Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The War on Food Stamps

My dad is a proud man.  He worked grueling hours at the John Deere plants in Waterloo, Iowa to provide for his family.  He dealt with the annual two week shut down and the constant fear that he would be one of those laid off during the farm crisis of the 1980s.  The first time I saw my dad cry was when after having been laid off for a month he resigned himself having to food stamps to see that his family was fed.

It wasn’t an easy decision.  He and mom fought for days trying to figure out how to pay the utilities, the mortgage, make the car payments and put food on the table.  After a rather loud argument, I walked upstairs to the kitchen and found my dad sitting at the table with his head in his hands.  I could hear the quiet sobs as I approached him.  I was 15, scared as hell and all I wanted to do was comfort him.

He looked up and I could see that he was a broken man, all 6’ 3” of him.  I sat down and asked him what was wrong.  After what seemed an eternity, he composed himself and explained that he and mom were going to apply for food stamps.  He said that if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be eating.  He said it wasn’t something he wanted to do, but something that needed to be done.

People have forgotten that many people who receive food stamps do so only because it’s the last option to make sure that food is on the table for the families.  Like my dad, many feel that they failed their families and have failed as human beings.  As I told my dad, they haven’t failed.  They have made the tough decision to see that their families are provided for.

That’s why I find it disgusting when I see Letters to the Editor that slam (with a tinge of envy) those receiving food stamps.  They claim that the person on food stamps is eating better than they are, even abusing the system.  Of course, all of these claims are anecdotal without any specifics.  But it’s a part of a larger attempt to shame those receiving food stamps even further and a continuance of the war on the social safety net.

Take for example the attempt by the Arizona State Representative Jeff Dial to make bright orange the debit cards of those receiving food stamps.  He claims that his measure isn’t about stigmatizing food stamp recipients but instead to prevent fraud.  I am sorry, but his protestations aside, he is attempting to stigmatize food stamp recipients.

Instead of attacking those who need to use food stamps and trying to destroy the social safety net, we should be encouraging those who qualify to apply.  We are the wealthiest nation in the world and yet for ideological reasons we are willing to allow people to go hungry.  We should be strengthening our social safety net and we should make sure that no person in the United States ever goes hungry.  Stop waging war against the users of food stamps!


  1. I do have a huge issue with the food stamp system. I live in PA. When my father lost everything, house, car, job, he qualified for $16 per month. $16 PER MONTH!?!? But on a daily basis at the seafood market where I work, we see people come in with food stamps and buy lobster tails and snow crab legs, etc., etc. and they have HUNDREDS of dollars remaining in their accounts. I don't want to stigmatize those who need food stamps, we could all be there at some point, I just want to see the system actually WORK the way it is supposed to.

    1. Yeah I found this blog now i am going to go to Walmart right now to purchase some king crab legs with some bacon wrapped sirloin steak on the side. Ahh I love my food stamps keep working and paying those taxes I will keep eating good sucker.

  2. I've used food stamps when I was out of work for 3 months and ate all my canned food and ramens. I felt bad, like the man in the article, and sobbed that I had to take assistance and couldn't provide even for myself, even though I was a healthy male willing to work.

    I don't think food stamps should be allowed to purchase junk food, crab legs, lobsters, ice cream, Doritos and Ho-Hos. They should be restricted to rice, beans, pasta, bread, cheese, milk, peanut butter, jelly, cheap cuts of meat and hamburger, canned veggies and fruits and similar items. It should provide people with a means to not have to go to bed hungry, not a means to eat whatever the hell they want.

    I also believe that the amount provided in food stamps should be decreased dramatically, along with limiting them from being used to purchase expensive junk food. You can feed a family on under $5/day if you purchase the right foods, including beans, rice, and pasta.

  3. Cara -

    Does your employer know that you are unable to mind your own business and the disdain you exude towards their customers?

    So long as what they are getting is according to the rules please STFU. It is none of your business.

    The Food Stamp program is actually corporate welfare that just happens to drop a few crumbs for the poor. It is not a DHS program, it is a Dept of Agriculture program to subsidize AgriBiz by increasing the demand for their products.

    Try, if you can, to be less sanctimonious and self-righteous. You are superior to no one. The sooner you figure that out the better.

    Ah well...

  4. Simkatu -

    Why should anyone feel bad or ashamed for using food stamps?

    I did not see anyone at AIG feeling bad or ashamed when they took trillions of taxpayer dollars to fix the mess THEY created and then handed themselves multi-million dollar bonuses.

    If thieves and scoundrels like those at AIG do not feel shame why should poor people?

    There is no shame in being poor. There IS shame in being gluttonous like those at AIG.

    Sorry to inform you but "junk food, crab legs, lobsters, ice cream, Doritos and Ho-Hos" producers have very well paid and well connected lobbyists so those items will likely never be removed from the list of allowed purchases.

    You really seem to lack any credible knowledge regarding the food stamp program.

    Eat whatever they want, huh? Apparently you are unaware the recipients have a monthly limit (allotment). As such I doubt anyone on food stamps gets to 'eat whatever they want'.

    Last I checked the "Seven Deadly Sins" were anger, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

    It would seem that you are guilty of anger, greed, pride and envy here. Four deadly sins in just one post. Quite the sinner, aren't you?

    And your feeding a family on $5 for the long term... I call BS on that. Unless, of course, you are not concerning yourself that to do so, even if possible, is a disaster nutritionally.

    Not everyone is Julia Child in the kitchen. I seriously doubt you are either.

    Your sanctimony and self-righteousness (especially for such a proven sinner like yourself) is duly noted.

    Ah well...

  5. As I mentioned in my post, we should be expanding our food stamp system not making it tougher to get or to use. Why should a person be limited to purchasing only beans, rice and "low quality" meats full of fillers?

    Here in Arizona I pay $1.29 for just one green pepper. Tell me how you can feed a family of four on only $5 a day with prices like that?

    I suggest you take a look at a post I did in January on food inflation.

  6. The diet suggested by Simkatu makes people unhealthy, fat, and depressed...a recipe for keeping them down rather than building them up. This kind of diet saps their strength, multiplies the financial resources needed to care for their increasingly ill bodies, and leads to their inability to get and keep jobs. Further, the very people who restrict them to this kind of food will later blame them for being fat, unmotivated, and unemployed. Rich or poor, most people still want to be able to care for themselves and provide a better life for the ones they love. Preventing them from doing so is a crime upon humanity and should be viewed as such. What happened to helping people to pull themselves up from their own bootstraps by creating an environment that facilitates their ability to do so? There are far too many using their power over their lives, politically and otherwise, to just kick them when they are down. This is oppression, folks, pure and simple.

  7. We have to consider carefully how to address this sort of attack. Perhaps the GOP has a collective fetish for recreating life in a Charles Dickens book's "Poorhouse" or reasonable analog of the concept?

    It would fit. Destroy the economy, reward the destroyers, punish the victims.

    Call it a GOP "Unholy Trinity?

    Yes, there's a need for rational oversight of *ALL* programs that transfer tax funds. The problem seems inherent in having a system so broken that it has no oversight over the billions/trillions, but wants to tell the poor that they cannot have $21.00 cash or go to jail for it.

    As that last one is what I was reading about when one of the links there sent me here:>

    GOP Delenda Est? That might be what a past wisdom would begin soberly begin considering. As the GOP seems more damaging to America than what was done to Carthage.

  8. We took in an old friend, now a homeless military vet, about a month ago. Though some of his choices probably put him in this position, the bottom line is that he has nothing to his name. No car, no job, nothing. We could have let him swing in the wind but opted to let him come stay with us until he can get back on his feet.

    Yesterday, after feeding him for the past month, he received his food assistance card and we took him grocery shopping, letting him buy some food for the whole household even though he is only supposed to buy for himself. It has done wonders for his feeling of self-worth to be able to contribute and somehow pay us back even though we are glad to help him out.

    We can all sit in judgement of the circumstances that bring us to need this sort of help, and there will always be those who abuse the system, but it isn't until we're in that place ourselves that we can truly understand what it is to have no other option.


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