28 September, 2006

Elitist Snotface Part II: The Great Food Stamp Debate

If I had categories I would just start one called "The Chronicles Of An Elitist Snotface" and be done with it.

Over at her hip new joint, Ivy has a post about food stamps. I was going to comment there, but I'm a week late in doing so, and I have too many comments. Besides, I feel as though I need to defend part of a post I wrote on the 4th of July about the topic.

I said (in part)
the woman in front of me buys four cases of soda, a cake, hot dogs, buns, ice cream, whipped cream, cookies, frozen pizza and twinkies. She pays for this with food stamps. ... The libertarian in me thinks that what she buys is her business. But the taxpayer in me is really ticked off. I think that when we are told that our money is being taken from us by force to feed the hungry, we have a certain level of peace about it because we picture starving children drinking frosty glasses of milk while eating an apple. I personally don't think of cakes, twinkies and Tropicana Fruit Soda as the largesse I would like to provide to the hungry.

Over at Ivy's new place she has this to say:
I also pointed out that it was pretty dang rude to be staring around at what everyone else was buying and their method of payment ... The only change I would like to see with the food stamp program (and this may already exist, I don't know) is to have cooking and nutrition classes strongly recommended, if not required.

So there are two things I want to address from my Elitist Snotface podium. The first is the seemingly-childish issue of looking at what other people have in their carts and why I am nosy enough to do so. Especially when I don't like it when people do it to me. Why do I look at what other people are getting and how they pay for it? Well, for starters, most of the time I'm just staring off into space in the checkout line. Sometimes "space" coincides with the conveyer belt. I shop at one of those stores where you have to unpack your cart to the conveyer in advance of the checkout person. So all your food is splayed out in front of God and everybody just like those pictures of Suri Cruise in Vanity Fair. I don't generally notice other people's food, but when it is really wierd-seeming it does jar me out of my reverie. In this particular example the woman bought a cake from the bakery decorated to look like a giant hamburger. You notice that sort of thing. And then I saw everything else. Jealousy plays into it, because I was there on a limited budget stretching my dollar to get one nice treat for the Fourth. The piles of food this woman had made me envious. When she paid for it with food stamps it made me mad. Still does. And as nosy as it seems to be looking at other people's food, I do so simply because I think it is far more ethical than reading a magazine you don't intend to pay for. This drives me up all four walls when other people do it in line around me. Again, not strictly my business but there you go.

As for teaching nutrition classes to people with food stamps, it sounds like a good idea. But those classes will and do cost more money. The money in the food stamp program is not limitless. Would you rather see more people in need receive food, or fewer people receive both food and an education on its proper consumption? Me personally, I'd rather that more hungry people eat. Which is why I'm firmly in the camp of making food stamps restricted a la WIC. Because being able to by an $18.00 decorated cake with money entrusted to you for your nutrition is not good stewardship. Yes, I know the argument--what if it was her kid's birthday?/Doesn't everyone deserve a treat now and then?--and I counter with this. You can bake a cake for a tenth of that price. You can buy a not-as-fancy cake for half that price. And frankly, I who pay things with money we fight hard to earn, have learned that you can't always get what you want. Treats are nice but they come after necessities. It will always be my belief that Food Stamps should cover necessities. Cakes and candies and fizzy drinks are not necessary no matter how loud PMS screams otherwise.


At 12:02 PM, September 28, 2006, Blogger Sarcastro said...

If going to class were their strong suit, perhaps they wouldn't be on food stamps.

If you don't want the general public seeing what you purchase at the store, don't shop in public. Wal-Mart is open all night. Around 2am, nobody is there to see that pound of fudge and issue of O magazine.

Food stamp users should have to use a special lane for food stamps only.

If not, they should have to turn around and thank everyone in line behind them for paying taxes so that the food stamper and family can eat.

Ok, I'm just ranting now.

At 1:23 PM, September 28, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

Most people (not ALL, of course), when they know better, they do better. Many of these people do not know how to cook, or what is proper nutrition. This is why classes would be very beneficial.

And Sarcastro, vast generalizations don't look very nice on you. ;) But I do understand the rant.

At 1:44 PM, September 28, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

I agree that most people do better when they know better. But until they know better, isn't it a good idea to teach by example?

I think that restricting food type availability for foodstamp recipients is the best way to teach by example. When you say "you can have eggs but not candy" you are in effect setting an example that eggs are better than candy.

For the sake of argument let's say your food stamp recipient has no idea how to cook an egg. So let's move it into the realm of things that don't need cooking. Why not say "lean roasted turkey lunch meat is okay but hot dogs are not" or "non-sugar cereal is okay but Lucky Charms are not"?

Those are both examples where the restrictions would help enforce healthier eating habits.

The point I am forever trying to emphasise in this debate is that nutrition in necessary for your brain. If you want your kids to do well in school they have to be well-nourished.

Our current foodstamp program pays lip service to caring about the hungry children but doesn't follow through. If we really cared we'd see to it that they have more than cheap hotdogs and Big K soda to feed their brains.

At 2:26 PM, September 28, 2006, Anonymous Conservative Brother/Monkey Boy said...

Good Idea Tenn. The folks up in the Hoosier State already have a program to "cure" the use of food stamps. The program is a plastic swipe card that is refilled. (unless they are on temporary assistants) Works great just like my debit card. Yet, they are limited to the "good" food.

The restrictions are good--but the great Hoosiers pay for the "good" food with the card then pull out cash to buy the cigarets, beer and soda pop.

Goes to show--Classes are just futile. People will work the system.

At 2:44 PM, September 28, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Ape Shape--Are food stamps a state program and not a federal program? I don't know why I've just been assuming they were federal.

Our "food stamp"s here are the debit card also. They've been that way for awhile. And I guess I still, after 15 years, have the Indiana way fresh on my mind because on 4 July I was honestly surprised that the food stamp program paid for those nonessentials down here.

I can't count the number of times back home that you'd have to stand in line f-o-r-e-v-e-r while someone did some complicated transaction of sorting out their Stamp Food from their Cash Food. And then there used to be that thing back when we were kids where the stamps were paper in dollar amounts that you could get a certain amount of cash back. So they would jigger their order around to pay the stamp stuff to get the cash to then pay for the other stuff with what was (technically) food stamp money but remaindered to them in cash.

Things like that used to irritate me. But at least in Indiana they'll let the underage checkers allow the customers to swipe their own beer. Down here I have to wait in line behind beer buyers while the manager toddles over to scan.

I hate waiting in grocery lines. Ironically my favourite place to vacation is Disney World.

At 3:34 PM, September 28, 2006, Blogger Ivy, the Great and Powerful said...

Goes to show--Classes are just futile. People will work the system.

Some people, not all. I hate to NOT help people based on the actions of a few.

At 5:23 PM, September 28, 2006, Anonymous Sista Smiff said...

If we tell people on food stamps, "You can't eat that, that isn't healthy and my tax money is paying for that"....how do we justify what we put in our shopping carts??? (When I say "we" I'm speaking of Sis) Isn't that something akin to communism saying "You must eateth this, you poor person?"

I'm just sayin....

At 10:38 PM, September 28, 2006, Anonymous j said...

For what it's worth, Food Stamps is a federal program adminstered thru USDA and Human Services federally and thru state agencies such as Human Services in Tennessee. Fed regs allow states some flexibility, i.e. e.b.t. (electronic benefit transfer) cards that are described in the post about food stamps in Indiana. There is a move to that in Tennessee, but it has not been fully implemented.

I think we all hope that people purchase the food that they need, i.e. healthy, as opposed to what they (or we) want. Allowing the food stamp recepient a choice, gives him/her the dignity to make their own choices, albeit some bad ones. The people who buy cakes or frosting or candies, etc. are depriving themselves and members of their family needed food. Food stamps are not going to make anyone 'food-rich'.

I know that some people abuse food stamps. I'll take that chance knowing that there are a LOT of children who would be hungry without food stamps. Over 60% of the humans on welfare/food stamps are children. We can rail all we want to about those lazy welfare cheats, but the truth is, 'those welfare folks' are largely children...AND, with the welfare reforms passed under the Clinton administration (with a large push from the GOP), many of the people who didn't have to attempt to work before are now having to enter training and/or the workforce to continue benefits. Yeah, there are people who game the system, but that's the risk you take when you do good..occasionally those good deeds do get punished.

At 8:36 AM, September 29, 2006, Blogger Exador said...

Whomever pays the fiddler, gets to pick the tune.

You have every right to look at their food and make judgements about their choices.

At 9:15 AM, September 29, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...


It's a good question. How do we justify what we put in our carts? I don't know if we do. The thing is, we don't need to.

I look at it as very much the same thing that happened when I was growing up. I was living under my parents' roof so I lived under their rules. I went to bed when they said, ate what they said and watched what they wanted us to watch on TV.

With freedom comes responsibility and with responsibility comes freedom.

I'm a libertarian. My entire political philosophy is about letting people make the choices they want--whether or not those choices are the best thing for them. But in libertarianism the flip side of that freedom is that you have to pay the toll. If you choose to smoke and then get lung cancer guess who has to pay for your medical care? You. Not me via the state.

Food Stamps are supposed to be a compassionate thing that aids the starving children. (As J points out.) The problem is that people with food stamps are making bad choices with money that was given to them to make good choices for the children entrusted to them.

I like to preserve the dignity of people, but when you (J.) point out that 60% of the people needing food stamps are children I think you prove my point for me. Frankly I don't give that much of a fiddler's fart for the dignity of a parent who wants to feel like they have the right to choose bad things for their children when the rationale used to take money from me by force is that we are feeding the children.

If we're feeding the children let's feed them good food so they don't end up undereducated.

At 11:18 AM, September 29, 2006, Anonymous bekah said...

The problem is that people with food stamps are making bad choices with money that was given to them to make good choices for the children entrusted to them.

Most of the people who need food stamps haven't been making good choices to begin with, which is why they need food stamps, so I don't see why they would start making good choices for because of their children.

At 11:27 AM, September 29, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...

Exactly. Which is why I think that it's not a bad thing to make the choice for them.

"No, you can't use food stamps to buy cigarettes and twinkies. You need to buy fruit and chicken."

At 10:25 AM, September 30, 2006, Blogger -d said...

This is exactly why my wife will not allow me to go to the Kroger in East Nashville. She is afraid I would punch someone in the face.

My suggestion:
They need to change what you can purchase from the WIC Program. WIC is a good program when properly policed (much like every other tax sucking, rip-off government program). I say WIC users should only be allowed to purchase healthy items and can not purchase any pre-made or microwave ready meals. If you want treats, get a job and work for it. If you want treats for your children, get a job and work for it. If you are gunna use MY money, yes MY FREAKIN' MONEY, to buy your groceries, you're gunna buy what I tell you to. Give them a hand up, not a hand out. Make them cook thier food, prepare meals, and do something other than shoot babies out to get more of MY money.

These people obviously don't police themselves so I say we do it. WIC should only buy cheese, milk, fruit, vegetables, bread, and B-grade meats. You want more, get a job, or a better job.

The "American Dream" is dead. Long live the politicaly correct.


At 3:38 PM, February 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wic only provides basic items like milk,cheese,eggs and juice. You cant buy anything except what is listed on that check. There are exceptions to the people who buy crap food with their benefits, as my family is on food stamps for the time being and i always cook everything scratch,bake my own bread,etc. I agree..most people on them like to buy frozen and premade crap but not all poor people are like that.As for taxes, my husband works 6 days a week so he is definitely paying taxes of some sort.
If there are any restrictions that need to be placed on them it would be a ban on ramen noodles and banquet tv dinners.
Ive taken a class provided by the Wic people before and the recipes were laughable. If i wanted to live off of jiffy mix and hamburger meat i guess i would be set for life.

At 4:15 PM, May 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 23yr old single mother. I go to school full time and work part time. Foodstamps really help me out right now because my income is very low. And you know what? Going to class is my strong suit that it why I have a 3.8gpa. Anyways, I also pay my taxes because i do work! i just dont make alot of money.

so dont judge because you really dont know everybodys situation.

At 11:23 AM, September 08, 2007, Anonymous Jules said...

I have worked hard since I was 14 years old. I am now 41. I have never in my life had to receive help form anyone...until now. I was involved in an accident with severe injuries that have required 13 surgeries over the last 3 years. I have had to finally swallow my pride and ask for help after all, savings will only last so long without income to replenish it. We managed to manke it two years before asking for assistence. If it wasn't for foodstamps my family would starve because of someone else's negligence. I do not think it is fair to lump all welfare recipients into one narrow minded catagory. I pray that you never have to go through what a lot of us have. As to the person that says we ought to use a special line or have to turn around and say thank you to all the taxpayers...well I was a tax payer for years, I dont feel that I should thank YOU for spending my own tax dollar to survive.

I do however agree that limits should be placed on what can be bought. I do not stand in line and buy family packs of candy bars or mounds of frozen quick fix foods. Even though I am unable to stand and cook, my teenage children have learned how to. And yes, they each have a job but how much can a teenager still in high school make? We are trying but without this hand up we would be lost.

Grow a heart people, we are not all bad.

At 9:39 PM, June 13, 2008, Anonymous working_mommy_of_2 said...

I'm getting a little fed up with you saying that a person on food stamps isn't capable of making good decisions. Your behavior is similar to racism, you can't judge everybody based on a handful of people.

I'm a married mom of 2, by husband works 6 days a week and I work part time while I go to college full time. I have a 3.9 GPA. I am, in fact, smarter than a lot of people that I know.

If it wasn't for food stamps, I would not be able to feed my family. You are sitting here railing against people on food stamps and how poor you has to pay taxes, we pay taxes too!! And I can guarantee that we pay more in taxes every year than we receive in food stamps so USE YOUR BRAIN, it's very basic math, I'm not spending your money and you need to mind your own business! Why don't you rail against the government for expecting honest hardworking people to live off $7 an hour when the cost of living is so high. Lucky you probably had a house and a great paying job before all the prices started going up.
Before you even point out that I didn't have any business having kids until I could financial afford them, let me give you some background information - I started working full-time when I was 16 years old. By the time I was 18, I had a $10 an hour job (which is REALLY GOOD FOR THE AREA I LIVE IN). I got married when I was 18 to a man who did framing and other construction for $12 an hour. After a year of being married, we purchased our first house as an escrow contract. We put $5000 down, poured a driveway, bought furniture, etc. About 6 months after we bought the house, we decided that we wanted a baby and that we could afford our bills on his income if I would continue working part time. So I went off my birth control and low and behold, got pregnant with my son. About a month after we found out I was pregnant, my husband lost his job because the man who owned the construction business he worked for retired and sold out, and the new owner had his own crew already. So he got a new job for $7 an hour ($5 cut) and I tried to go back to work full-time but was unable to because of my company. We were already struggling and depleting our savings when we get a letter in the mail saying the bank was recalling our 'loan'. I couldn't believe it! We had paid EVERY month, ON TIME! So I called and it turns out, even though it was a rent-to-own with the builder, the bank didn't agree to the contract, and they were recalling his loan with them. Tried to fight it and the guy was filing bankrupcy, absolutely nothing we could do. So here we were, no house, pregnant, less income. We didn't go on food stamps then. We kept trying to struggle through it on our own, but there was a point where it was get food stamps or starve my unborn child. I got pregnant with my daughter while I was on the pill, so don't even go there either.
I ALWAYS buy fresh fruits and vegetables and cook from scratch when I have time. But with 2 kids, work, and school, what business is it of yours if I come home and make a box of Mac & Cheese. Are you going to try to tell me you ALWAYS cook from scratch? Give me a break. Are you also telling me that because we have had a series of misfortunes, my kids shouldn't be allowed to enjoy a popsicle like other kids? I'd say you need to grow up and get of your wanna-be thrown. If the government wanted to spend 'your money' researching dirt, they could, they are going to take it from you anyways. I pay my fair share of taxes and couldn't care less if you feel slighted by it.

At 1:49 PM, June 14, 2008, Blogger Kat Coble said...

What taxes do you pay? Honestly. If you qualify for food stamps you aren't in a tax-paying bracket. You may pay sales tax, but you don't pay nearly as much in taxes as other people.

And yes, you may have had misfortunes, but you also chose to have babies. That's your choice and your responsibility.

And frankly, if you can't afford popsicles--so what. I can't afford a big-screen plasma TV. How ridiculous would it be for me to say "just because I'm not rich, shouldn't I have a big-screen plasma tv like the other kids?"

At 10:58 AM, July 01, 2008, Anonymous shelby said...

... and you realize that MANY, if not the majority, of those people on foodstamps DO work and DO pay taxes as well...

At 3:56 PM, December 01, 2008, Blogger dire said...

I was just trying to find info on food stamps when I ended up here. I am 39 and attending school as a nurse. Due to a series of unfortunate events (none of which are any of your business) I applied and received food stamps (debit card). After reading this blog I am appalled at the condescending attitudes of what appear to be middle aged women with no lives to attend to. I am ashamed to have to use stamps, and I will get off of them as soon as possible, but how dare you all sit in judgement of anyone. You are not God. When I get the courage to go to a store knowing women (very likely fat-assed women) like yourselves will be passing judgement on me for things you know nothing about, I will remember that I have spent the last 3 years working towards a BS degree in nursing and living on less than $10,000 a year. Yes $10,000, and this is the very first time I have asked for assistance. I wonder how you would feel if when you became ill or your parents became ill and had to rely on medicare or medicaid, and I looked down on you and snickered? Or maybe I could condemn you for not taking care of yourself and getting sick. You all need a dose of reality. I am ashamed to have to use stamps, but I am more ashamed of what I have read here today.

At 1:29 AM, December 04, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello was the lady not allowed to get birthday items for her kid because she is useing tax dollars? The foodstamp system is all over the USA. I hope you never have to use them.


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