"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eligible Food Stamp (Card) Items

If you wonder how strict the eligibility for buying certain types of grocery products with food stamps (really an electronic food debit card), TheFundamentals was similarly curious.  So we did our research and here are the facts:

Eligible items:

·       The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) defines eligible food as any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which produce food for consumption

·         So. Lets gets specific:

o   Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are food items and are therefore eligible items

o   Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items

o   Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible foods (now let’s see, “Do you think energy drink manufacturers might add a “nutrition facts label” to their product?)

o   Gift baskets that contain both food and non-food items, are not eligible for purchase with SNAP (that’s what uncle Sam calls the debit card program) benefits if the value of the non-food items exceeds 50 percent of the purchase price.

What you can’t buy - Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:
    o   Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;
    o   Any non food items, such as:
    o   Pet foods
    o   Soaps, paper products; and
    o   Household supplies
    o   Vitamins and medicines
    o   Foods that will be eaten in the store
    o   Hot foods
There is a website called – U, S. Food Policy run by a Parke Wilde, who “teaches and writes about U.S. Food Policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.”  You can find it at:  http://usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com/2008/10/fns-opposes-limitations-on-foods.html   Here is what we found interesting – the comments section in a blog posting about a government proposal to NOT restrict items eligible for food stamps.  We quote from a few:
(Note: any spelling or grammatical errors in the above postings are purely the responsibility of the poster.)

“It's not that poor people don't deserve to eat certain foods, its that they shouldn't be able to buy crap with other people's hard earned money. I am a student, I work 2 jobs and I can only just afford to stay afloat. I can't tell you the last time that I bought potato chips or pop. Then I go to the grocery store and see people buying crap on foodstamps, with money that I and every other working american pay for. I work and I can't affod that stuff, are you telling me its right that my money should go for someone to sit on their butt all day and eat cheetos? You're freaking right this makes me angry.”

“The pupose of the progarm is to provide nutritious foods for families. I am a cashier and i see many people purchases soda, chips and candy with Electonic food card provided by government.”

“I can't believe they want to add to thier list. This is crazy that they have a list at all. Like poor people don't have the right to eat certain foods, and they should be punished because some people are obese. There are more obese rich people believe me! They eat out at resteraunts anytime they please. This is discrimination of the poor. Now these rich people can decide what you can and cannot have. This is humiliating enough for someone going through hard times to have to stoop to get help as it is, and now the upper class want to tell us poor people what we can eat as well?”

“You do realize that many MANY families on food stamps do have at least one parent who WORKS, right? My husband works a full-time job and works his butt off to provide for our family. Not everyone who receives food stamps sits on their a** all day and does nothing.”

So what does it cost the taxpayer?  Last year it cost $78 billion – more than double over just the last four years. One in seven Americans now get food stamps.  Well, not really stamps – they get a debit card which they can swipe through the machine – no stamps involved; no embarrassing moments at the cash register; don’t want to place any stigma on anything; sure don’t want to impact anyone’s self esteem.   It is projected to cost $770 billion over the next 10 years.  Recently, some senators, mostly republicans, tried to cut $20 billion from the $770 billion, about 3%.  They lost the vote.

Final comments – there is a lesson in this essay that may not just jump off the page.  Most every government plan or program or idea or agency or scheme or bureaucracy begins with a seemingly worthwhile purpose.  This one started with the idea of taking excess farm produced foods and distributing them to those who were poor or not able to buy nutritional items.  That beginning is well documented in a paper telling the story of the food stamp program.  It is available at:  http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/foodstamps.htm   written by a government employee. 

Last comment:  The lessons available for us are several fold – first, whenever you plan a program that involves money – not food goods but cash or a credit card, know that money is fungible.  So if you provide money you are in effect just adding purchasing power to a recipient.  You can say that money is only good for food;  but by using it for food the recipient now can use other money they have to buy the things that they would not have been able to buy without the food card money.  Second, is the concept of the slippery slope – what starts out as a seemingly good idea of offering nutritional surplus food to hungry people now means getting free bags of potato chips and colas at the full price and profit margin that the store and manufacturer charge.  Hardly the same idea or the same program.

By the way, TheFundamentals agrees with the comments in the first posting quoted above – many working, taxpaying Americans do not buy crap food – snack, sugar items, soda pop and salty chips for both nutritional reasons as well as frugality.  Why is the US government promoting free access to crap foods that many taxpayers do not purchase and cannot afford to purchase?

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