25 March 2010

Go ahead, buy any food product for human consumption. And don't forget the dip.

I think a lot about food, where it comes from and what it does once it gets inside your body, but writing a serious food post is something that I have a difficult time with. I need to examine my thoughts, do some research and write my opinion in a cohesive manner. But as you may have noticed by this post a few weeks ago, I don't have a lot of time to spare. I hate to complain without offering sound solutions to the issue of which I complain, but I just haven't had time to solve this problem. Sorry about that.

I witnessed a seemingly nondescript incident over the weekend. I watched a couple in a gas station buy $27 worth of junk food - on their Link Card.

I can't stop thinking about it.

Cheese, with fry

The problem I have is not with the people and how they spent their money - because, while they paid with a Link Card, which is funded by others, this program gives them their own money to spend on "any food or food product for human consumption". It's their money, they can spend it however they'd like.

The problem I have is with the lack of nutritional education for program participants. Because literally, there is nothing on the site about eating healthy. I didn't even find a link to MyPyramid.gov. There's just, nothing. No information. (You can follow a link to the USDA Food & Nutrition Service's site, but it's more about services and less about nutrition.)

People need help. People deserve help.

I've been in tough situations a few times and I know that having food available makes a big difference in one's outlook and attitude. Having family and friends give me a care package - a brown paper bag filled with food and a few other necessities - it makes all the difference in the world.

I went on a search to find out whatever I could about this Link Card and found that they don't do, well, anything, to promote a healthy diet. This is their page about food. You'll notice there's plenty of information about how the program works, who qualifies and for how much they may qualify, how to apply and links to other resources (such as WIC, Homeless Youth Services, Food Pantries). But there's no information about nutrition. Here's their list outlining what you can and cannot buy:

What services are offered?
SNAP benefits can be used to buy:
- any food or food product for human consumption,
- plus seeds and plants for use in home gardens to produce food.
SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:
- Hot foods ready to eat,
- Food intended to be heated in the store,
- Lunch counter items or foods to be eaten in the store,
- Vitamins or medicines,
- Pet foods,
- Any nonfood items (except seeds and plants),
- Alcoholic beverages, or
- Tobacco.

The rules don't specifically say you can't buy junk food. And technically, every item that the couple purchased falls into the category of "any food or food product for human consumption". But spending $27 and change on 6 16oz bottles of soda, 3 large bags of chips, 2 containers of dip, several packages of pop-tarts, and a couple of Landshire sandwiches -- something is wrong with this picture.

Especially considering that, at a farmer's market, $10.48 can get you 6 bananas, 4 potatoes, 3 ears of corn, 2 plums, 2 avocados, 2 kiwis, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 pound of mushrooms and 1 grouping of broccoli.

There seems to be a disconnect with the program and its recipients. The ironic thing is, SNAP is an acronym for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Listening to: Firewater - Too Much (Is Never Enough)

I repeat, I hate to complain without offering sound solutions to the issue of which I complain, but I just haven't had time to solve this problem. Sorry about that.


  1. I have the same gripe. I worked part time at a grocery store while I was in college, and people would buy friggin' LOBSTER with those cards. There I was, scraping by on two part time jobs, eating friends' leftovers when I had to spend my entire budget on art supplies for class. Yet when I tried to get assistance, I was told that I didn't qualify. It was asinine. So, no lobster for me. Ho hum.



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