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Food Stamp Stats Show US Hungry for Help

Yesterday morning's talk about Haiti's food riots turned my attention to tummies close to home. Specifically, food stamps. Perhaps once considered the currency of that spurious caricature the "welfare queen," government food assistance is a harbinger of tight times — and tightening belts. Take a look at these stats out this week:

  • This year, 28 million Americans are predicted to receive food stamps. That's the highest number since 1960.
  • 1 in 8 Michigan residents receive food stamps.
  • 1.17 million Pennsylvanians were receiving food stamps in a February count, up 4.4 percent from last year and close to a record high.
  • 1 in 3 Oklahoma kids have been on food stamps at some point in the last year.

To receive government food aid, applicants have to pass a very strict asset test and a very strict income test. Some say the threshold to qualify is too high. Once a person qualifies, benefits average about $100 a month per person in the family. In New Hampshire, a state that's seen a 7 percent increase in food stamp beneficiaries, the maximum daily allotment for someone in a three-person, incomeless household is $4.53 a day. It would take some pretty creative cooking to eat on less than $5 a day.

Are those benefits too small? Should we still be relying on the almost 50-year-old program, or should we be taking care of local food needs with private or faith-based programs?

Serious news notwithstanding — never fear! Our fancier international friends recognize that the US is on a budget. To see how they're offering assistance,


Harry’s Bar, the Venice watering hole of Ernest Hemingway, is offering a discount to “poor” Americans. They've posted a sign that reads,

“Harry’s Bar of Venice, in an effort to make the American victims of subprime loans happier, has decided to give them a special 20 per cent discount on all items of the menu during the short term of their recovery.”

Well! That 20 percent off calamari will certainly help. . . right?


Join The Conversation
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thank you minaminamina. People really need to be educated. But, we all talk out the sides of our neck at times.
minaminamina minaminamina 9 years
hypnotic, you're absolutely correct. A capitalist system is based on the MINIMUM of two classes - the Capitalist class and the Working class. Without exploitation and poverty, capitalism cannot exist. As the income gap increases in this country, so do the amount of the poor. Furthermore, just a general comment for everyone to consider - the majority of money that goes into the welfare system (which, by the way is .0001 of America's budget) is actually used to PAY those who work in the welfare system. NOT to go to the poor in the form of relief. Interesting, huh.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
dixieangel0722 --I wish you and your family the best. Do what you all have to do to make it. I just hope that one on this board will ever be in a position that they may need help.
lula29 lula29 9 years
^^You're assuming everyone who receives the benefit of a community garden is working the garden and that's not true. One could "sit on their ass" as you say and receive food from it as well. It's a form of private aid, like I said. Your assumption is what made you believe I was incorrect, however, you are assuming wrong. Community gardens don't require you to work for them to receive aid.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
True not all sit on their ass my point was that one could sit on their ass.
dixieangel0722 dixieangel0722 9 years
I see that this is still on going debate. As I said this program was established after the great depression and the arguments have been on going. Instead of trying to justify yourself or your situtaion, know that if you are using the help the right way, then you are doing right by yourself and your family. If your not it will come to bite you in the a.. one way or another. Someone is always watching here or in your own beliefes, and it will come back on you. As for those who have not walked a mile in mine or anyone elses shoes in the times in our life when we have been tried the most, remember you are not always in control of your own life. Remember their maybe someone out there that shouldn't be driving, or someone who is at their end of their rope from being down on their luck, and thinks your money in your pocket is worth more than your ablity to continuing to work and fully support yourself and you may have to ask for the help that we did. I in no way wish this on no one, I am now watching my father who is 72 and always determine to be able to live and do for himself with no help, needing that help because of a stroke. No one deserves to have something bad happen to them but you never know, like I said I am only 37 and my last pregnancy was so hard on my heart that I can't work doing what I was doing before and retraining takes time and money. But you know what those who do look down on us for doing what we have to do to support our families, say what you wish, because when I look at my kids that I interact with everyday and they say mom I love you and I don't need that toy or those designer clothes all we want is you here and for you to help keep pop pop (grandpa) here with us that is worth more than anything your 30k and above pay check can ever give you. My last word tonight try and educate instead of descrinate. Lend that helping hand, take that family with no heat or clothes, a hot meal and clothes, and help to educate the ones that are willing to learn because like it was pointed out there are some who abuse the system but more of us are not.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I believe some of you all are misunderstanding aid, not everyone on food stamps sit at home. There are people who work and make less than 10k a year and need the extra assistance of food stamps to help with cost. To say someone is sitting on their a** --is not true for everyone. There is a case by case for everyone benefiting from the "system". There are also senior citzens that are utilizing food stamps, EBT, or Link - whatever you want to call it. Know all the facts.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
I think the capitalism increases the level of comfort of all people. I agree that there will always be people who make different levels of income, but those who make a lot will invest, and do what they can to make more money, which will help other people make more money. As more people make more money, the poverty line is increased, and the point that someone has to make to be living the "comfy life" is increased.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I see what you're saying lula29 but I have to disagree with the comparison. You are correct that food stamps and community gardens are both forms of aid. However, the difference is quite clear with one you are helping your self and working as a community and the other you can just sit on your ass and take the food stamps. There is a clear a difference here and the stigma which bring up dissolves under the pride that one feels when they know their helping themselves and others. There is always going to be poor people and always a need for aid of some sort. I know it sounds strange but capitalism can't survive with out poor people. There simply aren't enough resources for everyone to live a comfy life under a capitalist society. It sounds harsh I know but think about it.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
stina829, you're right in some cases that is the situation. I know people who do odds and ends to get more out of life when money can't be the reward or the outcome.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
After rereading the comments, I think we can all agree on two things: 1. People who abuse the system need to be kicked off the system. and 2. People who are on the system need more help to get off the system. I would like to see our government get more stringent on how it interviews the potential WIC and Food Stamp candidates, and performs checks to make sure only those who truly need these programs is on it.
stina829 stina829 9 years
Ok, as I said in the beginning of this post - I work as an issuer of EBT cards to our local public here in my county. I've read a few of your comments about how people are on food stamps but have designer bags, nails done, nice cars, etc. And trust me, I know how you feel about it, I mean, hell, I'm the one issuing you a card and you have nicer cars/purses/clothing than I do??? Something is definitely wrong with this picture. UNTIL - our office was called in a meeting and heard the following as an explanation - in some cases where people have their nails done or nice clothing or nice purses they have actually been given those things as a present or as a trade off. For example - Mary is on food stamps. Mary's friend Sally (who happens to be a nail technician) needs a baby sitter. So Mary baby sits for Sally and instead of Sally paying Mary, she does her nails instead. Now while I know that in some cases, a trade-off or present is probably not the case - in some cases it is. My office pointing that fact out to me does make me think differently about the situation.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I also work with families that are on aid through my volunteer efforts of teaching reading, English, and the GED to adults and children. However, it is reality, life, and sad that about the 20% and I have even dealt with the 20% are on aid for the free check and food stamps. I do not think that we should generalize all people that are on aid b/c of some that are abusing the system. I know what it is to be dirt poor and struggling (if you never been there then you know it's more than just struggling). I am not talking about the poor, where there is one parent in the household making 30k, I mean parents and families making under 15k, living with rats and roaches, and trying to raise their kids right and being beat down by the social stigma of being poor. I am talking about your local school not having heat in the winter and everyone is in their coat while attending class, that the teachers sometimes care and sometimes do, that there is not enough books for each student - this still happens in the United States. Maybe you haven't experienced, but I urge you to volunteer not just in your community - you would be amazed at how helping others truly make a difference in their life. I think more state agencies need to have more enforced programs that ween people off of aid through education with either college, technical, or even vocational schooling by not giving people a choice. I know in my city it's 5k for a class or program and the schools try to get students into high interest loans and not educational loans b/c they are not accredited and the gov doesn't care b/c they feel like they are doing their part. If someone has a 7th grade reading level how can they be a Nursing Assistant - do you really want them in your doctor's office or hospital . I am just saying there are a lot of factors to why some people are on aid, some are good and some are bad. I just think it's fruitless to stereotype and condemn everyone. I also think it's terrible to make generalization from something you heard or 2 people you know who is abusing aid.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
What kills me is there is no cost-efficient way to give these benefits to people who need them and take it away from people who abuse them. Why would someone go through all that trouble to get these benefits if they don't even need them?
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
My twirling coach in high school was also a special ed instructor for the high school. She said she came up to so many cases where the parents encouraged their children to stay in special ED by underperforming and lying to keep special benefits. That's really sad b/c you don't get a high school diloma...simply training to take and pass the GED.
lula29 lula29 9 years
The 80% shouldn't be judged by the 20%. What should be advocated is not a ban on aid, but stricter controls or enforcement. Why is the 20% held up as the rule and not the exception? Why demonize the legitimate 80% based on the criminal few? This confounds me.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I deal with families everyday that are on food stamps and 80% really need them (due to extremely high medical bills, i work with special needs kids) but 20 percent are abusing that system. I have moms coming in here with more gold jewelry, cell phones, expensive hairstyles and or nails that claim to be destitute....
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
Thanks lula29, sometimes I wonder about the moral of the board at times.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
If your going to the government for help, the government should be able to decide what you buy with their money. If you want to buy whatever you want, earn your own darn money like everyone else.
lula29 lula29 9 years
dixieangel0722, You and your husband continue to do whatever you need to do to support your family and never feel ashamed. Programs like food stamps were created for families like you and you are well within your rights to use such a program to stabilize your family in this difficult economic time.
lula29 lula29 9 years
Community gardens, would still be a form of aid. Private aid, but aid just the same as food stamps. Community gardens work as a system of support among neighbors for the greater good of their fellow neighbors, specifically those who have fallen on hard times, in their community. The stigma is not in the form of aid, but in the need for aid itself and that's what I'm arguing against. Whether food stamps or a community food bank supplied by a community garden, the stigma of need for such aid is what's being demonized and that disgust me quite frankly, because from the way it seems even from reading this board, many of our own families have come to need such aid at some point, but still we demonize the necessity. I'm all for creating alternatives to help those in need, whether that is a community garden, privately organized food drives, private donations, whatever else, but I'm also 100% in support of government aid and I'm not ashamed of that. The only way to reduce the use of food stamps in my opinion, is to boost wages and lower food cost, however, even at that some form of government, as well as, community assistance will still be necessary.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well you're right lula29 community gardens will not eliminate the need for food stamps. That would be an absurd suggestion. The fact of the matter is there will always be a need for food stamps. The question is how do we find ways to reduce the need for food stamps. If community gardens became mainstream and a way of life this would contribute significantly to the reduction in need for food stamps.
lula29 lula29 9 years
angelfromlsu, I'm being really aggressive and I apologize, but it really gets to me when people demonize poor people, because reading a lot of these post a lot of us have come from that same place. I my self grew up poor. I know all too well what it's like to have to pull your self up with nothing more than the audacity of hope (that's my Obama plug for the day , 10 points!!). For cost are skyrocketing. Food stamps can't even cover the cost and food banks can barely feed the need these days. I get that there is a social stigma to rely on government aid, but the reality is that the poor will always be here and thus something must be done to aid them. Pretending they don't exist isn't a solution. Preaching to them and passing moral judgment isn't either. I'd rather we dole out aid than we end up like Haiti, because people will survive, by hook or by crook, regardless and if any thinks that the poor and hunger are going to just starve themselves to death they are just kidding themselves and asking to be held up at the grocery store.
lula29 lula29 9 years
hypnoticmix, I volunteer for an urban garden. I'm clueless to the fact that they do exist and they are working to help feed the poor. It's however absurd to assume that these gardens will prevent the need of food stamps.
angelfromlsu angelfromlsu 9 years
I still think if you had a food stamp card you should get a significant discount on fresh foods. Maybe up to 60%. Perhaps a few free healthy cookbooks a organization can put together. When living with my family we actually lived on a large piece of land inherited from my grandmother. We had a pretty huge garden that we worked by hand. My dad came from the old-times where they picked cotton by hand and bartered for other things, etc. My little apartment garden simply helps offset the high cost of tomatoes, tea leaves, lettuce, cucumbers. So I guess it's "cosmetic" more than essential. My finance are trying to buy a house right now so I plan to have a huge veggie garden. But I have no idea how it is to feed a family. I am the youngest daughter and have no children right now. My grocery bill is less than $200 a month. I remember growing up since the school bus passed in front of our horrible little house, people would ask me if my family was too poor for us to take baths every day. It was pretty embarrassing. Over time, my mom was tired of living in poverty and left us for a man who made more money. My mom was the breadwinner in the home too. My dad kept the illusion that we weren't doing any worse. Only after I moved out did I realize how horrible the living conditions were. The floor was constantly caving in, bugs everywhere, water-heater and water softener were completely silted over so the water was almost undrinkable. And we had one working sink and barely one working shower head. Not as bad as being homeless but my cheap apartment these days look a lot better than going back to that. Hopefully I'll have room for my dad in our new house. I know my old roommate applied for food stamps since he was a student and made very little. I thought this was horrible also since his family was living him rent money and spending money every month. It shouldn't be for privileged college students.
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