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April 24, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Restricting SNAP benefits recipients

In response to Karoun Demirjian’s recent article “House Republicans take aim at food stamps; some Democrats, including those from Nevada, try to fend them off”:

Stories about the recent outcry for an increase in food stamps and the growing trend of obesity in America’s poor often end up side by side in newspapers, illustrating an important and often overlooked issue that should be weighed just as heavily by the House of Representatives as it should by the American public. Nutrition, or lack thereof, in the lower-income class is becoming one of the greatest battles of our generation.

If we are going to give people food stamps, we should also give them the knowledge and ability to use that resource to the best of their ability.

I propose nutrition education be a requirement to receive food stamps and also limit the purchasing power of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program card to items that fall under well-established “healthy” categories.

The precedent to require these things is already established in the government-sponsored and thriving WIC program; thus we have proof that these ideas can and will work.

Eating healthier food leads to better physical health, and better physical health means less financial strain on sister programs like Medicaid.

In 2012, 47.7 million Americans received SNAP benefits. Fight obesity, get healthy, become better educated and positively affect future generations?

That’s four birds with one stone, multiplied 47 million times.

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  1. Ms. Walstad fails to understand that the primary beneficiaries of SNAP are not poor adults and children, but rather food processors like Con-Agra, Smithfield, General Mills and Kraft Foods. Secondary, though much smaller, benefits accrue to farmers and ranchers, primarily at the industrial and corporate farm scale. There is minimal profitability in the sale of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grains, etc. Dairy is somewhat more profitable as many states have milk and milk product price supports and the Federal government requires dairy cartels. The real money is in processed foods, prepared and semi-prepared meals in boxes, cereals, anything with added sugars and preservatives, etc. That is why those products are ubiquitous on the shelves and pushed heavily in advertising. Compare advertising flyers from any low to mid-market supermarket chain at the beginning of the month when benefits are typically loaded on EBT cards. There is a heavy emphasis on easy-to-prepare prepared food products, heavily processed foods, chips of all kinds, etc.

  2. The Senate rubber stamped the Farm bill which conflated SNAP [food stamps] with wealthy farm subsidies. For decades there has been a corrupt alliance between rural republicans and urban democrats who passed ever increasing and expanding benefits for their constituents. This version would have cost taxpayers $1 Trillion.

    The conservatives in the House revolted with 62 republicans and 39 democrats voting against. Kudos to them. Why? Farm product prices are at all time highs and the bill would have guaranteed price supports for these farm products--sugar, wheat, eggs, milk, etc.--at 85 percent of current prices for the next 10 years. That's nonsense. What other industry has price supports of 85 percent for 10 years?

    Separate the two issues--SNAP and farm subsidies--into two bills. Reform each individually and let each pass on its own merits. As they always should have been. Perhaps, just perhaps, if these farm commodities didn't cost so much as a result of artificial price supports, there wouldn't be a need for more and more food stamps to afford them.

    Carmine D

  3. Victor_Eismine your poat at 4:52 a.m is outstanding, thanks.

    Ms. Walstad apparently isn't aware that healthier foods are far more costly than processed food. Some people will get fat because their bodies go into starvation mode storing fat cells. 26 members of Congress tried living on SNAP assistant and found it extremely difficult.

    Why do we have this problem? Disparity and financial inequality caused many to fall to just above poverty levels. For better than 35 years the working class has basically stagnated while the wealthiest earned 277% more. People are working for lower wages and fewer benefits with many earning minimum wage. 76% of this country live from paycheck to paycheck with little saved and can't afford to invest. Just one traumatic event will wipe out a working persons savings. 47 million people need SNAP to maintain their food source, but as long as certain clowns keep thinking that "welfare queens" are the problem this issue will never be solved.

    As an experiment, go out to a poorer neighborhood, early in the morning, and watch how many people get on public transportation heading off to work. You might learn poor people actually do work and that propaganda about welfare is baseless BS. Imagine earning minimum wages ($15,000 annually) and taking care of a family of three or four. There are thousands of people living under those conditions.

  4. There are some pretty good arguements posted in Comments here. Poverty is no respector of person. Just a few minutes ago, PBS Bill Moyers put on a program about SNAP and its far reaching impact. Welfare benefits are designed in hopes that need for assistance will be "temporary". However, for millions, this is not the case, due to a variety of reasons.

    Just from personal experience, decades back, food assistance barely feeds a family. If a person is lucky, they also have resources as food banks and various charities to draw from. Today, we have the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch (did NOT exist when my family needed it) to defray childhood hunger. Does it satisfy hunger, no. As the sad state of need and hunger exists in the home. We have to think about the future, the children, and guide the adults in their lives. Not all adults are going to successfully make it off social assistance, that is the reality.

    As usual, career politicians attempt to load up bills with special interest political pork, and worse, they did NOT separate SNAP from other competing interests as the agriculture industrial complex. Large corporate interests make out like bandits, while the little guy farmer/rancher has to eek out a living...hardly fair or just. It is why rural young people leave the family farm or ranch, as they want a better life than subsistence.

    As Commenter Pat Hayes noted, "Ms. Walstad fails to understand that the primary beneficiaries of SNAP are not poor adults and children, but rather food processors like Con-Agra, Smithfield, General Mills and Kraft Foods. Secondary, though much smaller, benefits accrue to farmers and ranchers, primarily at the industrial and corporate farm scale. There is minimal profitability in the sale of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, whole grains, etc". Yet another epic fail by Lawmakers.

    If you ever go grocery shopping, people who have SNAP know the rules, separate out products they consume. The registers flag what is NOT allowable under current SNAP and government rules. Those items disallowed, are paid for by cash separately.

    The destruction of the Middle Class will yield MORE citizens depending upon social assistance. Therefore a greater problem needs to also be addressed. Welfare abuse gets reported these days, and addressed. Any welfare "outlier" will be discovered and prosecuted.

    Can the United States afford to allow 11 million illegal individuals amnesty when we cannot adequately care for our own citizens? That should also be a consideration. Most Americans are living in fear that their lifetimes will end in decimation of their savings that they trusted would get them through their golden years. The American Dream has truly "gone South" on many levels.

    Blessings and Peace,

  5. rusty57 - "Analysis from the Heritage Foundation"

    The same people who designed and implemented the Massachusetts healthcare mandate and now argue against what they created.

  6. LastThroes - "Top 10 Fat States: Where Obesity Rates Are Highest"

    Your list coincides with the poorest states:

    1 Mississippi
    2 Arkansas
    3 West Virginia
    4 Tennessee
    5 South Carolina
    6 Montana
    7 Kentucky
    8 Alabama
    9 North Carolina
    10 Louisiana

    Isn't it interesting that many happen to be Republican controlled states? The party who doesn't believe in education, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Obamacare, taxes and a host of other policies.