How do Food Stamps Work?

Courtney at From Austin to A&M has an excellent article about food stamps that helps bust a number of myths about poor people at large cheating the system and spending their own money on frivolous things like televisions. There is also the fact that the surplus of refined food products in the United States means that you can be nutritionally deficient while still consuming an excess of calories.

From Austin to A&M – Food stamps: How do they work?

Myth #1: There are no bread­lines any­more, so peo­ple need to stop act­ing like hunger is a prob­lem in the U.S. This is patently untrue. Peo­ple are still hun­gry in the U.S. and there ARE still bread­lines, they just don’t look the same. They’re spread out and less vis­i­ble. They’re in front of food pantries. When I lived in George­town, TX, there was a line that stretched out for two blocks in front of the food pantry near our house every other Sun­day. Bread lines are also at gro­cery stores at mid­night at the begin­ning of the month. I’m not the only food stamp recip­i­ent who goes to the gro­cery store at 11:30 on the 2nd of the month (my ben­e­fits are loaded on the 3rd) and makes sure to check out after mid­night. Bill Simon, the U.S. CEO of Wal-Mart, said in 2010,

“And you need not go fur­ther than one of our stores on mid­night at the end of the month. And it’s real inter­est­ing to watch, about 11 p.m., cus­tomers start to come in and shop, fill their gro­cery bas­ket with basic items, baby for­mula, milk, bread, eggs, and con­tinue to shop and mill about the store until mid­night, when … gov­ern­ment elec­tronic ben­e­fits cards get acti­vated and then the check­out starts and occurs. And our sales for those first few hours on the first of the month are sub­stan­tially and sig­nif­i­cantly higher. And if you really think about it, the only rea­son some­body gets out in the mid­dle of the night and buys baby for­mula is that they need it, and they’ve been wait­ing for it. Oth­er­wise, we are open 24 hours—come at 5 a.m., come at 7 a.m., come at 10 a.m. But if you are there at mid­night, you are there for a reason.”

So our bread lines aren’t as vis­i­ble (remem­ber that food stamps are loaded on three dif­fer­ent dates, mean­ing the uptick in cus­tomers on one of those dates at mid­night might not be as obvi­ous to the casual observer), but many peo­ple are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to eat in this coun­try. The fact that 44,708,726 peo­ple, about 1 in every 7 Amer­i­cans, are enrolled in SNAP sug­gests that a lot of peo­ple are fac­ing eco­nomic hard­ships bad enough to result in food insecurity.

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