The state’s broken record: food stamp policy waivers

Sometimes it starts with a state-level politician grocery shopping. 

“I was behind this lady with a shopping basket loaded with sugary drinks, potato chips, cookies and candy. She had nothing of any nutritional value in her cart and when it came time for her to pay, she pulled out her EBT card and paid for it.” Mississippi State Senator

“Several months ago, I was in line at a local grocery store when I noticed someone with children in front of me purchasing an entire grocery cart full of chips, soda, doughnuts, ice cream and other junk food. Unfortunately, she pulled out her EBT card, which carries her monthly Food Stamp allocation-and, swiped it to pay for all of that unhealthy food and off she went.” California State Senator

Other times political constituents complain about what they saw at the supermarket. Either way, it’s only going one place: a request from the state to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a waiver to restrict the type of food purchases allowed by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). That request will either die in discussion among state legislators or be rejected by the USDA.

How do I know this? It has already happened at least 11 times. Continue reading

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Replacing hunger with health: a food stamp dilemma

It’s 7:00 on a weekday evening. You’re hungry. You stop by the store on the way home to grab some dinner and decide on a six-pack of Pepsi, a large bag of Lays Original potato chips, a frozen pizza, and a package of DoubleStuf Oreos. Not the healthiest, you admit to yourself, but you’re hungry and want something tasty, convenient, and cheap.

  

At the cash register you stand behind a couple with a basket of similar items, except they went even cheaper, with off-brand cookies, Ramen noodles, and the six-pack of Coca Cola that was on sale. When he pulls out his wallet to pay, instead of debit or credit, he swipes food stamp card. Wait a second, you think, are my taxes paying for someone to eat cookies and Coke?

You wouldn’t be the first person to think such a thought, and if you pursued it, if you dug beneath the reflexive dismay, you’d find your question spaghettis into many more. Continue reading