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SNAP (Food Stamp) soft drinks....


Martin Fisher
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"...the No. 1 purchases by SNAP households are soft drinks..."

 

Lots of money wasted on fizzy sugar water. O.o

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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35 minutes ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

"...the No. 1 purchases by SNAP households are soft drinks..."

 

Lots of money wasted on fizzy sugar water. O.o

But...

"The report compared SNAP households and non-SNAP households. While those who used food stamps bought slightly more junk food and fewer vegetables, both SNAP and non-SNAP households bought ample amounts of sweetened drinks, candy, ice cream and potato chips. Among non-SNAP households, for example, soft drinks ranked second on the list of food purchases, behind milk."

 

 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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5 minutes ago, Anna N said:

But...

"The report compared SNAP households and non-SNAP households. While those who used food stamps bought slightly more junk food and fewer vegetables, both SNAP and non-SNAP households bought ample amounts of sweetened drinks, candy, ice cream and potato chips. Among non-SNAP households, for example, soft drinks ranked second on the list of food purchases, behind milk."

 

 

 

Yes, but the stated purpose of, SNAP, the Supplemental NUTRITION Assistance Program is just as it's titled.

Money (from a limited fund) is being spent on items that are junk.

 

 

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Hey, I buy soft drinks for medicinal purposes. (One of my meds upsets my stomach - slightly de-fizzed ginger ale helps a ton. Ginger tea has too much bite for me.)

 

ETA: Given the calorie content of most junk food, technically it is also nutrition. Just not very good. But I knew kids in high school who would have a can of soda for breakfast because there wasn't anything at home to have for breakfast and soda keeps. Then the school district started doing breakfasts at the school.

Edited by quiet1 (log)
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1 minute ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

 

Yes, but the stated purpose of, SNAP, the Supplemental NUTRITION Assistance Program is just as it's titled.

Money (from a limited fund) is being spent on items that are junk.

 

 

I think it quite unrealistic to expect that people who require assistance in the form of food stamps or equivalent will have entirely different shopping habits than those in a similar situation who are not receiving assistance.  

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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25 minutes ago, Anna N said:

...  slightly more junk food and fewer vegetables ...

 

 

 

An article I read maybe a year ago, written by someone who grew up in a household dependent on government programs, noted that fresh foods were low on the list because they did most all of their purchasing for the month in one trip and food stuffs that were non-perishable were their mainstay.

 

7 minutes ago, Anna N said:

I think it quite unrealistic to expect that people who require assistance in the form of food stamps or equivalent will have entirely different shopping habits than those in a similar situation who are not receiving assistance.  

 

As much as one would hope otherwise for more "healthy" nutritional choices I do agree with you, Anna.

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Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

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54 minutes ago, Anna N said:

I think it quite unrealistic to expect that people who require assistance in the form of food stamps or equivalent will have entirely different shopping habits than those in a similar situation who are not receiving assistance.  

 

If they do indeed require nutritional assistance perhaps the list of eligible foods should be limited to foods that are generally considered nutritious — and not junk.

There are arguments against limits — none of them very strong.

There's been no problem limiting eligible WIC* foods.

 

 

*The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

 

List of WIC eligible foods.

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Lots of people complain about the limits on WIC foods. 

 

Is the goal to keep people from starving or is it to control them and punish them for being poor? There is a long list of reasons why people who are low income buy crappy food, ranging from access to storage concerns to time issues to psychological stuff (junk food tends to be high in things that make us temporarily feel good, like sugar, it is designed that way) and unless you address those issues, imposing restrictions because you can is just punative and won't do much to make diets better, it just makes people more miserable and stressed.

 

Being poor sucks. People who are poor already know that society looks down on them and thinks they're horrible for needing assistance, they don't need someone putting more limits on how they can do things because people in government have decided that poor people are also too stupid to know they're buying crappy food.

 

Personally, I think the time/energy aspect is a big one. Due to my health I struggle to make good meals with fresh ingredients every day just because of the amount of time I'm able to spend in the kitchen, and I can imagine it is much the same for someone working multiple jobs. It simply takes some time and energy to turn ingredients into a meal, and while there are ways to make that process quicker, the quickest and easiest thing is still going to be to shove something prepared into the microwave, or grab something off a shelf and open the can/jar/box. If you're trying to juggle cooking against other demands on your time, what do you do? Better to help your kid with homework, parental involvement in that stuff is crazy important. Heck, even just sitting down for 15 minutes to watch some stupid TV show - people burn out with no downtime or fun time ever, it's a mental health thing. If that 15 minutes or one episode of a show helps recharge the batteries so you can get up and go to work again tomorrow and keep the rent paid...

 

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1 minute ago, quiet1 said:

Being poor sucks.

 

I know this very well — I'm poor.

 

2 minutes ago, quiet1 said:

Is the goal to keep people from starving or is it to control them and punish them for being poor?

 

The goal of the program is supplemental nutrition assistance.

Perhaps a nutrition class should be a requirement for SNAP eligibility.

Every dollar lost to waste or fraud is a dollar that doesn't go to those who actually need it.

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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Are you saying that if someone buys soft drinks, they don't actually need assistance? Or are you saying that since you are poor and you make certain choices, ergo everyone else who is poor must make those same choices? Maybe everyone who receives assistance should be forced to go shopping with an armed guard who ensures that the "appropriate" food choices are made. Really. 

 

 

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What a shame....more money that doesn't make it to those who really need it.....

 

“We found that 3,394 authorized SNAP retailers (retailers) used Social Security Numbers (SSN) that matched SSNs of deceased people,” the inspector general said. “Additionally, 193 retailers listed owners who were not at least 18 years of age. While FNS did have some controls to edit or verify SNAP retail owner information, these controls were not adequate to ensure owner information accuracy.”

 

“These 3,394 retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits,” the inspector general said. The 193 businesses that reported child owners redeemed $41 million in food stamps."

 

 

01/12/2017 - Detecting Potential SNAP Trafficking Using Data Analysis (PDF), (Report No. 27901-0002-13, Issued January 2017

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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2 minutes ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

 

I know this very well — I'm poor.

 

 

The goal of the program is supplemental nutrition assistance.

Perhaps a nutrition class should be a requirement for SNAP eligibility.

Every dollar lost to waste or fraud is a dollar that doesn't go to those who actually need it.

 I admire your idealism but you cannot legislate good nutrition. I speak with some degree of personal knowledge having spent far too much of the past year being presented with "healthy" food that I considered completely inedible.  Food of any sort that does not get eaten is not even a tiny bit nutriitious. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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2 minutes ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

What a shame....more money that doesn't make it to those who really need it.....

 

“We found that 3,394 authorized SNAP retailers (retailers) used Social Security Numbers (SSN) that matched SSNs of deceased people,” the inspector general said. “Additionally, 193 retailers listed owners who were not at least 18 years of age. While FNS did have some controls to edit or verify SNAP retail owner information, these controls were not adequate to ensure owner information accuracy.”

 

“These 3,394 retailers redeemed about $2.6 billion in SNAP benefits,” the inspector general said. The 193 businesses that reported child owners redeemed $41 million in food stamps."

 

 

01/12/2017 - Detecting Potential SNAP Trafficking Using Data Analysis (PDF), (Report No. 27901-0002-13, Issued January 2017

But now you are changing the argument. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I'm saying that those who need nutritional assistance would be better served if they made better decisions, and/or, if the goal of the program truly is nutritional assistance (same as WIC — which has limits) perhaps junk food should be removed from the list of eligible 'foods.'

 

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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3 minutes ago, Anna N said:

 I admire your idealism but you cannot legislate good nutrition.

 

I understand this.

There are things that CAN be done though.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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8 minutes ago, Anna N said:

But now you are changing the argument. 

 

No, not at all.

I ran across it while doing some research today.

I didn't think it warranted the start of a new topic that would probably be combined anyway.

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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The amount of fraud in any of our benefits systems is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of financial waste in other areas, so focusing on some small number of people gaming the system is a waste of time - frankly I'd rather accidentally pay a few people than risk people not getting help who need it. Our local school district recently went to free meals for everyone in part for that reason - it's easier to make sure all the kids get fed that way, no one slips through the cracks because their parents didn't sign up for assistance. It apparently also reduces bullying and teasing since kids are no longer singled out as needing help to pay for meals.

 

And as @Anna N pointed out, food that doesn't get eaten isn't nutritious no matter what it is. This is true if it isn't eaten because it tastes bad, or because it goes rotten before it gets cooked due to time constraints. Nutrition classes don't make up for lack of time, and mandating a nutrition class is basically punitive and makes people feel bad for needing assistance because it's saying "we are assuming because you are poor and need help, you are also stupid and don't know how to select food." Many many people who need assistance are not stupid, a surprising number are quite well educated and just fell on hard times.

 

The solution to SNAP issues is to get it so people don't need SNAP in the first place, not to make people who need SNAP more miserable and discourage people from using the help when they do need it.

 

This is like the people who lose their minds if someone who is on SNAP dares to buy any 'luxury' foods ever - nevermind it might be a special occasion they saved up for carefully or someone at home may be ill and need to be tempted into eating. (My late husband was chronically underweight and when he was feeling under the weather the standing orders from his nutritionist were basically anything goes as long as it gets calories in. So yeah, I would've gotten him a steak and eaten just vegetables or rice myself if we'd been on food assistance and the only thing he wanted to eat was a nice steak.)

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2 minutes ago, quiet1 said:

The solution to SNAP issues is to get it so people don't need SNAP in the first place, not to make people who need SNAP more miserable and discourage people from using the help when they do need it.

 

That would be nice.

How?

Realistically? 

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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I'd like to see fewer folks suffer.

 

Defining junk food isn't difficult.

 

"those commercial products, including candy, bakery goods, ice cream, salty snacks, and soft drinks, which have little or no nutritional value but do have plenty of calories, salt, and fats."

 

Source: Smith, Andrew F. (5 September 2000). Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. Greenwood Press. p. x. ISBN 978-0313335273

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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30 minutes ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

 

That would be nice.

How?

Realistically? 

 

Larger, more complicated problem than just slapping more restrictions on what benefits can pay for, for sure. But generally people like to obsess about restrictions, not bigger picture problems.

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1 minute ago, quiet1 said:

But generally people like to obsess about restrictions, not bigger picture problems.

 

I don't think it's necessarily obsession, it's what's realistically doable — be it restrictions, education or whatever.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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1 hour ago, quiet1 said:

Lots of people complain about the limits on WIC foods. 

 

Is the goal to keep people from starving or is it to control them and punish them for being poor? There is a long list of reasons why people who are low income buy crappy food, ranging from access to storage concerns to time issues to psychological stuff (junk food tends to be high in things that make us temporarily feel good, like sugar, it is designed that way) and unless you address those issues, imposing restrictions because you can is just punative and won't do much to make diets better, it just makes people more miserable and stressed.

 

Being poor sucks. People who are poor already know that society looks down on them and thinks they're horrible for needing assistance, they don't need someone putting more limits on how they can do things because people in government have decided that poor people are also too stupid to know they're buying crappy food.

 

Personally, I think the time/energy aspect is a big one. Due to my health I struggle to make good meals with fresh ingredients every day just because of the amount of time I'm able to spend in the kitchen, and I can imagine it is much the same for someone working multiple jobs. It simply takes some time and energy to turn ingredients into a meal, and while there are ways to make that process quicker, the quickest and easiest thing is still going to be to shove something prepared into the microwave, or grab something off a shelf and open the can/jar/box. If you're trying to juggle cooking against other demands on your time, what do you do? Better to help your kid with homework, parental involvement in that stuff is crazy important. Heck, even just sitting down for 15 minutes to watch some stupid TV show - people burn out with no downtime or fun time ever, it's a mental health thing. If that 15 minutes or one episode of a show helps recharge the batteries so you can get up and go to work again tomorrow and keep the rent paid...

 

 

Preach! A woman after my own heart.

 

32 minutes ago, quiet1 said:

The amount of fraud in any of our benefits systems is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of financial waste in other areas, so focusing on some small number of people gaming the system is a waste of time - frankly I'd rather accidentally pay a few people than risk people not getting help who need it. Our local school district recently went to free meals for everyone in part for that reason - it's easier to make sure all the kids get fed that way, no one slips through the cracks because their parents didn't sign up for assistance. It apparently also reduces bullying and teasing since kids are no longer singled out as needing help to pay for meals.

 

And as @Anna N pointed out, food that doesn't get eaten isn't nutritious no matter what it is. This is true if it isn't eaten because it tastes bad, or because it goes rotten before it gets cooked due to time constraints. Nutrition classes don't make up for lack of time, and mandating a nutrition class is basically punitive and makes people feel bad for needing assistance because it's saying "we are assuming because you are poor and need help, you are also stupid and don't know how to select food." Many many people who need assistance are not stupid, a surprising number are quite well educated and just fell on hard times.

 

The solution to SNAP issues is to get it so people don't need SNAP in the first place, not to make people who need SNAP more miserable and discourage people from using the help when they do need it.

 

This is like the people who lose their minds if someone who is on SNAP dares to buy any 'luxury' foods ever - nevermind it might be a special occasion they saved up for carefully or someone at home may be ill and need to be tempted into eating. (My late husband was chronically underweight and when he was feeling under the weather the standing orders from his nutritionist were basically anything goes as long as it gets calories in. So yeah, I would've gotten him a steak and eaten just vegetables or rice myself if we'd been on food assistance and the only thing he wanted to eat was a nice steak.)

 

This is one of my hot button issues, and hunger/nutrition programs are something in which I'm deeply involved at the local level. And our state legislature is presently meeting (and villages across the state are missing their idiots), with an avowed intention of revamping SNAP regs to prohibit the purchase of "junk food."

 

I have several problems with that. One is, as @quiet1 so eloquently notes, unless you are into shaming the poor by restricting what they can buy with SNAP, while leaving intact what I can buy with the cash in my pocket or bank account, you are inherently treating people unequally. On a purely philosophical basis, I don't like that.

 

Second, with some of my work in this area, I've been amazed to learn how many people just...can't...cook. As in, give 'em a potato and they're clueless what to do with it. Ditto a package of chicken or ground beef. Never were taught. Even kids like mine, who grew up with me cooking at least five days a week, picked up very little of it, and have no desire to learn. I shudder to think what you'd get back if you gave them a bag of dry beans and asked them to prepare them.

 

Third, we can't assume people on SNAP have the same, or even vaguely similar, ability to cook that we do. They may be homeless; they may be living in a by-the-week motel with no cooking facilities. They may live in an apartment or house where the power has been shut off. They may have no pots nor pans. There may be non-working appliances, if there are appliances at all. 

 

And fourth, people may simply not have TIME to cook. I'm lucky; I work from home, so I can stop now and again to stir something, or saute something and put it in to braise or slow cook, or turn an oven or an Instant Pot on or off. If I were working two low-paying jobs (and $10 an hour in Arkansas is a GOOD wage for a high school graduate in an unskilled or semi-skilled position) in order to support my kids, it's highly likely I wouldn't have TIME to cook between Job A and Job B. Should I be able to buy frozen pizza my kids can put in the microwave? Or TV dinners? They're not optimal -- but they may BE optimal in my situation.

 

It's not necessarily a case of people PREFERRING junk food. I volunteer at a soup kitchen, and yesterday was my team's day to cook. We made meat loaf for 60 people, served with green beans, corn and bread. Almost every one of our guests asked for seconds; about 20 asked for carry-outs, which we gladly give as long as the food holds out. Many of them walk several miles to get to our kitchen. We always have fruit for dessert, and no matter how much fruit we provide, it's always ALL gone at the end of the day; a lot of it walks out in people's pockets, and we're fine with that.

 

For the last two years, I've been involved in another program called "Cooking Matters," an effort sponsored nationally by the anti-hunger initiative Save Our Strength and in Arkansas by the Arkansas Hunger Alliance and the United Methodist Church. It's designed to teach people to cook healthy, nutritious meals on a SNAP budget. I've had people come to me in tears and say, "I was able to buy almost enough groceries to last all month, going by this book and what I learned." And that's wonderful, but it doesn't touch the homeless person that's eating chips out of a bag under an overpass or in a Salvation Army shelter.

 

It's not nearly as simple as people would like to make it. Hunger, like most other major issues, is damnably complex. And I don't think adding to regulations on it is going to simplify things any.

 

Soft drinks, btw, are not likely to make the list of "bad foods" non-purchasable by SNAP in Arkansas. The soft drink lobby is pretty big here. The word is they started working that issue back way before Christmas.

 

Sorry for the sermon. It's something about which I'm passionate. You may now resume your regular programming.

 

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I don't think anyone wants to limit SNAP folks access to the THOUSANDS of foods (many convenient) that aren't considered pure junk.

You're not the only one who's passionate about the subject.

I've given away thousands of pounds of food over the years — surplus produce, etc.

None of it 'junk food.'

 

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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SNAP is an agricultural subsidy program as much as it is a feeding people program.  USA  agricultural policy incentivizes and rewards massive overproduction of corn and soy, and the subsidies are there to help move engineered corn and soy byproducts in the market.  You're not going to get restrictions on SNAP card users, when the other beneficiaries are counting on them to buy the HFCS laden stuff that you're characterizing as junk.  If you want less junk in the system, move the incentives and subsidies away from rewarding farmers for growing so much stuff that gets turned into it.

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Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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I completely understand the frustration and anger that is often engendered by statistics such as these - as well as by anecdotal reports of abuse.  With that said, these are complex issues.  Add to that the fact that incentives to do or not do something are very tricky animals.  They rarely exist without unintended and/or unexpected consequences. 

 

It strikes me as less than ideal for soft drinks to be the most popular category of purchases in this program and it seems like a good thing to try to avoid it if possible.  Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, one has to be very careful how you try to accomplish that goal.  Any program is susceptible to being gamed in some way and it is likely impossible to design a program that can't be gamed in any significant way; however, I believe even the worst instances of abuse are relatively small in comparison to the benefit that is delivered as intended.  I think we would all be thrilled if government in general was able to operate within 10-20% of the ideal effectiveness and efficiency (whatever that might be).
 

If you click the USDA report link and download the appendices, there is a far more detailed list of subcategory rankings.  It is shocking how similar they are between SNAP and non-SNAP households - with one glaring exception:  Infant Formula  Starter/Solution ranks #10 for SNAP households and #190 for non-SNAP households.  I think that item alone goes a long way to show that people who need help are being helped as intended and they are not simply wasting the support they are receiving.

 

Edited by rustwood (log)
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