Anatomy of a Food Stamp: 5 Facts You Didn’t Know


You know when your friends tell you, “Don’t worry, it will get better, just give it some time?” Well, that’s good and kind and well-intentioned, but actually, and I’m sorry to be the one to burst the bubble, a lot of things don’t get better. In fact, sometimes things get worse – certainly right now, for many people.

I’m thinking specifically right now about food and hunger. And even if we keep our conversation local, the facts are not good. 14 percent of the U.S. population is on food stamps today. That’s 1 in 7 Americans. It is also an increase of 16 percent from last year. That’s significant.

Given that such a significant number of people are on them, I decided to take a look at the food stamp system. First, I learned that since October of 2008, the program has been officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). I also learned that the average recipient gets $133 in stamps per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It seems logical that the system would help low income and unemployed people buy nutritious foods. Right?

Sadly, no. Do some digging, and you soon learn the entire system is depressingly vague. There are no guidelines around the types of food one can purchase with the stamps, other than the exclusion of tobacco, alcohol and hot foods. A person can take their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to CVS and spend their monthly stipend on Halloween candy or potato chips or Pop Tarts. Or all three.

It’s quick and painless to apply for food stamps, which may come as a surprise. You don’t have to be homeless or unemployed. You can own a car and get food stamps. You don’t even have to stand in a long line at a government agency to get food stamps. You can even be hip, young and broke and fill your belly with food stamp food.

It seems any middle class, employed person can qualify if they just take the time to apply. Some universities are even encouraging their students to apply for food stamps. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.) Rules are rules, and if a person meets the eligibility requirements, they can receive food stamps.

Image: WPS

4 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Food Stamp: 5 Facts You Didn’t Know

  1. After reading this article I can safely say that you need to do further research into the world of food stamps. Do you even realize that most families that receive food stamps budget those stamps out to pay for food for the entire month??? So forcing them to buy organic instead of buying four packs of hot dogs to feed their kids for the month may not work, but you would never know that. I can also tell by the statement you made about no lines you clearly have NO idea of what you are talking about. You have to produce months of paperwork and wait in a process that takes 5 hours to an entire day at a county office filled with other people wanting the same thing while being degraded by the county workers.

    You may have been impressive if you took the 30 day approach and surrendered your salary down to legal food stamps eligibility limits, took on a few other mouths to feed and then went down and tried to apply for food stamps yourself. You would get a very different outlook. Now I agree that we should be eating healthy after all my profession is in Holistic Health Care, but when you speak like this on topics you clearly have no real understanding of someone has to tell you about it. I took the liberty to do so this time….

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think the real problem here is that our federal government so heavily subsidizes the agribusiness producing these unhealthy foods. They’re cheap because they’re supported by our tax dollars. That’s not good for Americans.

      A quick bit of feedback: we’re not proposing everyone buy organic with limited food stamp allotments; we’re presenting the facts about the food stamp system in order to demonstrate just how impossible it would be for a family to eat in a nutritious way with the resources available.

  2. So what are you saying ultimately? That food stamps should only be valid for purchase of, for example, grains and produce? And no processed foods? That could be a valid point.

    But otherwise, you’re just ranting about food stamps. Are you jealous that you don’t have an extra $100-$200 bucks to spend on groceries? Are you saying people shouldn’t be receiving them?

    I’m very unclear on what your point is.

  3. “It’s quick and painless to apply for food stamps…”
    I am a single Mom of two living on less than 27000 a year…I was denied food stamps, but depend on child care assistance to keep my job. It is not painless to sit in an SRS office and have your life peered into by a case worker. It is not painless to have to ask for help as an adult and it is not painless to be turned away!

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