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Food Stamps or SNAP - Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program
So, first things first. Let’s establish some ground rules and basic premises. I am neither a republican, nor a democrat. Yes, I neglected to capitalize both words; neither political party deserves a capital letter. Right now they don’t deserve much of anything. I am thoroughly disgusted and quite angry about the exceptional ability of both parties to line their own pockets and their friends’ pockets at the expense of regular folks - you and me, to employ ridiculous – inflammatory – wildly inaccurate - hateful rhetoric almost every time they speak, and to base every act, word, and decision on what will get them re-elected in the Future, rather than working together for the good of the country in the Present! Personally, when I vote or pontificate, I support liberal concepts about 45% of the time, republican concepts about 45% of the time, and my own brilliant ideas about 10% of the time. J
So here we go with the righteous pontification part. I do not think “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – which replaced Food Stamp paper coupons) is an unnecessary, wasteful, or misbegotten program. I believe there are people who are doing their best, perhaps disabled, perhaps working, spending carefully, who still need assistance. Compassion and generosity (qualities we strongly support when we are the recipients) suggest that the strong and comfortable extend help to those in need.
However, I do think there is misuse and fraud in SNAP, but what governmental program, what business for that matter, doesn’t struggle with misuse and fraud. That is no reason to rail against the program/business and seek to abolish it; it is simply excellent cause to re-think and tighten regulations, to minimize misuse and fraud. SNAP is an important and necessary program - we do not need to dismantle it, but we should make adjustments, improve it, and we should have a voice, because SNAP money is tax money and comes from you and me.
SNAP concern of the day: I am appalled and angry at the congressional, federal, and state rules for SNAP, and their lack of oversight and interest in making sure the program is implemented properly. And I am furious at drug store chains! They should all be ashamed and change their SNAP guidelines system immediately. I have written numerous letters to people in high places, who should care about these issues, and who have the authority to make improvements, with no success whatsoever. What is my problem?
Well, in Georgia (not sure about other states) when you walk into any drugstore they prominently display the SNAP POSTER and make certain everyone can see they participate in the program. Not so bad so far, although we all know there is very little "real, nutritious food" in a drugstore and it costs much more that the same item in a grocery store, and “Nutrition” is in the name of the program, and really, should congress have approved the SNAP cards for use in drug stores anyway? We will set that aside for now.
What I found inside the Walgreens (and four other drugstore chains) infuriated me! Little green SNAP tags were attached to the shelves throughout the store. I counted them and noted their location and placement (very basic math, no real statistics involved). Approximately 15% of the tags were on shelves with actual food (same items can be found in any grocery store for at least 50% less…and grocery stores carry fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals and pasta, lots of cheese and dairy products, and unprocessed – better for you and less expensive - meat). Just thought that should be pointed out.
Howeve, 85% of the tags were on shelves that sold candy, doughnuts, sweet rolls, cookies. As if this were not bad enough – pimping the “poorest quality” virtually non-nutritive items to families with a limited food budget….the majority of the SNAP tags were at eye level for small children, not eye level for the adults in the family. They were almost all placed two to three feet off the floor, to catch the eyes of children, who have no knowledge of nutrition or food value, and simply want what they see placed in front of them in brightly colored packaging, often covered with their favorite cartoon characters. What terrific and extremely profitable marketing techniques for the drug store, but a terrible (I would say immoral) impact this has on children, struggling families, and the American taxpayers.
Everyone I have spoken to about these destructive marketing techniques passes the buck. Several store clerks said, "Well this is not good and just like you, I am really concerned, but the manager said..." Several store managers said, "Well this is not good and just like you, I am really concerned, but it's a regional policy and I really have no authority." Regional managers told me, "Well, this is not good and just like you, I am really concerned, but its corporate policy."
No one would take responsibility for being eager to increase profits no matter how much damage it might add to children’s lives - almost no one responded to twelve thoughtful, courteous, well-written letters mailed to corporate headquarters. The one response simply stated that the U.S. congress and SNAP guidelines permit this; there was no indication of personal concern or personal responsibility. I became more and more incredulous as I realized that nobody seemed to care if our stores are hawking the worst quality “food” to our children and to disadvantaged families.
From Outside the Ivory Tower
Now, I am not speaking from an ivory tower. I speak as someone who many years ago needed to use food stamps to in order to feed three small children for 18 months. At that time my husband worked two jobs, we lived in a cheap apartment, had one old car, and still couldn’t cover our bills. So I am not unsympathetic to those who need to utilize SNAP. I am glad it is available for those who need it.
But tax dollars should go for wholesome, nutritious food bought in a real grocery store or at a farmer’s market, not for sweets full of empty calories. Stores should not be authorized by our state of federal government to peddle such nutritionless junk and families using SNAP should not be allowed to purchase it. (There are other problems with SNAP, but this is the most egregious one.)
What is wrong with our country? This is simply common sense and wise use of our tax dollars, not rocket science. I encourage you to pay attention the next time you are in a drug store or grocery store. Talk to the store managers. Write letters to corporations, your local representatives and congress. Send letters to your local newspapers. Make sure you distinguish between disapproval of SNAP and disapproval of how it is administered. See if you can effect positive change at least in your local community. Be a force for good whenever and wherever you can.
The SNAP design is either terribly wrong or terribly abused. We should have a voice in this…it is is our money, and these children are our future. Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping.