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?