Author Topic: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps  (Read 11270 times)

DoubleDown

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Wow, this is maddening!

The front page of today's Washington Post had this article about county officials "trying to get by" on $5/day for food, to see what it's like to be a person living on food stamps (formally, the SNAP program). In reality, you're given more (see below), but $5/day is still easy!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/montgomery-officials-try-eating-for-5-a-day/2013/02/04/4fe35c00-6e37-11e2-8b8d-e0b59a1b8e2a_story.html

Holy f***, the program actually provides $200/month per person! That is way more than we spend on food to feed our family, and we are eating like kings and queens in the highest COL county in the nation, next door to Montgomery County featured in the article.

For extra comedy or rage, you should read all the complaining on how it's impossible to get by on this amount. Poor baby-county supervisor had to put back his can of "Nature's Promise (whatever that is) at $4.69/can.

Since I wanted to check the article's facts, I went to the link to the SNAP program, and these are the actual benefits provided. Family of 4 can receive $668/month in benefits for just food??!!! Man, us working folks are suckers! Our family spends half that including things not provided through food stamps, like alcohol and vitamins.

(October 2012 through September 2013)
People in Household    Maximum Monthly Allotment
1    $    200
2    $    367
3    $    526
4    $    668
5    $    793
6    $    952
7    $ 1,052
8    $ 1,202

Each additional person    
$    150

 

MrSaturday

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2013, 10:47:11 AM »
Someone over on reddit/frugal had a friend or relative who was about to do this and she expressed serious concern about the health risks of living on $5 per day for a single week.

I'd be willing to bet I have a much more healthy diet on that budget than she does at any level.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2013, 11:02:41 AM »
You are so insensitive - don't you realize that processed foods and soda is expensive, how else will they survive.

Family of five gets $793/month - family of five here and we spend a bit less than that on average but it includes all toiletries, cleaners, etc and food and alcohol for all the entertaining we do with friends and family and that adds up. 

Warning - tooq is about to beat a dead horse:  That's what happens when the government is involved in anything - easily 30% wasted and probably more when fraud and lack of monitoring is factored in. Just the fact that they call it SNAP and provide non-identifying debit cards so people aren't discouraged/embarrassed using it.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2013, 11:10:37 AM »
When was the last time y'all saw an poor, clearly underweight person in the US? Access to food, even for the poor, stopped being a problem long ago.

Orvell

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2013, 11:16:18 AM »
When was the last time y'all saw an poor, clearly underweight person in the US? Access to food, even for the poor, stopped being a problem long ago.
Don't really want to get into this, but just remember that weight and health/nutritional level are not necessarily connected. Just 'cause someone is getting their calories doesn't mean they are getting access to nutrition.
Most of us here are in a lucky spot with access to a kitchen to make our dried beans and the free time to do our research on the MMM forums.
I'm not saying you're wrong, just that we're coming at the issue from a pretty different perspective than a lot of folks knee deep in the reality of poverty, not frugality.

Bill76

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2013, 11:48:17 AM »
What these articles always ignore is that SNAP and WIC are run by the Department of AGRICULTURE.  These programs aren't really designed for the benefit of poor families; they're actually farm subsidies.  The fact that they keep our poor people fat and happy (literally) is just a political bonus for Congress.  Incumbent politicians probably wouldn't get re-elected at such high rates if millions of our nation's poor spent their days waiting in line at their local soup kitchens and food banks.

It's really easy to eat on $5 per day, per person.  Lots of oatmeal, rice, and beans, bought in bulk, along with fresh and frozen produce.  That's basically what my family eats, plus fresh eggs from our chickens and ducks.  If we wanted to eat meat, we could splurge on grass fed steaks every so often and still stay within that budget.

mlipps

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2013, 12:01:14 PM »
When was the last time y'all saw an poor, clearly underweight person in the US? Access to food, even for the poor, stopped being a problem long ago.
Don't really want to get into this, but just remember that weight and health/nutritional level are not necessarily connected. Just 'cause someone is getting their calories doesn't mean they are getting access to nutrition.
Most of us here are in a lucky spot with access to a kitchen to make our dried beans and the free time to do our research on the MMM forums.
I'm not saying you're wrong, just that we're coming at the issue from a pretty different perspective than a lot of folks knee deep in the reality of poverty, not frugality.

I agree. I also really hate articles like this because they try to oversimplify the problem of poverty into dollars and cents instead of actually addressing the complexity and cyclical nature of poverty. Didn't we have an article/discussion around here recently where we discussed how hard it is to start thinking clearly when you're under than kind of stress? I freely admit that people could afford to eat on that money, but I think you're making assumptions including:
-They have access to a kitchen and are not homeless/living in shelters
-They have adequate cooking equipment in that kitchen
-They have the ability, both in skills and intellectual capacity to cook and plan meals
-They have the time to cook

There's a lot more that goes into these issues that articles like this just don't even touch. They set progress back instead of advancing it, because they're a red herring from the real problems.

zug

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2013, 12:05:58 PM »
Thank you, mlipps.

Saying that this is easy if you buy in bulk is kind of crazy to me and totally misses the point. Buying food in bulk to save money is great... if you have enough cash to make the outlay up front, you have access to bulk suppliers, a car to get the food home, space to store it, time and the right equipment to cook it, etc.

If you are time poor, lack of transportation forces you to shop at the closest store which has bad selection and is expensive, and lack a decent kitchen, $5/day isn't unreasonable.

mustachecat

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2013, 12:20:41 PM »
Also, the maximum benefit isn't what people actually get: it's, well, the maximum possible. Here are the averages:

1   $159
2   $282
3   $412
4   $508
5   $601
6   $701
7   $812

I'm sure many people here will still say that this (or anything) is too generous.

There's a large public housing development by where I live, where everyone get subsidized housing and probably a significant majority are on food stamps. Cheap housing and free food might sound good on paper, but I would never trade my circumstances for theirs in a million years.

DoubleDown

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2013, 12:31:32 PM »
While I'm sure there are lots of diverse and complex factors to poverty that might make it, say, difficult to "buy in bulk", let's not forget that food assistance is only one part of the equation. There are all kinds of other programs available to folks who will qualify for food stamps: housing assistance (or even free housing), free child care, Head Start, unemployment, social security and disability payments, college financial aid, free breakfast and lunch for kids at school, and tons of private social programs (like food pantries, clothing donations, etc.).

I'm not really buying that it would be difficult to get by on $5/day despite some possible inconvenience in not having a giant pantry in a suburban house or a chef kitchen. It would be gross, but I could easily eat at McDonald's 3 times/day on $5 and be fat and unhealthy with zero inconvenience. Or I could buy some reasonably healthy food instead. Either way, it would not be difficult.

People in this area at least can get incredibly nice Section 8 housing. I'm talking about apartments not just with well-appointed kitchens to prepare food, but also gyms, WiFi, and swimming pools, and nice grocery stores nearby.

Last weekend I happened to be driving through inner-city Baltimore, through dozens of public housing complexes. Free or super-reduced housing, but too many satellite dishes attached on the outside of each apartment to count...

Sorry for my rant, it just feels like some forced frugality ought to be part of the equation when you're receiving public assistance.

And County Supervisors looking bewildered and shaking their heads because the can of salmon they want to buy costs $4 -- as though they just stepped foot in the grocery store and actually looked at a price tag for the first time in their freakin' lives.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2013, 12:41:31 PM »
Hm, it seems my comment was a little more abrasive than intended. I understand poverty is a complex trap and I don't mean that the poor should just suck it up and save like the rest of us.

What I do find interesting/sad, however, is that we have created a society where virtually nobody is dying of hunger, quite an unprecedented feat in the 2000-something years of Christendom. Orvell is right in saying that adequate nutrition is more than a simple calory count, otherwise we'd be all drinking beer all day.

DoubleDown

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2013, 12:45:28 PM »

Warning - tooq is about to beat a dead horse:  That's what happens when the government is involved in anything - easily 30% wasted and probably more when fraud and lack of monitoring is factored in.

Lol -- At least we can count on predictability, regardless of where any of us might come down on the issue :-)

I would never trade my circumstances for theirs in a million years.

+1. Absolutely, and well said!

(btw, I also wouldn't want to trade circumstances, but I would like it if our own taxed earnings were not being spent through public assistance programs in ways that exceed our own MMM standards of living. Easy to say, harder to implement I'm sure. It's just hard for me to justify public housing with satellite dishes outside every door and a nice big swimming pool)

mlipps

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2013, 12:51:42 PM »

I'm not really buying that it would be difficult to get by on $5/day despite some possible inconvenience in not having a giant pantry in a suburban house or a chef kitchen. It would be gross, but I could easily eat at McDonald's 3 times/day on $5 and be fat and unhealthy with zero inconvenience. Or I could buy some reasonably healthy food instead. Either way, it would not be difficult.

People in this area at least can get incredibly nice Section 8 housing. I'm talking about apartments not just with well-appointed kitchens to prepare food, but also gyms, WiFi, and swimming pools, and nice grocery stores nearby.

Last weekend I happened to be driving through inner-city Baltimore, through dozens of public housing complexes. Free or super-reduced housing, but too many satellite dishes attached on the outside of each apartment to count...

Sorry for my rant, it just feels like some forced frugality ought to be part of the equation when you're receiving public assistance.

And County Supervisors looking bewildered and shaking their heads because the can of salmon they want to buy costs $4 -- as though they just stepped foot in the grocery store and actually looked at a price tag for the first time in their freakin' lives.

-You can't buy fast food (or any prepared food at all) with food stamps
-Your area might have nice section 8 (I lived in a mixed income building in MoCo, MD until I moved in Nov. so I'm familiar with that) but it's far from the case in most places. And that says nothing to the waiting lists for those sorts of programs. In Chicago, the waiting lists for CHA are usually closed and take about 10 years to get into housing. There's a whole other problem that people stay in poverty for 10 years, but when you're being evicted from your home after losing your job and falling behind on rent, there's no (or very little) safety net to keep you of a homeless shelter.
-I agree about the "forced frugality" thing to some extent, but honestly, if the majority of Americans with bachelor's degrees, safe home life, the ability to pay their bills every month, can't manage their finances well, it's a high bar for those faced with violence, poor education, and all the stresses of living in poverty to do so. It's easy for most of us here to get this financial thing, at least to some extent, but for most of America, it doesn't come naturally. Adding low wages and complicated systemic poverty into things just makes it that much harder.
-I totally agree that the people featured in the article are obnoxious as all get out, as are most of the people in similar articles.

mlipps

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2013, 12:53:17 PM »
Hm, it seems my comment was a little more abrasive than intended. I understand poverty is a complex trap and I don't mean that the poor should just suck it up and save like the rest of us.

What I do find interesting/sad, however, is that we have created a society where virtually nobody is dying of hunger, quite an unprecedented feat in the 2000-something years of Christendom. Orvell is right in saying that adequate nutrition is more than a simple calory count, otherwise we'd be all drinking beer all day.

I could rant allll day about the absurd food system politics that go into the whole thing. I totally agree. Sorry if I overreacted, I'm just really passionate about issues (food systems & poverty) after 4 years of college volunteering with people living in poverty here in Chicago. (Amazing organization by the way, LIFT Communities)

DoubleDown

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2013, 12:59:20 PM »

<important stuff, read above>


Great perspective on this mlipps, thanks for sharing that.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2013, 01:09:03 PM »

Warning - tooq is about to beat a dead horse:  That's what happens when the government is involved in anything - easily 30% wasted and probably more when fraud and lack of monitoring is factored in.

Lol -- At least we can count on predictability, regardless of where any of us might come down on the issue :-)

I would never trade my circumstances for theirs in a million years.

+1. Absolutely, and well said!

(btw, I also wouldn't want to trade circumstances, but I would like it if our own taxed earnings were not being spent through public assistance programs in ways that exceed our own MMM standards of living. Easy to say, harder to implement I'm sure. It's just hard for me to justify public housing with satellite dishes outside every door and a nice big swimming pool)

See warning above....reload and repeat.

I wouldn't want to be in that position either, and while poverty is extremely complex (particularly in urban "war zone" areas) you ask yourself why you are not.  This is also complex and partly due to circumstance including upbringing, lack of role models and opportunity, safety, food but also because of motivation. 

Motivation is twofold including the inner drive to want and strive for more (some people have it, most don't, and for those who have it sometimes the circumstances are too much and beat it down/keep it down) and the second is the survival drive that is impeded by government subsidies - when a person/family is given enough to get by without working or remaining underemployed what motivation do they have - so they step up, work harder, get educated, and in the end they make $25k but lose their subsidies and as a result they will have a lower quality of life and a more stressful one. 

Those who have the inner drive will see through this farce and understand that initially it will be hard and at times it may seem like you have less but they know that if they keep it up they will transcend that circumstance and over time prosper. To some exten taxes are similar discourse - I hate paying as much taxes as I do, but I would rather pay them than be in a position where I don't pay taxes and don't have choice and flexibilty and have to rely on government.

Those who have the survival drive are already surviving so to jeopardize that or having to expell greater effort to get the same result (in their mind its permanent and not temporary) just isn't in the cards.

Back to OP - there is a derth of grocery options in most inner city areas and most food sources consist of corner stores that don't have the supply - this IS the most pressing issue for low income people to have healthy diets.

zug

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2013, 05:08:09 PM »
I wouldn't want to be in that position either, and while poverty is extremely complex (particularly in urban "war zone" areas) you ask yourself why you are not.  This is also complex and partly due to circumstance including upbringing, lack of role models and opportunity, safety, food but also because of motivation. 

I'm pretty sure that nobody wants to be so poor they can't put food on their own table. Do you know how demoralizing that is? What you see as lack of motivation is really just the rational results of repeated attempts and failure. You can only try and fail so many times before you realize that you aren't going to succeed no matter what you do and give up. If you aren't seeing anybody around you succeed, why on Earth would you think that you would be different?

smalllife

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2013, 05:34:13 PM »
What I do find interesting/sad, however, is that we have created a society where virtually nobody is dying of hunger, quite an unprecedented feat in the 2000-something years of Christendom.

"Christendom" has absolutely nothing to do with it - government policies and a nation of immigrants created a society where those who are dying of hunger do so out of everyone else's way.  If you want to got the religious route, Christendom should also include the sub-Saharan countries with incredible rates of starvation and disease and the hunger in South America as well.

zhelud

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2013, 07:43:29 AM »
When was the last time y'all saw an poor, clearly underweight person in the US? Access to food, even for the poor, stopped being a problem long ago.
Don't really want to get into this, but just remember that weight and health/nutritional level are not necessarily connected. Just 'cause someone is getting their calories doesn't mean they are getting access to nutrition.
Most of us here are in a lucky spot with access to a kitchen to make our dried beans and the free time to do our research on the MMM forums.
I'm not saying you're wrong, just that we're coming at the issue from a pretty different perspective than a lot of folks knee deep in the reality of poverty, not frugality.

I agree. I also really hate articles like this because they try to oversimplify the problem of poverty into dollars and cents instead of actually addressing the complexity and cyclical nature of poverty. Didn't we have an article/discussion around here recently where we discussed how hard it is to start thinking clearly when you're under than kind of stress? I freely admit that people could afford to eat on that money, but I think you're making assumptions including:
-They have access to a kitchen and are not homeless/living in shelters
-They have adequate cooking equipment in that kitchen
-They have the ability, both in skills and intellectual capacity to cook and plan meals
-They have the time to cook

There's a lot more that goes into these issues that articles like this just don't even touch. They set progress back instead of advancing it, because they're a red herring from the real problems.

I agree- it's hard to buy the bulk beans and lentils and rice if you don't have a pot, or a place to cook, etc. And using a big portion of your allotment to buy something in bulk takes some planning.
In Barbara Ehrenrich's "Nickel and Dimed," she figures out how to live on very low wages, but the interesting thing is that she decides to start from scratch, as though she didn't already have a place to live and plenty of stuff like cooking pots, oil, spices, etc. She is an experienced, thrifty housekeeper but still has trouble.

kolorado

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2013, 08:17:57 AM »
What's really frustrating about all these politicians that try this challenge is that you'd think with their "success" in life they would be able to do this. Unlike so many(and I would even estimate it's the majority)of long-term food stamp recipients, politicians aren't suffering from the disadvantages of living in poor and depressed neighborhoods, without family support, or dealing with a physical/mental or learning disability. Having grown up in such a place myself, most of the people we knew had serious learning disorders. These people may be able to work simple jobs, but they would never be able to wrap their minds around how to save money on food by shopping sales and cooking from scratch, nor will they understand the basic sciences of nutrition. Those with learning disabilities really struggle with these concepts as well as planning ahead and making decisions. If these are the people we want to truly help with programs, then actual meals should be provided, not an allowance to spend on anything. Of course I don't trust the government to do this. Look how well they do with school lunches. :/
We do have a serious malnutrition problem in our country, despite the easy access to food. Letting people spend benefits willy-nilly and simply putting up a website with nutrition facts will not address or correct this problem.
I feed my family of five for $300 a month. A lot of things we do to eat simply and frugally are actually really awesome for our health. We eat very Mediterranean. Beef is almost never an option because of the expense. Treats are rare. Baked goods are from scratch, whole grain and low in sugar. In the summer we eat lots of organic produce from the garden. It always ticks me off when I hear people say you can't eat healthy on a low budget. Baloney. You can but the trade-off is a bit more time planning and much more time in the kitchen than opening a few boxes and bags and throwing things in the microwave. I think almost everyone could easily spend another half hour in the kitchen every day. Almost everyone has time daily to talk on the phone, play games or watch movies. You can just as easily sit on a stool in the kitchen and talk to a family member or stream a movie while you work.

GuitarStv

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2013, 09:45:56 AM »
I wonder if it would make more sense to give people actual food . . . rather than food stamps.  That way you could take advantage of large, bulk government food purchases to find low rates . . . and would be able to ensure that caloric as well as nutritional needs are being met.  I think that there would be less pushback when people are getting a bag of rice, then a 20$ coupon.

mlipps

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2013, 09:49:12 AM »
We do that to an extent through food pantries. WIC also works in a pretty structured way, limiting people to the most nutritious foods. They've recently added fresh produce. Another great program is one that doubles food stamps at farmers markets. Here in Chicago, and in lots of cities, there's a big push for community gardens in impoverished neighborhoods. Lots of good things happening, at least on the fringes.

etselec

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2013, 12:10:51 PM »
Lots of folks are right on about the privilege that's necessary to cook and eat in a frugal way (cooking supplies, storage space, time, knowledge, access to less expensive stores). I used to work helping clients apply for food assistance programs, so here's my perspective based on that:

I think the core of this issue is really that yes, some people can get by on a lot less than $200/month for food, but the allotment has to be the same for every person - big or small appetite, homeless or housed, with a host of complex food allergies or without. Sure, your family of four can get by on half of $668/month, but what about a former client of mine, a single mom who is working two minimum-wage jobs and has 3 kids, two of whom have celiac disease? The SNAP program has to provide an allotment for real people in a wide range of situations with a wide range of food needs and capabilities.

And this is why GuitarStv's suggestion is impractical: people's food needs just vary too widely. There are programs that follow that approach, including most food pantries and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (which is for seniors, mainly), but they are not generally someone's primary source of food assistance. There is a lot of waste that occurs with that type of program (because, e.g., there was a big block of cheese given to someone who is lactose intolerant, or who is ill and can't have solid foods, or who is a Chinese immigrant and does not know how to cook with cheese). Also, if people on food assistance do not routinely go to the grocery store and purchase food, that raises additional problems: it is yet another barrier to going off of food assistance (because in some neighborhoods, you'd end up with a generation of children who don't know how to shop at a grocery store), and it would probably cause many of the grocery stores in poorer neighborhoods to close, making food access that much more difficult for people living there who are not on food assistance.

It seems to me that people can get so caught up in dictating what they feel is the optimal use of their tax dollars that it's easy to forget all the real-world complications and other factors that play into the design of food assistance programs.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #23 on: February 06, 2013, 12:34:39 PM »
I wonder if it would make more sense to give people actual food . . . rather than food stamps.  That way you could take advantage of large, bulk government food purchases to find low rates . . . and would be able to ensure that caloric as well as nutritional needs are being met.  I think that there would be less pushback when people are getting a bag of rice, then a 20$ coupon.

We do that to an extent through food pantries. WIC also works in a pretty structured way, limiting people to the most nutritious foods. They've recently added fresh produce. Another great program is one that doubles food stamps at farmers markets. Here in Chicago, and in lots of cities, there's a big push for community gardens in impoverished neighborhoods. Lots of good things happening, at least on the fringes.

Ignoring the governmnet management of the program and assume it was efficiently managed and monitored the distribution of Food stamps (SNAP/WIC) that can be used anywhere is far more cost effective and efficient than actually distributing food - large grocers and distributors have invested heavily to get the purchasing power and squeak out every penny from the distribution channels.

But, they certainly could make the program more limiting such as not allowing them for junk food (chips, soda, ice cream, cookies).  With SNAP you can buy seafood/steak, birthday cakes, energy drinks, and even food baskets provided that the non-food items aren't more than 50% of the purchase price.  This is offensive! and is what happens when government doles out goodies at the expense of taxpayers.


tooqk4u22

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #24 on: February 06, 2013, 12:53:54 PM »
a single mom who is working two minimum-wage jobs and has 3 kids, two of whom have celiac disease? The SNAP program has to provide an allotment for real people in a wide range of situations with a wide range of food needs and capabilities.

That's fine but why can't people in need apply for special dispensation that provides greater benefits with medical documentation.

It seems to me that people can get so caught up in dictating what they feel is the optimal use of their tax dollars that it's easy to forget all the real-world complications and other factors that play into the design of food assistance programs.

Yep - just kicked the horse again.



DoubleDown

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #25 on: February 06, 2013, 01:01:50 PM »
But it's just not that complicated. It sounds like a lot of excuse-making to say it's difficult to "get by" on this budget because of all the burdens of poverty weighing someone down. I have the greatest sympathy for anyone in poverty or without the skills or knowledge I might have to get through daily life. But you don't even have to try to be frugal to "get by" on $660/month ($22/day) for a family of 4, as an example.

Let's say I have zero food preparation skills and no food storage or preparation facilities. I could walk into any fancy grocery store on any day, and not buying anything on sale or in bulk, or using a coupon, get a pre-roasted whole chicken for $7. A box of cereal is $3. A gallon of milk is $4. An entire bag of apples is $5. A loaf of bread is $2. Bar of chocolate for $1 since we don't want to go without something sweet. The family of 4 would have more than enough to feed themselves, quite healthily (and luxuriously IMO), probably with food left over, for the entire day for $22 without any preparation (okay, add milk to cereal...).

With just a shred of effort, you could easily cut that cost by 25-50% (already-roasted whole chicken is on sale for $5 on Fridays where I live!). You could cut the cost far more by just cooking your own damn chicken. But it seems really disingenuous to call this "barely getting by" or trapped in a cycle of poverty, and you sure as hell don't need to cut corners or understand how to prepare lentils in bulk to be able to make ends meet on this budget.

Jack

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #26 on: February 06, 2013, 01:03:13 PM »
But, they certainly could make the program more limiting such as not allowing them for junk food (chips, soda, ice cream, cookies).  With SNAP you can buy seafood/steak, birthday cakes, energy drinks, and even food baskets provided that the non-food items aren't more than 50% of the purchase price.  This is offensive! and is what happens when government doles out goodies at the expense of taxpayers.

You can also sell the food stamps for cash and then by booze (or crack, for that matter) with the proceeds. Sure, it's illegal, but that doesn't stop it from happening.

There's a limit to how tightly you can regulate before you hit the point of diminishing returns.

etselec

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #27 on: February 06, 2013, 02:05:03 PM »
a single mom who is working two minimum-wage jobs and has 3 kids, two of whom have celiac disease? The SNAP program has to provide an allotment for real people in a wide range of situations with a wide range of food needs and capabilities.

That's fine but why can't people in need apply for special dispensation that provides greater benefits with medical documentation.


Because special medical needs are only one reason someone might not be able to eat in the most frugal way. Others I mentioned include homelessness and/or lack of proper storage space and storage supplies for food (this is a serious issue in substandard, pest-ridden housing). The administrative costs of administering such a system might well outweigh the funds saved.

But it's just not that complicated. It sounds like a lot of excuse-making to say it's difficult to "get by" on this budget because of all the burdens of poverty weighing someone down.

I think the point is not so much that it's difficult to "get by" on that much food money. It's more that many other elements of these people's lives are very hard, so maybe it's okay to give them enough money that they don't need to worry a lot about food. They can worry instead about housing costs, utility bills, avoiding violence, finding and retaining employment, raising their children, or any number of other things. And to those who think that there are welfare programs for all those other facets of life as well: the truth is, most of them are either nonexistent or are much weaker than the SNAP program.

mlipps

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #28 on: February 06, 2013, 03:33:04 PM »
a single mom who is working two minimum-wage jobs and has 3 kids, two of whom have celiac disease? The SNAP program has to provide an allotment for real people in a wide range of situations with a wide range of food needs and capabilities.

That's fine but why can't people in need apply for special dispensation that provides greater benefits with medical documentation.


Because special medical needs are only one reason someone might not be able to eat in the most frugal way. Others I mentioned include homelessness and/or lack of proper storage space and storage supplies for food (this is a serious issue in substandard, pest-ridden housing). The administrative costs of administering such a system might well outweigh the funds saved.

But it's just not that complicated. It sounds like a lot of excuse-making to say it's difficult to "get by" on this budget because of all the burdens of poverty weighing someone down.

I think the point is not so much that it's difficult to "get by" on that much food money. It's more that many other elements of these people's lives are very hard, so maybe it's okay to give them enough money that they don't need to worry a lot about food. They can worry instead about housing costs, utility bills, avoiding violence, finding and retaining employment, raising their children, or any number of other things. And to those who think that there are welfare programs for all those other facets of life as well: the truth is, most of them are either nonexistent or are much weaker than the SNAP program.

So true. Don't even get me started on what people think exists with respect to "welfare" vs. the realities.

stigto

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #29 on: February 07, 2013, 04:58:33 AM »
I'll give you folks a different perspective from the 'welfare state' of Norway, my home country. 'Welfare state' has positive connotations here, not negative as in the states.

A person with no means of supporting him/herself has the right of adequate housing with electricity. This is provided free by the municipality.

In addition, a single person receives approx. USD 1000 per month for 'subsistence'. This goes towards food and drink, hygiene products and clothes.

Costs are quite a bit higher here, but note that people are trusted to make their benefits cover the necessities themselves; if they spend it on drink they don't get to eat.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 05:12:48 AM by stigto »

tmac

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #30 on: February 07, 2013, 06:08:01 AM »
I'll give you folks a different perspective from the 'welfare state' of Norway, my home country. 'Welfare state' has positive connotations here, not negative as in the states.

A person with no means of supporting him/herself has the right of adequate housing with electricity. This is provided free by the municipality.

In addition, a single person receives approx. USD 1000 per month for 'subsistence'. This goes towards food and drink, hygiene products and clothes.

Costs are quite a bit higher here, but note that people are trusted to make their benefits cover the necessities themselves; if they spend it on drink they don't get to eat.

Stigo, thanks for this information. Much of my extended family lives in and around Oslo. During the last US presidential election, I fielded a lot of questions from them about why the health care debate was such a flammable issue here. This is why, I think. We make such different assumptions, as a culture, about what rights people have and what responsibilities we have as a society.

jenstill

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #31 on: February 22, 2013, 10:22:09 PM »
There's been so much brought up in this thread that I'm having some trouble deciding how to start my reply. I guess info about me so I'm up-front about both my biases and why I think my opinion matters at all: I'm a single mother of 4 and I work full-time as the housing director for a non-profit landlord. I've been in the affordable housing industry for 18 years and am certified in every national affordable housing program offered in the USA. For two years while still in college and I had just my oldest child, I received food stamps and child-care assistance so I could go to school and work. While I certainly can't say that most of the people receiving food stamp benefits are also receiving housing benefits (I have no idea about that statistic), I can say that most of the people receiving housing benefits are receiving food stamps. And in my personal experience across 3 different regions of the country, in and out of thousands of government-assisted families' lives, in addition to my own experience as a person who once benefited from the food stamp program, the over-reaching problem for the majority of these families receiving food stamps is not lack of access to work-able kitchen space or appliances, lack of access to food itself, benefits being too little to live on, barely inhabitable living spaces, or any of the reasons I've heard over and over for years on end. The thing that I've seen thousands and thousands of times that keeps people trapped in these programs is ignorance. It was the same for me too; I'm not using the word "ignorance" as an insult but in its literal definition. I absolutely believe in a government supporting its people but I also believe "support" means to embrace and assist, not carry. As a taxpayer, I am more than happy to fund support and assistance programs with tax dollars. I just don't believe our current systems support our citizens, in that there is little done to better or improve their lives or choices and most programs only serve to further the dependence on them.  Maybe it's naive, but I don't think most people are happy to live off these government programs, but many don't know another way. If we spent a tiny fraction of these programs' budgets on really educating our citizens on how to improve their situations -- for real, MMM style -- and then required them to do so or lose the benefits, I believe we'd see drastic improvements in individual lives and our nation's health and well-being as a whole. There would definitely be a lot less contempt for the systems from people like me. Of course, I guess that would require that our government and nation as a whole recognize that frugal living is a good, valid, and real option though.

tmac

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2013, 05:33:34 AM »
Jenstill, I've often wondered if one of the best things we could do to really help people lift themselves up would be to offer free basic cooking and nutrition instruction.

A young single mother used to come babysit for our kids, bringing her young child along. I knew she was having a hard time making ends meet, even living with her mother, and was working her way through the local community college. Her first time with us, I'd left a box of spaghetti and jar of sauce out on the stove, and when we got back, they were still there. She hadn't known what to do with it. Our kids (7 and 5) had volunteered to make dinner for everyone (they were very pleased with themselves after that). She said that she usually get convenience foods or take-out.

It got me thinking that her quality of life could be improved in the long run if she learned a few basic recipes. But how do you offer something like that to someone without giving offense? I didn't want her to think I was looking down on her or judging her. She was very sweet, and I'd have loved to help her out somehow.

KimAB

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Re: Montgomery County Officials "Trying to Get By" on $5/day for food stamps
« Reply #33 on: February 23, 2013, 09:56:56 AM »
If we spent a tiny fraction of these programs' budgets on really educating our citizens on how to improve their situations -- for real, MMM style -- and then required them to do so or lose the benefits, I believe we'd see drastic improvements in individual lives and our nation's health and well-being as a whole. There would definitely be a lot less contempt for the systems from people like me.

I really agree with that jenstill.  I have that same contempt from being inside the system.  It is going to eventually grow to the point where I will NEED to leave the field. 

I watched a really interesting documentary/ commercial for the Calgary food bank at Christmas.  One thing that really struck me was that they were giving recipes with things like lentils because they said most people didn't know how to cook.  I really think that is the key.

We used to have a program here where you could go and do a group cooking (with babysitting provided) and they would show you how to cook, and give you portioned meals - usually suppers for a week.  I think it was about $1.50/ portion (or meal?  I can't remember.)  I never used it because at the time I could do a lot better than $1.50, but I did do the babysitting which I was paid very well for and I got a free lunch...  ;-)