Mike Kueber's Blog

November 28, 2012

Food stamps and food banks

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:31 pm
Tags: , ,

Mark Bittman recently blogged in the New York Times about the failure of food stamps and food banks to eliminate hunger in America.  What’s worse, according to Bittman, these programs are being trimmed instead of being beefed-up.  Unfortunately, Bittman’s post provides no evidence that the programs are failing or that the proposed trimmings are inappropriate. 

Bittman’s most interesting comment is his suggestion that the current food-stamp participation of a record-high 47 million people is too low because perhaps another 15 million people who are entitled to the benefit are not aware of their eligibility.  I suggest that many of the nonparticipants are aware of their eligibility but refuse to accept this welfare as a matter of personal pride.  In fact, I was speaking to someone last night who said he was eligible, but his pride wouldn’t let him use food stamps.

Technically, the food-stamp program (SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) eliminated the stamps many years ago and replaced them with debit cards for exactly the reason described by my friend – i.e., to prevent participants from being embarrassed.  And many states are aggressively trying to recruit participants because the food-stamp program represents a huge dollar flow from the federal government into the state.

Personally, I think people should be able to collect their welfare without being humiliated, although I find it interesting to read about beneficiaries who get defensive when people in the check-out line question them about their cell-phone, designer shoes, and pedicured nails.  One of them opined that being on welfare shouldn’t require a person to live like a pauper.

But I also think government should respect individuals who decline to use food stamps as a matter of pride.  This is often a healthy pride, and despite Bittman’s assertions to the contrary, these people are not going to bed hungry.



  1. My husband and I just returned to the states from living abroad and are expecting our first child. We are actively seeking employment (both of us with tons of experience and college degrees), but in the meantime, applied for medicaid and food stamps. Myself and the baby were approved for medicaid which has been a lifesaver due to my pregnancy, but my husband was not approved. We also got approved for food stamps and have the SNAP card. We were approved for almost $400 a month (which is PLENTY, we have tons of left over each month). We cook at home most always and do our best to eat healthy. However, even though it is a debt card, I still feel like I have to explain myself when we use it at the cashier. My pride does get in the way. I feel like I shouldn’t need to be using government support, but I have no choice.
    I just don’t like that I can buy any food related item…junk food, etc. I think that many people take advantage of the system and do not take care of their families health. People who rely on the government for this support should also be upheld to be responsible for their family and at least be forced in a way to buy good food to make sure their children and family members stay nurished correctly.

    Comment by Adventures We Seek — November 29, 2012 @ 2:25 pm | Reply

  2. mike, i don’t support said govenment programs for the purpose of eliminating hunger, because the programs won’t do ELIMINATE hunger. all these programs will do is feed people. to eliminate hunger we have to fix the problems. people must have employable skills and they must have an incentive to use them. if someone cannot acquire and use such skills i’m willing to care for them with my tax dollars. if they can acquire and use such skills and elect not to, well, i’m good with them being hungry, unclothed, and unhoused.

    Comment by Q — December 2, 2012 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

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