Uh-Uh.. You Can’t eat THAT on Food Stamps!

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First, they want to blame food stamps for the obesity epidemic in the United States, then, they want to prohibit Food Stamp recipients from buying “unhealthy” items such as soda. Now, people want to take issue with the fact that some food stamp recipients are using their benefits to purchase “luxury” items like fresh vegetables and organic foods.

“Hipsters on Food Stamps”
are the new targets being scrutinized in the media for not looking and behaving enough like REAL poor people. Apparently, young people who were raised in privileged environments, and are now unemployed and living at or below the poverty level are not the “right kind of poor”. I guess if you grew up wealthy you are magically immune to poverty? If you are a college graduate who cannot find a job in today’s economy, you are just too lazy, right?
The increase in food stamp use among this demographic is hard to measure, as they represent a cross section of characteristics not specifically tracked by the Agriculture Department, which administers the program.

But general unemployment figures among the group are stark: Between the ends of 2007 and 2009, unemployment among those aged 20 to 34 rose 100 percent, and between 2006 and 2009, unemployment among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was up 179 percent.

And in cities that are magnets for 20- and 30-something creatives and young professionals, the kinds of food markets that specialize in delectables like artisanal bread, heirloom tomatoes and grass-fed beef have seen significant upticks in food stamp payments among their typical shoppers. At the Wedge, a market in the stylish Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis; at New Seasons Market, a series of nine specialty stores in and around Portland, Ore.; and at Rainbow Grocery, a stalwart for food lovers in San Francisco’s Mission District, food stamp purchases have doubled in the past year.

“The use has gone way up in the last six months,” said Eric Wilcox, a cashier who has worked at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco for 10 years. “We’re seeing a lot more young people in their 20s purchasing organic food with food stamp cards. I wouldn’t say it’s limited to hipster people, but I’m certainly surprised to see them with cards.”

Young urbanites with a taste for ciabatta may legitimately be among the new poor, but their participation in the program is far from universally accepted. A New York Times story in late November about the program’s explosive growth generated a storm of comments online, with many readers lobbing familiar accusations of laziness and irresponsibility.SourceIt seems like many people believe that the only people who have a legitimate right to government assistance are married white people who work in blue collar professions. Because God knows we are all familiar with the images of the “unworthy” poor. Single mothers, Black people, immigrants, the mentally ill. Now, we can add a new group to those people who are deemed undeserving… “hipsters” who have fallen into poverty.

Apparently, poor people should only be able to buy foods that fall within a certain acceptable range. No sugary or high fat snacks. Wouldn’t want those poor folks getting fat on the taxpayer’s dime! And now no fresh, organic produce and meat products! Those damn poor “hipsters” can eat the same genetically engineered, over processed foods as the rest of the world! God forbid they actually try to live a TOO healthy a lifestyle while on food stamps!
Controversy about how they use food stamps marks an interesting shift from the classic critique that the program subsidizes diets laden with soda pop and junk food. But from that perspective, food stamp-using foodies might be applauded for demonstrating that one can, indeed, eat healthy and make delicious home-cooked meals on a tight budget.

And while they might be questioned for viewing premium ingredients as a necessity, it could also be argued that they’re eating the best and most conscious way they know how. They are often cooking at home. They are using fresh ingredients.SourceIt seems to me that those of us who depend on food stamps cannot win in the eyes of the general public. We are condemned if we use our food stamps for items that are not healthy, even if it is only a once in a blue moon splurge. We are berated if we use our food stamps to purchase healthy foods that are deemed “luxuries”.

Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller, actually went out of his way to apply for food stamps that he claims he does not need or deserve in order to make the point that food stamp recipients are just unworthy bums trying to get over on the system. He then wrote an article detailing the high end AND low end items that he was able to purchase with his food stamps in order to “prove” that the government needs to strictly regulate the types of items food stamp program participants can buy. I am still trying to figure out how his “gaming the system” (as he puts it) proves anything about any other food stamp recipients or the efficacy of the program in general. And, since he seems to be against food stamp recipients using their food stamps for both “high end” AND “low end” items, I wonder what he expects poor people to actually eat?

Now, I know a lot of people on food stamps. And, while I do know a few people who use their food stamps strictly for snack foods (they live in group homes were food is provided) most food stamp recipients try to stretch their allotted grocery budget as much as possible. It is a challenge to balance nutrition with value, but millions of people on food stamps do it every month. I do not think anyone who is legitimately in need of assistance to put food on the table should be scrutinized by individuals who do not approve of their food choices. It is difficult enough living on a limited budget, we do not need to be bashed while struggling to make ends meet!