Monday, November 15, 2010

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Foolishness

Being a die-hard liberal I have absolutely no problem with using tax dollars to benefit the greater good of the public. Although I detest the Department of Defense budget for what it generates there are other aspects of the Federal budget that I whole heartedly support. Things like clean water to drink, food safety, air traffic controllers, the FBI, the construction and maintenance of highways and bridges, public television and radio, libraries and health care. Things that everyone takes for granted being provided by the government.

At the same time I enjoy knowing that my tax dollars are also being spent to help people less fortunate than I am. Like providing for the education of children, or providing safe shelters for homeless people, or providing for the feeding and proper nutrition of the less fortunate. One of the principal ways of accomplishing the latter is through the ages-old "Food Stamp" program managed by the US Department of Agriculture, and now largely outsourced (with dollars following it) to the States.

This ages-old program is now administered as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The apparent motto for SNAP, as indicated on their website is "We help put healthy food on the table for over 40 million people each month." Yesterday I saw an instance of someone using their SNAP (Food Stamps) benefits in direct contradiction of the motto of the program.

Near the end of my bicycle ride yesterday I stopped in at a 7-11 store to get my now-traditional peanut butter flavored energy and protein bar and another bottle of Zephyrhills water. Standing in front of me in the check out line was a morbidly obese woman whose entire stash of food she was purchasing included 1) a 12-pack of Miller lite beer, 2) a gargantuan bag of Lays potato chips, 3) a package of Oreo cookies, 4) a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi (no doubt dripping with high fructose corn syrup derivatives), 5) a container of nachos that were smothered in cheese, and 6) a pack of sugar-laden Doublemint gum. When her purchase was rung up this morbidly obese woman paid for her items with a Food Stamp card just like the one shown above.

WTF?? At least she chose Lite beer.

The United States Department of Agriculture sells this program as putting "...healthy food on the table..." Ah, excuse me USDA but NOTHING this woman purchased with Food Stamps comes even close to being healthy. Nothing. Still she was able to make this purchase and waddle out the front door of 7-11 with about 8 billion calories (and 1 gram of protein) in her arms.

Recently the US Department of Agriculture's SNAP program provided awards to various states for "exceptional nutrition assistance service and program integrity." The news release for these awards to the states begins with:
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will award $30 million to selected states for their excellence in administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. The national average level of program payment accuracy for FY 2009 is 95.64 percent, the sixth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate. For the second straight year, the national negative error rate (a measure of denials, terminations and suspensions) also improved.

"Program integrity is critical as participation in SNAP continues to grow to meet the nutrition needs of the most vulnerable Americans, and these results deliver on President Obama's directive to decrease improper payments and protect taxpayer dollars," said Secretary Vilsack. "We are improving the accuracy and efficiency of program delivery while working to deliver on Obama administration efforts to reduce hunger and improve nutrition for people across the country."

Not surprisingly one of the states receiving award monies was Florida - to the tune of more than $11 million dollars.

It is an admirable goal of the Obama Administration to want to reduce hunger and improve nutrition. First Lady Michele Obama has gone out of her way to initiate and support efforts to reduce childhood obesity - her efforts are a many-fold increase in concern over the non-concern demonstrated by the Bush Administration in this area.

Still, people are able to walk into a 7-11 (and why is a 7-11 ANYWHERE considered a food store??) in Sarasota, Florida, and purchase non-nutritional fructose-laden "food" items and then pay for them with food stamps provided, ostensibly, to improve nutrition and reduce hunger. I can see how this person would not be hungry after stuffing her face with a pound of cheese-draped nachos, but how in hell is that nutritional?

Don't get me wrong. This morbidly obese woman has every right to keep herself morbidly obese and to eat and drink whatever she wants. However should the State of Florida (who administers the program) really allow scarce tax dollars to be used to accomplish this woman's nutritional "goals"? And remember if she is receiving public funds for "food" then whenever she goes to the doctor or lands in the hospital there is a very good chance that public funds are being used to pay for her doctor and hospital bills as well.

Neither is a very good use of public resources.


  1. I completely agree with your position on this but how is it possible to police the program? Many of the hired workers in these places such as 7-11 are slightly educated and likely pay little attention to the products passing their scanners...Perhaps a complete restructuring of how it is administered needs to take place. Unfortunately, hopefully without sounding to judgmental or stereotyping, many and most of the people entering our welfare system are those with little interest in bettering themselves or trying to get out of the situation they are would seem they would prefer to continue to live off the system and continue to produce more children they can't adequately care for. I see it every day when people come in this office to do UI reporting or ask for assistance. Its sad. I believe what needs to be done is that these people should be required to complete so many hours of volunteer service (this aides in learning compassion and self worth) and they should be made to attend so many hours of provided classes on everything from how to be successful to positive parenting. ONLY then should they be allowed to collect any money from the government to assist their them to start helping themselves.