Tuesday, February 13, 2018, 7:00pm

Ok, look, we need to talk about food stamps.

Ok, look, we need to talk about food stamps.

The Trump Administration came out with another of their hot ideas, the so-called “Harvest Box,” a plan where you cut the amount of food stamp money a person or family receives in half and replace it with a box of food. This is one of those ideas that might sound good at first glance, but is actually terrible.

It’s looking like the idea isn’t actually going to happen, like many of the Trump admin’s ideas, which is worthy of a sigh of relief.

A ‘Harvest Box’ for Low-Income Americans? Not Anytime Soon, Officials Say
Under a proposal in the president’s budget many participants in the program would be given half their benefits in the form of a “Harvest Box” full of food preselected for nutritional value and economic benefit to American farmers. The cache of cheaper peanut butter, canned goods, pasta, cereal, “shelf stable” milk and other products would now be selected by the federal government, not by the people actually eating it.
In reality, administration officials on Tuesday admitted that the food-box plan — which the president’s budget director Mick Mulvaney compared to the Blue Apron grocery delivery service — had virtually no chance of being implemented anytime soon.

Okay, look. Solving poverty? Is not easy. If it were easy, we’d have done it by now. Poverty, and its myriad physical, emotional, mental and situational effects on people, is a complicated and difficult issue to deal with and resolve.

But one thing you can do right now, right this second, that would really, honestly help, and that takes no effort and doesn’t cost you a single penny, is to stop shaming people for being poor.

Now I’m gonna say something that might twist your knickers: Poor people are rarely at fault for being poor.

Stop right there. I know you’re already typing at me about that poor person you know who’s driving a Hummer and eating lobster every night. I don’t want to hear it, because statistics show that – if that person even actually exists – they are definitely the exception to the rule.

Here’s a few facts you need to know about who receives SNAP Benefits – food stamps:

  • 44% of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger)
  • 11.9% of SNAP benefits go to households with disabled persons
  • 10% of SNAP benefits go to households with senior citizens
  • 39.8% of SNAP participants are white
  • In 2015, the average SNAP client received a monthly benefit of $126.39, and the average household received $256.11 monthly.
  • Fraud within the SNAP system is extremely low. SNAP is currently functioning at the highest level of integrity the program has seen yet.
  • In fact, more than half of SNAP recipients are children or the elderly. For the remaining working-age individuals, many of them are currently employed. At least forty percent of all SNAP beneficiaries live in a household with earnings.
  • Undocumented immigrants are not (and never have been) eligible for SNAP benefits.

These stats come from SNAP To Health, a project working to improve nutrition in the SNAP program, and they site their sources on the page I linked to.

Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is not easy or cheap. I know this from experience. I’ve been working on changing my diet habits for three years now and I gotta tell you, eating healthy food is damned expensive. Also, it’s a whole lot harder to prepare. It is much easier and cheaper to eat crap. And “cheap and easy” is pretty important if you happen to be a single working mom trying to raise two or three growing kids.

And that’s even assuming that healthy, nutritious food is available. Food deserts are a real thing, people. I’m not sure if it’s changed at all recently, but at least for awhile there, the entire actual city of Detroit, Michigan was a food desert.

And that’s assuming you know how to prepare healthy food, or even that you know the basics of cooking, or that you have a place to cook. These things are not necessarily a given. If I hand you a raw artichoke right now, are you going to have the first idea what to do with it? How about an eggplant, or a squash? If you do, and you have a place to do it in, you are privileged in ways that many people are not.

Don’t forget about time, either. Look, I can grab a Stouffer Family-Sized Lasagna for like six bucks, throw it in the oven for an hour, and eat that thing for three or four days. And while it’s cooking for the hour, I can do ten other things that need doing. Now, that lasagna is going to be made entirely of fat, salt, and whatever scraps of meat they swept up off the factory floor and ground up, so it’s definitely not good for you. But it’ll fill you up, keep you going for work, and the preptime is about two minutes.

Do you know how long it takes to make a lasagna from scratch? An hour, at least, and that’s an hour of you standing there in your kitchen diddling around with stuff and doing nothing else. Man, if you’re working and raising kids, you don’t have that kind of free time or spare energy. I can find you ten waitresses right now who can attest to that fact.

People don’t buy garbage food because they’re wasting your hard-earned tax dollars, is what I’m getting at here. They buy it because that’s all they can prepare, or that’s all they have time to cook, or that’s all that’s available, or even because that’s all their kids will eat. Lots of disabled kids are pathologically picky eaters – particularly autistic kids.

Handing people a box of food pre-selected by bureaucrats who may or may not know any damn thing at all about feeding a poverty-stricken family is completely ridiculous. And to do it because of some weird conservative mindset that poor people are somehow bad, or eating badly just to waste your money or piss you off, is nothing short of cruel.

Do better, people.

But wait, where do I comment? No comments, sorry. Talk to me on Facebook or Twitter, instead.

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