by Latoya Peterson
This is a public service announcement intended for journalists, news outlets, bloggers, folks in charge of creating policy, and people who have been lucky enough to have never relied on government assistance for basic necessities like food.
Just stop. Just stop the madness.
The latest in this ridiculousness? Fast Company weighing in on what people should and should not be eating on food stamps.
The writer is pulling all of these assumptions out of the air, based on what can theoretically be purchased on food stamps and an assumption that silly poor people don’t know that they will need to maximize their monthly allotment. They also seem to ignore that some people do eat well on SNAP – there isn’t much data about what types of food are most commonly purchased using EBT cards, but national studies don’t really show much of a link between eating well or eating poorly and food stamps. It really depends on the person. Which is why lines like this are infuriating:
[I]f you live in cities like New York City and San Francisco, you should revel in your clean tap water, and save your food stamps for other things. [...]
If [the New York soda ban] passed, the ban would prevent people from using food stamps to buy carbonated and non-carbonated beverages that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sugar and have more than 10 calories per eight-ounce serving. Is this over the top? Quite likely. But it’s an interesting thought experiment: What would happen to obesity and diabetes rates if soda was taken off the food-stamp approval list? [...]
One fancy lobster would suck up a good portion of a monthly food stamp allowance–and if you can afford to do that, you should just use cash. Not that poor people shouldn’t get to enjoy lobster. They just shouldn’t use our tax dollars.
13% of Americans are on SNAP. It’s certainly one of the highest rates of SNAP usage since the program has started but let’s be real here – if every single person on SNAP was completely healthy and fit, we wouldn’t make a dent in America’s problem. (And, in general, when people talk about issues with America’s health, it’s really just a veiled way to say “eew, fat people.” Measuring national health is a set of shifting goal posts, and the solutions to a lot of these problems is ending subsidies on certain products. But its easier to pretend that a growing nation is the result of three hundred million individual failures.)
The SNAP program is also considered one of the most successful government programs there is. Families are hungry – people get food. It’s rather simple. The problem comes in when people try to nickel and dime the SNAP program, like the writer above, in service of…well whatever. Small government, personal responsibility, straight up bigotry, political expediency – the SNAP program takes the hit. It’s a popular program, but thanks to the way we demonize people on any sort of government assistance, it seen as something that we need to regulate, lest the undeserving poor get to live the high life on taxpayer dollars.
And what a high life it is. Let’s look at the numbers. Continue reading