or to buy fast food, cleaning supplies/toilet paper etc. Sometimes they make out better with cash and prepared foods (2 burritos for a dollar) or just buying off the dollar menu at a FF place.

                                                                                                                        I have been working with people in poverty for decades and I really wish that the folks that make up these criteria would think things through. Unintended consequences result in enormous waste to taxpayers and needless obstacles to jump over for poor people. They forget that *some* of the poor people can be disabled, illiterate, cognitively impaired, just not very bright, or low functioning for a variety of reasons. Not everyone is "lazy and eating high on the hog for free". Some might be, but in my experience, most are not.

                                                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                          Here in Arkansas, you can not buy a hot rotisserie chicken with EBT but you can buy it once it's chilled. Fried chicken too I believe. Makes no sense.

                                                                                                                          One thing I was thinking about in the grocery store tonight, watching people load their EBT groceries onto some sort of community service bus, was that many folks do their shopping all at once, a week's or month's worth at a time.

                                                                                                                          If they don't have much freezer or fridge space, that limits their fresh and frozen options considerably. If they have mobility problems they will probably pass on canned goods. A diet of ramen and mac and cheese is not out of the question when you rely on lightweight provisions. Chips and hot dogs.

                                                                                                                          Many of our food products stay edible for long periods because the food is locked in, as with freezing or canning. Otherwise the trick is to take the nutrition out, as with white bread and white rice, or packed with preservatives, and it's this second category that tends to be easiest, cheapest, and most dependable.

                                                                                                                          1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                            Trader Joes (in Washington at least) now omits plastic forks or spoons from their ready-to-eat salads. Instead those are available for the taking in a cup nearby. Presumably this is done so the salads can be sold as regular food, as opposed to takeout. I don't know if that is determined by SNAP rules, or state sales tax rules (groceries are not taxed).

                                                                                                                            1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                              Yes, housing, transportation and storage has much to do with food choices at a grocery store.

                                                                                                                              If you have all of your worldly belongings in a shopping cart that you push around town....you are naturally limited in your "choice" at the store. Although that is an extreme example, in fact, those folks are the most deserving of the food stamp program in my opinion. In those situations,the food stamp program is preventing actual hunger and suffering. Any restrictions or criteria should take those folks into consideration first, then consider the "scammers" second. Somehow, it got turned around :(

                                                                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                "If you have all of your worldly belongings in a shopping cart that you push around town....you are naturally limited in your "choice" at the store. "

                                                                                                                                I think it's important for me to remind myself of this. Over and over and over again. Thank you, sedimental.

                                                                                                                            2. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                              here in pa the homeless can buy sandwiches at delis with their EBT.

                                                                                                                          2. I think everyone should get the chance to live on food stamps for about a 2 months so those who feel the government should regulate what others buy will see how it feels to have someone tell them what to do and what is and isn't allowed.

                                                                                                                            IMO, they should be made to live in the shoes of those who have to live that way on a more permanent basis, most of the time not for the lack of working and/or trying to pull themselves out of their situations, then see if they will still burn a hole from glaring in the backs of those with a cart full of groceries in front of them who might be celebrating one of their children's birthday or celebrating another special occasion and are paying with Food Stamps.

                                                                                                                            Perhaps then, they won't look down their noses and feel they are so much better than those they see with those chips and soda in their carts as if these people don't deserve to have any treats paid for with what they consider "their tax dollars". For those who feel there should be voucher's like WIC, maybe you'll feel better if recipients receive powdered milk, corn flakes, cheese and juice cause that's pretty much what you get on WIC. I'm sure that's a healthy diet.

                                                                                                                            Let's not stop here with food stamps; let's regulate everything for everyone regardless how they pay. Meat, butter, cream, cigarettes, liquor, sugar..too much fat, carbs, tobacco, etc. is unhealthy also. If someone were only allowed to buy four ounces of meat per person (if they ate meat), I bet a tune would be changed about regulating other people's food.

                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                                                              That's patently false. WIC recipients get the choice of a number of items on each voucher. GALLONS of fresh milk, blocks of real cheese, a variety of cereals (including a few "fun" sugar bombs), a variety of juices. WIC is meant to be supplementary, not complete. I've been on several sides of this. I grew up on the food stamp/not qualified line and worked in a grocery store in college. I worked with the mentally ill for 12 years. I provided a LOT of education on how to better spend the food stamps. But because no one wants to pay for this kind of education for all, we have the rampant waste, inefficiency, and kids still go hungry because their parents made bad choices. I like the voucher idea because it does provide choice in a category (Meat, veg, grains, etc) but limits someone from blowing it all on cases of pop (I think there should even be a "other" voucher where you can get limited pop, junk, etc.). It doesn't have to be all or nothing. WIC has plenty of choice, just as a voucher system for FS would. Yes, applying for benefits is a nightmare. Yes, living on food stamps is awful. But the goal of the program is to FEED people, not to provide mom cases of Monster Java at the beginning of the month and then complain that the kids have no food at the end (true story).

                                                                                                                              1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                                                                I remember another thread, another board on this subject where a LINK client defended her right to buy a $25 in-store bakery special order birthday cake for herself (she was an adult). This is nonsense. She can buy a box of cake mix for $1, or she can be a grownup and skip the birthday cake. Society should not be asked to subsidize infantile behavior in an adult. And I will argue that having chips and Coke for dinner instead of actual food is infantile behavior---rapid gratification, poor capacity to plan or delay. People can be taught.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                  Society subsidizes infantile behavior in adults all the time (e.g. making unreasonable investments leaving hundreds of thousands of people without their pension funds), or the health costs incurred by peoples' unhealthy diet -- covered by all of us.

                                                                                                                                  So why is it ok to single out one small segment of the population?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                    To say nothing of subsidizing the wealthy who have to have it ALL and have it NOW.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                    Maybe she has no oven. Our local resort motels rent out to welfare recipients in the off season. They have no oven, so how would she bake herself that cake from a mix. Perhaps because she's an adult? Would you begrudge her a bday cake for her child?

                                                                                                                                2. Obesity is definitely a problem but I'm not sure that tacking standards onto the poor will alleviate that. Here we have WIC which allows only certain foods and the items are clearly marked on the shelf.

                                                                                                                                  While I do think that standards should be set, unless the people are educated regarding calories, fat and whatever guidelines they choose and are able to cook, it won't matter. Most of the working poor struggle enough as it is. How many women stay at home to cook for the family and care for the home and feel overwhelmed?

                                                                                                                                  And I don't recall the statistic but it's around 2-3 visits that an applicant takes to apply for food stamps. It's harder to get food stamps than a gun...

                                                                                                                                  26 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: youareabunny

                                                                                                                                    I've seen 'the poor' up close through volunteer work.
                                                                                                                                    Before that I was 100% black and white' in my opinions about how 'the poor' ought to "pull themselves up" etc etc. I was very intolerant.
                                                                                                                                    I knew a man with a huge family who didn't work. His wife was so tired and sick from 'making babies' she was pretty much a zombie. Her older kids had to feed and care for all the babies which arrived once a year.
                                                                                                                                    One time I lost my temper and yelled at him to stop 'making babies' and go get a effing job!
                                                                                                                                    He looked at me and said: "I'm doing the best I can".
                                                                                                                                    He was doing the best he can. Not the best I can or some of you can.
                                                                                                                                    IMO there are so many people in our society who never had in chance in school. Never had a descent home, a caring and loving family, or grew up in any sort of positive community. That number is growing not diminishing.
                                                                                                                                    Look at a teenage 'baby mamma' and tell me she and her children will ever be anything but dependent on someone for their survival.
                                                                                                                                    'The poor' are the ones with endemic diabetes caused in part by eating sugar and being genetically predisposed to the disease.
                                                                                                                                    The is no one 'solution'. Those more fortunate need to offer 'the poor' free nutritional courses and the means to get to the courses. If I had my way I'd institute and program where tens of thousands of local church kitchens were rented out, paid for by the Fed. Gov. to professionally trained cooks and volunteers who would offer on-going free classes to anyone on SNAP etc. It would only take a couple of paid staff, along with a couple of volunteers to provide daily, short two hours basic cooking classes on a regular schedule. That way when the mom with a couple of kids can get away for a couple of hours and only have to walk or catch a short bus ride to the church kitchen she can be be getting some food cooking guidance and feel she is doing what she can to help herself and her family. All good. The key is to always have regular class hours.
                                                                                                                                    Maybe among the tens of thousands of eventually unemployed 'Navigators' some of them know how to cook.
                                                                                                                                    As far as the misuse of food stamps there isn't much that can be done. The 'gray market' will always mean those who want to sell their stamps etc for booze/drugs etc can easily do so.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                      You do know about SNAP-Ed, right? Free nutrition classes offered in communities through land-grant universities by trained educators to anyone eligible for or receiving SNAP?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                        Useful insight! My knowledge of the poor is limited to a few hours stint interviewing the homeless and living 4 years in a... far less affluent neighborhood than I grew up in. Media wants to paint the poor as lazy and stupid but it's simply not the case.And how many lazy and stupid rich people do we all know? Can I film a sex tape and make 17 million off of my 72 day marriage DAMN

                                                                                                                                        I was friends with the neighborhood kids. One of which was a 12 year old boy who wore an XXXL shirt. He was kind, sweet and smart. He broke my hammock, gaming chair, and couch. It made me sad to see how poor his health was. Then I learned that his father was gone most of the time as a truck driver and his mother struggled to raise 3 boys having suffered a stroke many years before. I'm not sure if they partook of any benefits but even then, seeing how little his mother could move, I really couldn't imagine her cooking healthy meals with real ingredients. And of course he will grow up and continue this lifestyle and probably pass it onto his children.

                                                                                                                                        Classes are excellent but I think a big issue will be accessibility. A working parent spending 8-12 hours at work, come home, pick up kids, help with homework, clean and then to have time to goto classes? Might be a difficult expectation. It's like cooking good, healthy food is a luxury.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: youareabunny

                                                                                                                                          The accessibility issue is indeed a real issue. Internally, we refer to SNAP-Ed classes as "food resource management" classes.....it sounds intimidating, but it acknowledges that having healthy food at home encompasses:
                                                                                                                                          - knowing where food access points are (grocery stores, bodegas, farms, farmers' markets, food pantries, etc.)
                                                                                                                                          -making choices at the food access points that are "affordable" (in terms of both time and money, without sacrificing nutrition)
                                                                                                                                          -developing/reinforce capacity for meal planning
                                                                                                                                          -building/reinforcing confidence with cooking skills

                                                                                                                                          As disclosure/background so you know my biases, my job involves working with community educators in New York State (many who previously went through SNAP-Ed when they were on SNAP) and training them to become educators in their communities for those on SNAP. Their job is to recruit small groups of adults (and do some work in schools with children)to engage in classes over a series that typically runs 6-8 weeks. Some topics are standard (meal planning, food safety, etc.) but all are required to account for individual differences by utilizing "dialogue approach" teaching (probably way off topic to go into detail here, but basically it means that there are no assumptions made about what resources a class participant has at their disposal, and that it is a safe environment to talk openly about barriers.)

                                                                                                                                          Educators are respected for their backgrounds by university staff and community members alike, and KNOW what's available in the community in terms of resources because of their relationships with other community agencies.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                            That's why I proposed having free 'drop-in' food-ed classes in local church kitchens. The effort of coming home from work then having to travel for an hour/s to get to the 'community college' to learn how to prepare basic healthy meals is frankly sort of an 'elitist' solution. Keep the food-ed classes within walking distance for many.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                              What I omitted is that the classes are offered at community churches, recreation centers, schools, WIC centers and other partner agencies, and extension offices themselves by Cooperative Extensions ("extensions" of land grant universities in communities, away from campus at dozens of sites, precisely because of the accessibility issues!) The logistics of the classes (times, places, etc.)are decided at the community level. The trainings and support for staff at these community sites is simply centralized through the land grant university.

                                                                                                                                              Basically, all I'm saying is that the system that you support is in action in some form, and has been for many years. It's not a perfect system by any means..... but what you described sounds very similar to extension nutrition programs.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                                And there is no data to support that any of those classes make any difference. They most likely are a waste of time and money,

                                                                                                                                                1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                                                                  Respectfully disagree. (EFNEP provides education specifically to low-income families with young children, all who qualify for SNAP.)


                                                                                                                                                  Aside from quantitative data, qualitative data (from testaments from focus groups, interviews, etc.) show that these classes aren't effective for 100% of the people who take them- that's a given. But for many, the non-coerced, unfiltered testimonies of how these nutrition programs have positively changed their lives only supplements other evidence of the benefits of these classes.

                                                                                                                                                  Interested to know what references you have to indicate nutrition education classes are not effective.....I know evidence is not always 'unanimous'- just want to look into your sources, and what specific nutrition classes are discussed.

                                                                                                                                                  I mentioned in another post, but in the interest of disclosure, I do work with people who deliver free federal nutrition programs in their communities.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                                    I'm a believer in SNAP-Ed, and it's unfortunate that cutbacks are on the table.

                                                                                                                                                    This press release, "Study Shows Strong Nutrition Education Can Lead to Healthier Food Choices by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Recipients" landed in my inbox last week.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                                                                    "They most likely are a waste of time and money".

                                                                                                                                                    And there's no data to support that either, eh?

                                                                                                                                                    Actually, Share Our Strength, one of the top anti-hunger orgs, has had great success with such classes through its Cooking Matters program.

                                                                                                                                                    And they DO have the data to back it up.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                                                                      And your opinion is based on.......?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                                                                        One-on-one is more effective. I am currently working with a multiply-disabled multiply-medically-diagnosed woman to figure out what she can manage to cook in very challenging circumstances---gluten-free BTW. We are going gangbusters with tacos based on corn tortillas (they cost 50 cents for a pack of a dozen---a loaf of GF bread costs $5). My point here is that she had never heard of corn tortillas---she had to hear about them from someone. Good things can be done. Success is possible.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                                        4Snisl, I am impressed with you commitment, as well as with the fact that the program you work so hard for even exists.


                                                                                                                                                        The fact is that far too many of those who so desperately need their food stamps are the very people who will eat out of garbage cans simply because the program you are part of and similar programs scare the hell out of them because they have been mauled by the system over and over again. "Education," and anything resembling it, are anathema to them. Yet they are the very souls who need help most.

                                                                                                                                                        These are frightening times. If you have compassion, prepare to bleed!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                          I hear you loud and clear, Caroline1! And I'm so glad you recognize the less evident barriers of learning through "classes".

                                                                                                                                                          It's the very reason that there is a lot of effort to make our classes accessible, approchable, and practical. Community members that are trained as educators learn lots about not just nutrition, but also about egnaging groups and communication for more effective education.

                                                                                                                                                          There are 6 key elements that are learned by community educators (again, leaders from the community who are trained) to incorporate in their sessions:
                                                                                                                                                          1. They need to be emotionally and physically safe.
                                                                                                                                                          2. The information presented needs to be relevant- take into account real life barriers, and no "information for the sake of information".
                                                                                                                                                          3. The information presented needs to be immediate- skills that can be used and make impact NOW, not ambiguously at some point in the future.
                                                                                                                                                          4. Information is not only presented- there needs to be hands-on engagement with people. Nobody should be falling asleep during a lecture. :)
                                                                                                                                                          5. Sessions are encouraging- this is a place to build confidence in using accessible skills and resources.
                                                                                                                                                          6. Sessions are inclusive- people are expected to learn from each others experiences and ideas. The educator is not the sole keeper and teacher of good ideas.

                                                                                                                                                          The way sessions are marketed and participants are drawn in should also portray how this is not the typical learning environment.....All the terminology that I'm using here is really internal. But the way that it "looks" and "feels" when it is executed well is far less formal and intimidating than how I describe it here.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                                            A lot of great thinking and dedication has clearly gone into this program. Congratulations.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                                              That is a VERY solid program with sound techniques in helping the participants in your program to learn to trust the teachers, the information, and most importantly themselves in taking control of their eating habits. I try not to talk about it (much?) on Chowhound, but I am a looooong retired psychiatric occupational therapist, and the training and approach of the "educators" in your program is very reminiscent of the therapeutic community approach developed by Dr. Maxwell Jones for working with traumatized veterans after WWII, and that he later adapted to working with patient groups in hospital settings by having both patient and clinical staff -- indeed entire hospital staff from groundsmen to physicians -- to function daily as a group of equals with therapeutic interactions that help the "walking wounded" gain insight into their thinking and behavior and correct it IF THEY WISH. I think the key in Max's program (I was fortunate enough to be under his tutelage for a few weeks in the hospital where I worked) and to your program is to make sure that the "climate" is one of encouragement and choice, with no threats of consequence if they don't conform. Trust is the critical factor in all situations in life. Without it, we're dead in the water, if not worse!

                                                                                                                                                              Here's hoping your program catches on like wildfire and spreads across the whole country! Kudos and Bravo(a)s to you and all of your colleagues! You're smothering some of my fears with hope! :-)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                Thanks Caroline1 and coliver for the encouragement! C1, he backstory with your experience is touching- thanks for sharing it . While we've worked in different areas, they both remain areas of tremendous need!

                                                                                                                                                                All states (and US territories) that offer SNAP also offer SNAP-Ed; however, the way it is delivered can be variable. That said, over a dozen state leadership teams have received training from our team about making interactive, dialogue-based learning the norm for nutrition education. Even if it hasn't been adopted fully, the research behind this educational approach (and how it supports lasting behavior change) strongly motivates leadership to at least "slide" in this programmatic direction.

                                                                                                                                                                That said, the investment to support this approach is tremendous. It's not just about teaching educational concepts in a one-time training- it's also about ensuring the skills are used appropriately with appropriate supervision and mentoring. "Eating healthier" is behavior modification...usually in the midst of a tremendous set of barriers.....and it involves something as personal and meaningful as food. Working in this arena is not for the faint of heart! Being respectful of participants' "entire being", and the reality in which we make food decisions, is critical for our staff.

                                                                                                                                                                Back to the original question, my concern with regulating specific, "proper" items to buy with SNAP is that it won't take into account how accessible the items are, storage needs, preparation skills necessary, longevity of freshness for people who rarely, if ever, get to a decent grocery store, etc.....which then highlights a more extensive set of potential barriers and issues to deal with. However, if participants can key into how making healthier, feasible choices works for them "in the real world", then they are set up better for success, even if other variables change (e.g. housing, number of dependents in household, proximal food access points, etc.)

                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                    How do you 'sell stamps' with the current EBT card system?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                      You ask the person behind you in line to buy the non eligible item(s), and exchange you pay for their eligible item(s).

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                                                                        You can also sell the card for a percentage of value for cash.. also the supermarket receiving them has been known to participate in fraud too.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                                                                          In my old neighborhood, there was a person that hung out at the local bar that would buy them.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                                                                                            Ok so now you have me thinking, which is always dangerous. How does the supermarket participate in fraud?

                                                                                                                                                            I find it curious this debate is about regulating how they spend their benefits, but it's illegal for them to sell their benefits, even if it's for less than face amount? Is that correct?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, it is illegal for someone to "buy" use of the EBT card as well as to "sell" use of the card.

                                                                                                                                                              Grocery store fraud happens in a few different ways. The nefarious route is when the store owner scans items but they don't leave the store and give cash or tobacco/alcohol in its place. Typically this is not a $1:$1 more $3food : $1 other.

                                                                                                                                                              Other stores will do more the same practice but instead of cash it's toiletries, soap, toilet paper, diapers, laundry detergent, tampons/pads. That is also usually a more favorable exchange rate of 1.5-2$ ebt : $1 toiletry.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                Also, think less Foodlion/pathmark/publix/aldi. Think more mom & pop grocery attached to a gas station. Or cornerstore/bodega when thinking about where this "fraud" is happening where the store is an active participant.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                  Buying and selling food stamps are both felonies, which carry a $25,000 fine and/or a substantial amount of jail time that I can't remember. It's been a while since I've had to fill out that paperwork, thank God.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                            "Look at a teenage 'baby mamma' and tell me she and her children will ever be anything but dependent on someone for their survival."

                                                                                                                                                            I have. She got by. Got a job, ain't beholden to no one.

                                                                                                                                                        2. People who need food stamps should be able to indulge in the solace of tobacco and alcohol,

                                                                                                                                                          1. Who defines what is "healthy" enough for food stamps?

                                                                                                                                                            Healthy sure looks different for those with a vegan diet versus paleo.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: OhioHound

                                                                                                                                                              USDA already administers a school lunch program with nutritional guidelines. Interesting this USDA page on 'Food Nutrition' discusses both the school lunch program and SNAP.


                                                                                                                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                Right and under that school lunch program ketchup was considered a vegetable during the Reagan years...

                                                                                                                                                            2. http://www.fns.usda.gov/hip/healthy-i...
                                                                                                                                                              Interim report on the Healthy Incentives Pilot

                                                                                                                                                              "Since the current definition of food is a specific part of the Act, any change to this definition would require action by a member of Congress. Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome."

                                                                                                                                                              IMPLICATIONS OF RESTRICTING THE USE OF FOOD STAMP BENEFITS -SUMMARY 2007

                                                                                                                                                              1. supplemental nutrition assistance program......

                                                                                                                                                                supplemental----in addition to........

                                                                                                                                                                nutrition --- hopefully healthful.

                                                                                                                                                                assistance--- aide...help....

                                                                                                                                                                If people are relying 100% on SNAP benefits something is wrong with either the system or the people/country are far worse off than I would hope. Educate nutrition/frugality!!

                                                                                                                                                                1. A whole lot of food stamp recipients have jobs and other income, and use food stamps to supplement. If they buy soda (a very bad choice, to be sure) with food stamps, who knows if it's the only case for a month and they've used up their cash for food, first.

                                                                                                                                                                  I'm all for nutrition education and promotion of healthy, nutritious choices, but I don't want to wage war against the already strained existence of others, either.

                                                                                                                                                                  I don't look in the grocery carts of obese people and cluck my tongue over that, either. I don't know their health history or family needs any more than I know the whole picture of a food stamp user based upon one purchase.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. The thing is that we all receive government aid, either through the food stamp program or through government subsidies for feed and dairy. Suggestions are fine, but imposing your nutritional values on someone else is sanctimonious at best.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. I think one thing that's been overlooked in this discussion is that current food stamp policies already limit food choices to food stamp bearers. Our farmers' market, for example, accepts WIC and food stamp vouchers, but they are constantly having to tell shoppers that they cannot use their vouchers/cards for purchasing the farmer's cheese, fresh juices, or whole grain bread offered by some vendors, because according to the gov't those are "processed foods". Meanwhile, the same subsidies can be used at Albertson's to buy Kraft Singles, Wonder Bread and Crystal Light. You may be tempted to take a modern day Marie Antoinette approach and say, " well then, let them buy vegetables", but the thing is, the vegetables at the farmer's market are not priced anywhere near what these shoppers can afford and they'd be silly to try to feed a family on $4/lb organic broccoli when they can get conventionally grown broccoli for $1/lb elsewhere. But breads, cheeses and juices can be stretched further and are priced in a way that's within reach. And when you read the insane list of chemicals in industrial versions of those products, the natural versions seem like a sensible use of food subsidy money. By limiting where these shoppers can use their vouchers in such a grossly biased way, the government effectively limits what they can buy.

                                                                                                                                                                      A similar thing happened when I volunteered at a food co-op in Ithaca. They were doing the paperwork to be able to accept food stamps and were told that unless they carried Kix cereal and a number of other corporate brands of junky food, they could only get permission to sell raw fruits and vegetables to food stamp users (in exchange for the vouchers). The co-op offered to make their house-made granola available to food stamp bearers at the same price as the Kix. The govt said no. They had deals with General Mills to limit competition.

                                                                                                                                                                      People like poster JannieCooks are way off when they think opposition to altering the nature of food stamp purchase power comes from the left. The left -- at least the left that is not in, or running for, office -- has been pushing for these changes for decades, just from a different angle that actually involves a reduction of government interference. The real opposition to changing food stamp policy comes from giant food conglomerates who make tons of money selling their unhealthy, habit-forming food to the poor.

                                                                                                                                                                      Regardless of where you are on this issue, I think you'll agree that, if we're going to say this is a free market, the hippies and small scale food producers should be allowed to try to compete for those food stamp dollars without being tied down by a whole different set of rules and definitions. If bread isn't processed food at Walmart, it shouldn't be processed food when it comes from a tiny local bakery. And the restrictions placed by WIC reflect this corporate influence, too. If the dairy industry lobby weren't so powerful, people would never be trying to pass off hormone-laden government "cheese" and industrial milk as wholesome food choices for children.

                                                                                                                                                                      To me, this whole left/right thing is a hoax anyway. When you take out the television rhetoric and religious component (which doesn't really factor in here anyway), people generally want the same changes, except for corporations, their investors, and the politicians, from all points on the spectrum, whom they own.

                                                                                                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                                                                        I, too, am most leery of giant corporate food influencing the program, just as happens in other policy-making debates.

                                                                                                                                                                        This morning, the Morning Joe crowd were dissecting Obama's latest speech on income inequality. They put up a chart showing increase in CEO compensation and worker compensation from 1972 and today - something like +750% for CEOs and +5% for workers. Someone is making out like bandits and it ain't low wage workers.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ninrn


                                                                                                                                                                          "Retail Store Eligibility USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program"

                                                                                                                                                                          I suspect the coop difficulties revolved around definitions of things like 'staples', and possibly the distinction between food meant to be eaten at home and food that (can be) eaten at the store.

                                                                                                                                                                          I also suspect most of the rules are written with an eye toward controlling sales at convenience shops and gas stations as opposed to 'natural foods' stores. If the 'healthy alternatives' have difficulty qualifying it's likely to be an unintended consequence of the rules rather than some collusion to favor General Mills.

                                                                                                                                                                          USDA SNAP research papers

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                            Usually think you make great points, but I have to disagree with you here, paulj. If it weren't to support corporate interests why would the gov't have insisted that the co-op sell junk food when they offered to make healthier, locally produced equivalents available at the same price? And why would they categorize bread differently in farmer's markets and large chain stores? As far as I've seen, it's easy and commonplace to be able to use subsidies at the 7-11 in poor urban areas, so it's hard to believe that's the sole intended purpose of such restrictions, no matter how regulations are worded.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                                                                              I only have access to the online USDA regulations. I don't see anything in those that would favor the 7-11 or chains over a coop or farmers market. Of course someone does have to interpret and apply the rules. It might be easier to say that a boxed cereal (whether from GM or Barbaras) qualifies as a staple, while granola in a bulk bin does not.

                                                                                                                                                                              Interpretation is probably at the base of the distinction between a loaf of bread at the farmers market and one in the store (or bakery). If the bread vendor in the farmers market is a bakery, does that bakery have to have SNAP approval? Maybe bakeries don't qualify (under the variety rule). A cheese vendor might also face similar issues.

                                                                                                                                                                              There is a SNAP program to encourage sales at farmers markets, though most of the effort appears to go toward providing the point-of-sale equipment.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                                                                            You've mentioned both WIC and food stamps. Remember that WIC use at farmers markets is limited to purchases of fresh fruits, vegetables, and cut herbs. So WIC vouchers can't be used to buy juice, bread or cheese at a farmers market.

                                                                                                                                                                            I'd need to know more about the situation if you're saying that SNAP food stamps couldn't be used to buy those items. That's shouldn't be so.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                                                                              That's exactly what I'm saying, MW. If you have $5 of buying power at a farmer's market and four mouths to feed, what's going to go further, a 10 oz bunch of kale at $4, or a 16-slice loaf of whole grain bread at the same price? Limiting WIC farmer's market purchases to fresh fruits and vegetables is almost as good as saying look but don't touch, and do your real shopping at a chain store.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ninrn

                                                                                                                                                                                The farmers market nutrition program is a specific WIC voucher during the summer months to encourage consumption of fresh produce. This is supplemental to expand awareness of fresh food and to back up WIC education in healthier eating.

                                                                                                                                                                                And I'll add this in full recognition that my situation in California is different than the rest of the country, this is where a good market manager makes a difference. Our farmers markets that want to attract more WIC and SNAP customers make sure to have a range of producers that so that $2 per pound organic broccoli and $1 per pound conventional broccoli are both available for sale.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. Sorry to be a TDQ-come-lately, but I think in a way this is part of a big, larger and necessary debate we are having as a nation right now as we attempt to bungle our way through healthcare reform and recovering from a deep economic crisis, and starting to see what it's like to live with the effects of welfare reform and so on. Michelle Obama herself has put as bright a spotlight as she can on childhood obesity. I think we need to have these kinds of conversations because the issues are are complex, interrelated and important.

                                                                                                                                                                            A couple of months back we had similar debate locally because a local food shelf had announced its intention to reject donations of food that they deem to be nothing but "empty calories." Ramen noodles, canned pasta, chips and other bagged salty snacks, candy, pop, baked goods are all among the items they are refusing: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/c...

                                                                                                                                                                            I provided a link to the food shelf/junk food story in another thread. But, when I was searching the newspaper's website for "junk food" I also got hits (dated 2013) such as, should there be restrictions on how junk food is marketed to kids (I guess the same way there is on cigarettes), should junk food be available in the vending machines in schools, should images of junk food be allowed in children's books, should there be a junk food tax, should you be able to buy junk food with food stamps, should junk food be available in hospitals, And interestingly enough, a hit to an article on a junk food ban and tax that Mexico is considering enacting.

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't know what the answer is, but it's clear that the problems are numerous and we need to keep debating until we get things right.


                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                              What a fantastic article, DQ. I wish the small minded people in our food pantry would take this approach. After repeated attempts to find out specifically what their needs are, I was referred again and again to their website which listed "non-perishable foods." Which means to everybody peanut butter, canned pinto beans and rice.

                                                                                                                                                                              What the TC is doing is very admirable and I wish them luck.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. http://www.bread.org/media/coverage/n...
                                                                                                                                                                              "“Virtually every church, synagogue and mosque in the country is now gathering up food and distributing, and all of that work that food banks do comes to 5% of the food that needy people get,” said the Bread for the World president, Reverend David Beckmann. “95% comes from school breakfasts, lunches, food stamps and WIC, so Congress can say 'We can cut this programme 5% per cent – no big deal.' But if you cut the national nutrition programmes 5%, you cancel out everything that the charitable system is doing.”"

                                                                                                                                                                              1. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/healthy...

                                                                                                                                                                                "Healthy eating adds $2K a year to family grocery bill" in multicountry study.

                                                                                                                                                                                Full text at

                                                                                                                                                                                38 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                  Maybe world-wide, but Harvard released this study the other day stating the actual cost difference of eating healthy food and fast/junk food is about $1.50/day.


                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                                                                                                                    A ridiculous conclusion reached only because they include meats on the "unhealthy" list.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Let's see them compare a starchy/sugary diet to one rich in quality proteins, fats and veggies and see where the cost difference ends up.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                      A realistic and useful study would have to compare the prices of ready-to-eat healthy foods vs ready-to-eat processed foods, since already prepared foods are a big part of many people's diets, particularly the disabled and the working poor (for reasons that are reasonably obvious).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                        The BMJ article includes data for both 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' meat. The one is lean, the other fatty, e.g. the difference between ordinary ground beef and lean, between skinless chicken breasts and drumsticks. They claim the difference between healthy and not is greatest in the meat category. But difference is a creature of the definitions (why isn't tongue or tripe included?), and the premium that 'wealthy' Americans are willing to pay for lean meats.

                                                                                                                                                                                        This is a meta analysis study. They didn't collect the data themselves, but collected it from other studies. That means, for one thing, that the current article authors have less control over the details.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: sandiasingh

                                                                                                                                                                                        That Harvard release is pointing to the same BMJ article

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes one is cost per person and one is a cost per family of four. The figures are consistent.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                        I'd like to see their actual comparative grocery list for a week (or better yet, a month). They say 'it's less than a cup of coffee' while forgetting that a cup of takeout coffee is an unaffordable expense for many people, and it was probably the first thing to go from their budget when they started having to cut back.

                                                                                                                                                                                        For us, we've had to trim the grocery budget and while I try to buy fresh vegetables and meat, there's a lot more cheap starch in there than there should be. A 5lb bag of potatoes is often on sale for under $3 and lasts the two of us for two weeks - and a single head of fresh cauliflower that would serve for two meals costs four or five dollars by itself! A loaf of premium high-fiber whole grain wheat bread is close to five bucks (the store-brand is $2) - and the storebrand white is only $1.50. And so on. Not to get into the cost of meat...

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                          Thank you for giving specifics. This is a thorny problem with so many issues to deal with. No one size fits all.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                            FYI I'm not on food stamps. I don't know how people who earn little enough to qualify for food stamps survive! We have one income that used to be plenty , no kids, and medical expenses and I don't even qualify to apply for disability, so things are very tight.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                            @costco $8ish buys 10lbs of carrots.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                Exactly. And how does one qualify for a card? Can people with lousy credit, much less a permanent address, get one?

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                And how am I going to transport 10 lbs of carrots? store them? How will I convince my family they will not turn orange this week?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                  And two of us are going to take how long to eat them? (btw, if you have no car, how are you going to transport these cheap bulk groceries?) Or find enough money to afford a Costco run. I don't know about you, but we never get out of BJs without spending over a hundred bucks, and we don't buy 'luxuries'. Sure, that gives us a month's worth of meat, but you have to have it available to spend it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                    A good non-food example. Many years ago we had a tenant who lived paycheck to paycheck. He ran huge monthly power bills for heating in winter even though the house had a very efficient wood stove. He could just never get far enough ahead to buy a cord (or even half) of wood. And he wasn't on assistance. I believe that frequently or most of the time, one has to have money to be able to take advantage of the best deals. On anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                      All too often the best deals are only available to those who need them the least.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I totally agree with you. I'll add however that we economize almost all the time. And we're able to do that because we can afford to. We do more with our money than most people who have a lot more. And that's where the whole education kicks in again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Takes me maybe two weeks to eat that many carrots.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      I can carry fifty pounds on my back from the bus stop.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Walking the food home keeps my budget sane.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                        And I have bad shoulders and aren't really supposed to carry anything... it was carrying 50 pounds of groceries on my back to save money that made it so that now I can't carry anything heavier than a tiny purse! But I'll manage two grocery bags and the half-mile walk from the closest bus stop if I have to. I'm very selective about what I buy if I have to walk - essentials (bread, eggs etc.) only and nothing frozen because it'll melt in the hour it takes to get the bus home. The grocery store is only a mile away (I used to walk there with a wheeled shopping cart to get food if DH wasn't able to take me shopping) but the cart broke and I can't walk that far any more anyway. Which is probably wandering off the topic, but the point is, just getting food home can be HARD WORK with obstacles of its own. And a lot of the junk food that's being complained about is non-perishable, lightweight, and high in calories so if you do have to just have what you can carry on your back, it's going to be more practical than spinach and fresh strawberries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                          And here I am, complaining about having to carry the groceries from the driveway into the house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Dude. You can't... umm... hire a teenager?
                                                                                                                                                                                                            For a decent homecooked meal?

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now that you mention it: Around here, all the bigger supermarkets deliver. And not just nearby, but an hour or more away. Not sure if there's a fee, I think it's just a minimum order, but still. Bet they take food stamps too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                But the context for this post is related to people on food assistance who are unlikely to be able to pay for delivery.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So I looked it up, it's cheaper than a taxi and probably comparable with a bus ride. $6.99 for $100 or more, and $9.99 for $60 or more. And as they point out, no chance of impulse buys!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Plus if you live really far away and have a car (as I said they deliver an hour and more away) just think of all the gas you'd save.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A taxi? Really? Wow, that surprises me. Do you have data on that?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes unfortunately I've had to take one or two recently myself, for various reasons, so I've become an expert. Local, like within town, around $12 without tip. That's as cheap as it gets. Farther, say a half hour, up to $100. An hour or more, $200 to 300. And we're talking junky dirty taxis, not limos.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Buses...well maybe that will be next, if so I'll let you know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We've removed some posts about Long Island's transportation options, which is a bit too far off topic for our site.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                If people are struggling financially to the point where they need food stamps, how are they going to be able to afford household help...even if it IS a teenager? If you are feeding a family of four and you don't have a car, you probably can't carry more than a few days worth of groceries at a time. So you would have to hire help very frequently. And the issue of "food deserts" is one not being discussed here enough: in poorer neighborhoods there are often very few grocery stores. Its just business: the companies that own these stores put them up where the money is. Sometimes stores that cater to certain ethnic groups can be the exception, but folks might be afraid that if they go in they will be expected to speak the owner's language. So many are left with few options other than convenience stores, which tend to have unhealthy foods at high prices. Oh, and someone mentioned supermarkets that deliver below. Folks, they don't deliver to "certain" neighborhoods. Just sayin' . Maybe some of you should try living in those neighborhoods before criticizing the food stamp users. And yes, many lower-ranked military members DO receive food stamps....so they can be expected to defend you and maybe die for your freedom but they aren't allowed a beer now and then????

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  They can barely afford food, let alone hire a teenager to do something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Isn't that the truth? I'll give the benefit of the doubt and assume ignorance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I can sympathize. I spent most of the first 10 years of my 'cooking life' in the Chicago area without a car. Being able to carry the groceries home, whether by hand, backpack, bike packs, or rolling cart, was a major factor in my choices. I also used public transportation (the L), but just for specialties from places Chinatown or Treasure Island. While I didn't buy bulky or heavy items, I also didn't choose junk or 'empty calories'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Seattle people rave about the selection at Pike Place Market. But I rarely buy produce or groceries there. Even with good bus connections (more convenient than driving and parking) I rarely bring home anything more than a few special items.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree with everything you said.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            For us to balance our grocery budget optimize nutrition and enjoyment is difficult. I simply can not ask my husband to buy potatoes or carrots. When I want the 10 lb bag for $3 and he brings home 2-3 lbs for the same price. I hate prepackaged baby carrots for many reasons yet, "they are so convenient". Fortunately this doesn't seem to confuse him otherwise. However some items like good bread are worth the price.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            At the end though I decide the value of each to my family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: holypeaches

                                                                                                                                                                                                              This brings up another side of the nutrition argument. "Baby carrots" are often regular carrots peeled and cut into nubs, and if I understand food correctly most of the nutrients in a carrot (as with potatoes and apples) are contained in or near the peel. They're like the French fries of the carrot world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              So if we don't want SNAP money going to empty calories, what do we do with refined (white) flour and bread and rice, or even iceberg lettuce and celery with relatively little nutritive value? What about coffee and tea, which have little nutrition but instead have other health benefits?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, most "baby" carrots are as described. But, no, I think it's been proven that the inside of a carrot or potato or ??? is no different than the outside. Just the exposure to soil makes it look different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would like to preface this and all of my comments with my family does not receive any assistance. So I know this is OT. My carrots preference is the "baby" ones taste of chemicals and are always slimy. I think my SO thinks he is doing something nice for me when he makes that choice. My understanding about his aversion to 10 lbs of potatoes is he doesn't know what to do with that many. So like I said I make my choices based on the value it has to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  What would you propose acceptable items be? I do not think meat of any kind is a necessity do we take that away too? Or here is a ration of wheat, beans and carrots to survive the week?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As people have noted if someone wants to cheat or manipulate the system they will find a way. If I wanted $10 worth of junk food and a banana for a pack of smokes I can lead the way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Kajikit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                One of the things that may (or may not) be useful for people to know is that GOOD frozen individual vegetables such as frozen peas, green beans, etc., etc., are often frozen in the field, for all intents and purposes, and will therefore be much cheaper, but identical in nutritional value, as fresh farmers market premium produce. This is not true of all things, but if you push yourself to become an inveterate label reader, you'll soon be able to pick a pack of frozen vegetables out of a grocer's freezer, scan the ingredients list AND the nutrition list and be able to make a very quick decision as to whether to put that article in your shopping cart or back into the freezer. You may already know this, but I share the information in hope it may help some who don't know.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Actually, studies have found higher nutrient retention in frozen veggies than fresh, which keep aging until consumed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not fresh as in picked a minute ago, of course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That would have been my thought also.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I found this interesting to watch, thought it might be of interest to the contributors here. I cannot vouch for its accuracy but it seems reasonable to me.


                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Based on what I've read recently, it looks uncomfortably accurate to me. Thanks for the link.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Just my opinion, but wouldn't it be better if we actually had a minimum wage that was a living wage, so maybe we didn't have to have food stamps (not so much anyway) and we could let people spend their own wages however the damn way they pleased?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DGresh, the impossible dilemma is that a leap from current minimum wage to a "living" wage would bankrupt many businesses. It's a daunting issue in America, truly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Are there any studies backing that up? There was just an article in the NYT stating that was a myth. Whenever people make statements claiming whatever so and so will "hurt business" I wonder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If your business is not flexible enough to change with the times, one of your competitors will be. People have been claiming one law or regulation or another have been hurting business for decades. One business closes, another opens that has no problem working within the new regs. Life goes on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yah, really makes you wonder how small businesses in other countries with much higher taxes manage to pay living wages and yet.... survive. A mystery, for sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you consider the tens of thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh who displaced an equal number of US workers to be 'surviving" , it would be an insult to Gloria Gaynor.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If ALL like-kind businesses are subject to equal cost increases, the playing field stays even as no one has a competitive advantage. It will result in an undesirable consequence called cost-push inflation, plus higher consumer prices, but not bankruptcies. There is an economist term called Gresham's Law that holds that money will drift to where it has the most purchasing power. That frequently involves the exploitation of lower wages, wherever they are, to gain a competitive advantage. I won't even touch China in this discussion.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Detroit paid living union wages for decades. Look at Detroit now - it's in ruins. I can debate both sides of this issue, and there are no easy solutions. Anything easy has already been done.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was talking about countries in Europe, where paying higher taxes *while* paying workers a living wage appears to be quite possible. Maybe it's that old world magic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Just out of curiosity are there labor unions in Europe?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Aren't they the successors to the "guilds"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Germany, Switzerland and Sweden produce many highly engineered products that can't be duplicated anywhere else in the world, and are priced accordingly. Norway is a refreshing case of prosperity, for unique reasons. England and France are not enjoying similar prosperity. Spain, Italy, and Greece are among the walking dead.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Your old world magic in Europe is now a new world nightmare. Ask Angela Merkel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Veggo, Sweetheart, you forgot to tell her that, for all intents and purposes, "guild" and "union" are synonyms!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For example, in that most American of all American institutions, the movie making industry, the Director's Guild of America (DGA), the Writer's Guild of America (WGA), and many other "guilds" are in reality labor Unions! Hollywood is a "union shop." A screenwriter cannot even submit a script to a production company unless the script is "handed in" by their WGA Signatory agent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Guilds are alive and well in America today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was referring to the original guilds in Europe that evolved into labor unions. Dear :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Mostly true, although in the days of guilds, men were willing to do a full day's work and didn't constantly jockey for the right to do less work for more pay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Children, too! Good thing the GOP would like to change child labor laws.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Then we won't need any furr'n sweatshops anymore :-D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, people avoid those rules in hollywood all the time.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      mostly by going uncredited.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Like Veggo said, raising the current minimum wage to a "living" wage (what is that anyway?) would bankrupt pretty much all small businesses unless everyone is willing to pay a heck of a lot more for goods and services.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pretty sure you wouldn't want to pay $50 for a car wash, or $20 to dry clean a shirt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. As someone on food-stamps. I try to eat healthy, but if once in a great while I decide to buy a box of cookies or a candy bar, I don't want busybodies telling me I can't. Not all people on food stamps waste it on junk food. Most of my food bull is spent on fresh veggies. Also my local farmer's market takes food-stamps and I can buy any food related item. So I suppose I'm lucky.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. The arguments for and against how food stamp benefits may/should be spent is one heck of a lot more complicated than it appears, even when you read the complex "legal" debates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For me, a MAJOR question is what happens to the recipients when they don't have a clue how to cook? How many school boards across the U.S. still mandate home economics classes that teach the raw basics of cooking to girls, let alone boys? I have no idea whether there are any school districts left in America that still do that, but I do know there was a time when it was pretty much universal across the country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We CANNOT expect to issue food stamps to a family and have the head(s) of household pursue a healthy diet for their family if they don't have the time to cook (because they're scrambling hard to make ends meet on minimum wage or below) or if they don't have a clue HOW to cook beyond an occasional pack of Hamburger Helper or instant mac & cheese.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It just seems to me that there is a major problem in this country with the left hand not knowing or understanding what the right hand is doing. When STATE and LOCAL governments stop teaching kids such basics as entry level cooking when they are young, how can the FEDERAL, STATE, and LOCAL governments across the country expect people to handle their food stamp income supplements in the way they are intended?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When someone's top "cooking skill" is ordering a bag of the cheapest hamburgers they can find in a drive-through to feed their kids because that is all the time and/or cooking skill they have to fend for their family, legal mandates on how food stamps can and cannot be spent will not adequately address the problem. And it is a BIG problem!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But the schools aren't teaching that and other things due to decreased funding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Here's a book that deals with the overall problem that we're talking about and the where and how of how we got here. The book is "Made In The USA" by Vaclav Smil. Here's a link to the book on amazon.com that also has the "Look Here" preview so people can get an idea of what the book is like before buying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It's a tad on the academic side, but he writes so that people can understand him. I mean this guy is super bright, Bill Gates' favorite author, and what kind of idiot would intentionally write books no one can understand, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Once anyone reads this book, then the pieces of the puzzle of why we are where we are, and why the system is in failure mode, will become clear because.... we and the world and the whole damned universe *ARE* connected! For those who can't see the forest for the trees, if you read and understand this book, you will be able to not only see the forest, but also the trees, the leaves, the sky, the grass, the stars, the lady bug on the leaf on the tree and.... THE WHOLE NINE YARDS!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And is that going to answer the only question here which is should SNAP recipients be able to buy whatever they want with their allotment? I think not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What your question indicates to me is that you are willing to look at the problem but you are unwilling to consider what is creating the problem. Whether there should be further government dictates on how recipients spend their stipend without consideration of the conditions in this country that are ballooning the need for such programs among one of the fastest growing demographics in this country is playing the Ostrich Game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    EVERY natural disaster this country has suffered in our very recent past, the floods, the hurricanes, the tornadoes, have toppled too many home owners from "somebodies" to "nobodies" through a whim of nature that has picked them up and dropped them into the arms of desperation. Far too many of them are now among the food stamp recipients we are talking about here. The failures of government programs such as FEMA and the mandatory national flood insurance program are serious contributing factors to the number of people who NEED food stamps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do you have any idea how many enlisted members of our armed forces qualify for and NEED food stamps just to feed their families at their pay scale, and now the Federal Government is considering (or may have decided to) close down food commissaries that will seriously impact on their food dollar's buying power, whether it is with food stamps or cash from their pay checks?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do you have any idea how many food stamp recipients are recent military veterans who suffer major post traumatic stress syndrome that renders them dysfunctional and has turned them into "street people" because our military health care and Veterans Administration hospitals cannot handle the overload?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As a nation, our ability to bounce back is being constantly compromised because the policies and practices of our government, primarily through "favoritism deregulation" policies enacted over roughly the past 60 years by a congress that is heavily levied by political action committees to the point that the jobs of the middle class that was once the backbone of our society is being steadily diminished by massive corporate outsourcing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How does this relate to how recipients of food stamps be allowed to spend then? One critical reason is because *IF* our country had the earning power and wealth distribution that the "average" American citizen wrongly THINKS is the status quo of our country today, then the number of people who need food stamps to keep body and soul together would be so insignificant that no one would give a damn as to whether food stamps are spent on Moon Pies or turnips!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Bottom line is that disallowing the use of food stamps for garbage food likely wouldn't affect obesity rates or rates of its related diseases. People will just use their money (and yes, everyone has some, even people on food stamps) to buy plenty of crap. Unfortunately, the problem is about more than making bad choices. It's about knowing what constitutes a healthful meal, about knowing how to prepare such meals, about having/making time to prepare these meals, having the organizational brainpower to plan for a shopping trip with a meal list in mind, etc. There are a whole set of life skills that many people lack, and many who probably don't wish to acquire them. It's also about changing a culture of unhealthfulness to one that shops and eats with care and consideration. Sad, but true. Just like Bloomberg's attempted soda ban, I think this would be an ineffective way of addressing the problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: akalish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Wandering through our local grocery chain I wondered how people trying to learn how to eat or cook properly are supposed to do so when 99% of the shelf space is highly processed crap. I have to fight to find where they are hiding the bags of rice or basic oats. Some of the grocery store chains in the rural midwest have completely ceded their stores not just to big food companies but to expensive highly processed products to the point finding what most would consider regular food is almost like a scavenger hunt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: akalish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I partially agree with you. It's not just life skills people lack. It's time, storage space, stability of living arrangements, equipment. There are a lot of factors that go into poverty in this country that people don't really consider. It's much easier for me, as a comfortably middle class person, to feed my family cheaply than it is for someone who is struggling. I can buy things much more cheaply because I have access to a car to shop at multiple store and physically carry a large load of groceries home. I can store that 10 pound bag of carrots and/or buy things on sale because I have the space. I'm only working one job, so I have time to cook beans from scratch, and a refrigerator to store them. I don't have roommates, so no one is going to help him/herself to my stuff. I have an adequate supply of pots, pans, and utensils. My living situation is secure, so I'm not going to have to leave if the person whose name is on the lease decides I need to and abandon all the stuff I bought and maybe any cooking supplies I picked up at the Goodwill.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The other issue is that economically disadvantaged people need food to be quick and cheap, and we want them to make it healthy too. There are plenty of things that fit one or two of these criteria, but not very many that fit all three. The problem of putting healthy food into the mouths of those who need it in this country is an important one, but I think it's largely a structural problem rather than an issue of people not having life skills or making bad choices. Rethinking what we subsidize, and what is consequently cheaper, is probably necessary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. The bigger issue of SNAP is it is administered by the USDA and is a negotiated part of the Farm Bill [and corresponding subsidies and price supports given to farmers]. If soda didn't have HFCS [made from field corn, which is otherwise inedible to humans without being processed], then rest assured it wouldn't be a "choice" to purchase under the program. The same goes for most [if not all] of the so called "junk" or other highly processed food products most have mentioned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    HFCS is not a major use of field corn. My memory is that it is comparable to the amount exported. Animal feed and ethanol production are much larger uses of field corn.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The main connection between SNAP and corn is that they programs favored by different parties in congress, and hence there is some horse trading when it comes to funding the programs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Some say we should eat corn, others say we should drive it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Opinions? Mine is that ethanol was a fool's hope, with predators salivating in queue to exploit the newly elected idiots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Okay, my biased viewpoint is this?..what would our ancestors eat? Not field corn, not processed foods. Eat REAL food, something you can daily identify in nature. Something with a base that is organic....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        When you go "off rails" and eat crap...make it count...eat good crap...Kraft blue box Mac and cheese, not a generic brand, lol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sedi, when half of populations are urban, worldwide, the topic of what comprises 'real food' is an interesting one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I know, I know. I am kinda "urban" ...uh.....maybe...I wear dolce and gabana out to get the eggs in the chicken coop.....
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Does that count?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I guess I have hope that people use their brains to think with, and read, when choosing any life course. I know, too much to expect.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If your ancestors lived in the Americas before Columbus, it is quite likely that they ate field corn. Sweet corn is an aberration, made common only by modern selective breeding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Samp, hominy (pozole, mote), and tortillas are traditional ways of processing and eating field corn.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, if we were eating the corn my ancestors ate, I would be good with that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think our ancestors would much rather eat the food we eat now than vice versa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: calumin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, for sure. Snickers bars is probably preferred to spinach 99 percent of the time. Lol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Corn in the varieties you mentioned comprises 53% of the daily caloric intake in Mexico.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ethanol works fine for biodiesel. But there's no reason not to use palm oil, rather than corn, other than national security.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Besides, what we should be doing is planning for gas prices of $10/gallon... Cause they're coming.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Palm oil is most easily produced in African countries that are presently perilous and unstable, on both ocean fronts. I declined an offer to manage a palm oil project in Mombassa, which has a higher concentration of 'bad guys' than Nairobi. Kenya and Nigeria are missing wonderful opportunities for palm oil development, the corruption in both is out of control.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Paul, HFCS uses nearly five percent of the domestic field corn crop ... http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. For anyone still following this thread, please read this NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Two addicts, currently unemployed, receiving daily methadone shots, with 4-5 (?) children under 12 - one is legally blind & one "baby" - all of them living in that one room craphole. How on earth can these people be expected to make smart food choices considering their circumstances?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            They get $1285/mo in food stamps for two adults who either can't or don't work and 4-5 kids in NYC. Is it at all realistic to think that mom and dad will buy salad fixings, dry beans, rice, pasta (or anything at all that requires prep)? What would you buy if you lived here, under these circumstances?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Seriously, I do not suffer from any of the limitations that these folks have, and I don't think that I could feed six people anything healthy under these facts. Maybe I could do it a couple days per week, but not day in, day out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Photo credit: http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Salient quote from the article:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Supreme and Chanel have been scolded about their lack of financial discipline in countless meetings with the city agencies that monitor the family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But when that monthly check arrives, Supreme and Chanel do not think about abstractions like “responsibility” and “self-reliance.” They lose themselves in the delirium that a round of ice creams brings. They feel the sudden, exquisite release born of wearing those gold fronts again — of appearing like a person who has rather than a person who lacks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This article brings to light THE most important thing in the battle against poverty, and unfortunately it's the thing that no one wants to talk about. These two unemployed, drug-addicted adults who can't even take care of themselves have produced EIGHT children. EIGHT.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Something REAL needs to be done to prevent adults who are dependent on the state from bringing innocent children into this world and dooming them to a life of poverty, ignorance and crime.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, since forced sterilization is likely not the route we want to go (and I sincerely hope you're not suggesting that), perhaps fighting the many recent attempts to restrict access to birth control or abortion, and providing actual SEX EDUCATION in schools beyond abstinence programs, etc. etc. might be steps in the right direction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Forced sterilization (permanent) is a bit strong, I think, but I don't have any objections to requiring birth control for those on the dole, along with improved sex ed programs and improved access to Planned Parenthood/abortion clinics for those living in impoverished areas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't think you can (or should) "require" people to use birth control - apart from the fact that it would be unenforceable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Just simply having access to it, to safe abortion & good sex ed would solve a LOT of problems.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Folks, lets let this aspect of the conversation go, please. We see how it got here, but it's really too far afield from food to be a good fit for Chowhound. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        They've actually said since the "free birth control" started up, the rate of teen pregnancies has gone down dramatically. Birth control can be very expensive (an IUD is around $500 I think? Might even be more.) so it makes sense that teenagers or low income people in general weren't taking it. My own was costing me $75/month before my insurance started covering it. That would have been very much out of my reach financially when I was younger.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's interesting that a lot of the people who whine about the birth control coverage, are also a lot of the same ones who whine about having their tax dollars pay for social programs like medical care for babies and food stamps for teen moms. Pretty sure paying for a 16 year olds birth control costs a hell of a lot less than raising a kid on the tax payer's dime.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Funny that all these commenters completely ignore the response of someone actually on on SNAP. Just to babble on about their own biased agenda.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  26 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: YAYME

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I did not ignore you. I'm thrilled that you shop at farmer's markets and eat well on food stamps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    But there are a lot of people for whom shopping at farmer's markets and preparing food, to any degree, is physically impossible. In addition to physical limitations, there are often emotional and/or intellectual impediments (such as those extant for family portrayed in the article) that contribute to cause disadvantaged people to make poor decisions with respect to food and other aspects of their lives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I linked the NYT article because I believe that is relevant to the topic of this thread, not because I have my "own biased agenda."