Do you want fries with that?

Some fast food chains are petitioning the government to allow SNAP (food stamps) recipients to use their subsidies in their restaurants.  Advocates such as Yum! spokesman Jonathan Blum are saying, “It makes perfect sense to expand a program that’s working well in California, Arizona and Michigan, enabling the homeless, elderly and disabled to purchase prepared meals with SNAP benefits in a restaurant environment.”

However, common sense advocate and internet blogger John Barron disagrees, “Are they serious?  Not only would it be severely poor judgement on the government’s part, it’s actually a backhanded insult to those very few people who actually need assistance.”  Barron continued, “…it’s like saying the poor are too stupid to learn how to cook.  It’s really not that difficult, and if the concern was that urgent, an effort could be made to offer cooking and shopping classes.”

I have always thought there is not enough shame in being poor, and it’s far too comfortable in America.  When I was growing up, fast food was considered a special thing, and actual restaurants were a down-right luxury.  The food I ate was prepared at home.  Here’s the problem I have with this particular program.  According to the USDA, in 2010 the average household benefit was $290 per month.  While that might not sound like an exorbitant amount of assistance, my household spends about $100 less per month to feed our family of four by using coupons and coordinating with sales. Not only are we able to purchase all name brand food, each month we have to donate food to the local food-bank and soup kitchen; it’s not even that we are especially charitable, we just don’t have the room.

Food assistance ought to only allow the purchase of the essentials.  Bread, flour, grains, milk, eggs, etc.  Basically, the essentials.  We already don’t expect “the poor” to be able to take care of themselves or their children.  We — the taxpayers — already pay for their housing (section 8), their food (SNAP), their children’s school lunch, which has expanded to all three meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and their utilities (LIHEAP).  I mean, why on earth would these people want to get a job?  We don’t demand they provide for themselves or their children, and now we won’t even ask them to cook for themselves either?  What’s next, laundry services?

This is the product of low expectations.  There is a certain dignity and self-respect that comes with hard work and going without which you are robbed of by perpetual taking.  But hey, at least we’re not paying for trips to the casino…anymore.


  1. “Bread, flour, grains, milk, eggs, etc. Basically, the essentials” This statement is all wrong. Essentials are vitamins, minerals, carbs, water, and a little fat and protein. This comes from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Go vegan in public schools and you’ll have healthy, well-educated kids with cheaper school lunch menus. That will be the foundation for healthy, well-educated adults with cheaper at-home meal costs. Go vegan for a healthier diet at lower cost, at least according to everyone who isn’t a meat and dairy farmer, fast food executive, or politician answering to the meat and dairy lobby.

    I tend to agree that food stamps should be authorized at the grocery store and not at fast food restaurants. Fast food restaurants sell toxic waste, not food, so why allow them to buy food stamps? My only concern would be implementing such a plan. I might err on the side of giving out cash instead of food stamps. Why put any oversight burden on the government? They’ll just screw it up. Case in point – the “WIC Acceptable Foods” mess you linked to in “essentials”

    • You didn’t notice the “etc.” and the link to the State of NY “acceptable foods card” for WIC as a basic guideline — I understand it isn’t necessarily perfectly ideal, since if I were in charge, I wouldn’t allow much of the items deemed acceptable. it includes all the things you mention. I just wasn’t going to create an exhaustive list. I dont necessarily think we need vegan menus. Especially because if you ask lunch room workers at schools, the healthiest parts of the menu end up in the trash can. When it comes to kids, they would rather be hungry for a few hours (or bring unhealthier food from home) than eat fruits and veg. at school. This is not to say that “oh well, just give them junk”. But we need to be realistic and provide the healthiest food kids are willing to eat.

      SNAP is authorized at the grocery stores. But it has no restrictions on foods. So they can buy all the pre-packaged ultra-expensive crappy food they want. Its high-fat, high-sugar snacks, sodas and junk. Now lest anyone say to themselves “how would you know?!”. I see it on a daily basis. My job takes me into a neighborhood where 75-85% of the people are home…all day long. I see them carrying their groceries.

    • excellent observation – giving cash reduces the cost of the program – less oversight and increases freedom of choice and doesn’t infantalize people

      • Giving cash leads to garbage like reported in the last link I posted. California used to give those funds on a regular debit card. And people went to the casino and strip clubs with the money. I guess they didn’t need the food that bad.

        Liberals always assume people will be honest and do the right thing, people like me know to begin with people wont use cash for food. It sill be cigarette, drug and alcohol money. Oh, and blackjack money.

        Why did the government switch to electronic cards? Because people were selling the stamps to use on things other than food.

        When will you ever learn?

  2. eggs and milk are definitely not part of a healthy diet, at least not the healthy part of a diet. I know kids and their parents eat terrible food. I think SNAP is far too late to do any good. Give them food and information and they can either be healthy or not. Too late. Any sort of improved nutritional education has to be done in public schools before we can hope to improve adults.

    What this really comes down to is that people have to have no expectations, judgments, or jealousy about welfare programs. People get assistance in a welfare state. If we imagine a state that offers basic food, housing, and health care to its citizens, then everyone who works and earns a living and is taxed to support national programs, including welfare, would have to do so and consider it TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE if some of those on the dole never worked, tried to work, or did anything redeeming to deserve their welfare check, free housing, and free health care. I’m not holding my breath, but that is the forgiving and charitable character of culture that would be necessary for a truly functional welfare state. The alternative is the confusing and dysfunctional mess of programs we currently have. But I digress…

  3. Food stamps should never be allowed for junk food, whether from a fast-food store or the grocery store.

  4. First, I find it really funny that you’ve quoted yourself in your post, as if it’s a news article and you are a recognized expert – I am not sure if that’s the tongue in cheek nod, but it works for me in a bi-i-i-i-i-g way.

    That said, you are entirely ignoring that this is an issue that’s about choices – it is hard to be poor and it’s not clear who is getting these food stamps – are they working poor? or unable to work poor?

    Expanding where people can use the food stamps opens up choices for them – sure it’s great having home cooked meals – but not everyone has the time or the ability to do this. Convenience foods tend to be lower nutrition and higher in fats and salts and sugars – but sometimes, a full tummy of cheap food is the best people can do.

    Besides, it keeps other people employed to be preparing and serving this food – probably there’s a lot of overlap between the two groups. I don’t know that level of drilled down demographic information about the American system.

    But, anything that increases people’s options and doesn’t force them to be hidden away out of society’s view, is to my mind, a move towards solutions.

    What if by going out to a fast food place, the person using stamps is able to meet other people, network and find themself a job so they don’t need the stamps anymore?

    an opportunity that would be missed if they stayed at home eating beans.

  5. Yes, I agree with you John Barron Jr. The question of rights and privelages has been shaded and obscured in the modern society. I blame the advertisment industry and capitalism. We are no longer people. We are consumers, and as such we are constantly told and told again, that our lives are not worth living unless we can consume and own everything money can buy. There would be no point in advertizing, if it was not for the masses who actually believe their individual happines hangs on the consumer products sold to them. While in the meantime the production of all this crap causes the nature to be destroyed and “consumed”. And while the fast foods are, as Jason Torpy pointed out, not healthy at all. They are just a link in the marketign chain, as they often withold amounts of substances that people become easily addicted to.

    However, I have to ask you, if the poor and unemployed are so well taken care of in your country, that they choose not to work, why is it you go to work? If it would be easier just to lie down and live on other peoples expense, why do you bother?

    • Two reasons. One, I make significantly more by working, and though the poor have it fairly well, my standard of living is much better.

      Second. Im not a mooch, I understand the rest of society doesn’t owe me.

      • I do not understand. Are you implying, poor people with no jobs have somehow lower morals than your own? If you are, do you think they deserve to be punished for that? Are all poor unemployed people to blame for their condition? Do you think the poor and unemployed would not want to work to increase their standard of living? Is there enough jobs for everyone? Or should every unemployed person become an enterpeneuer? Would that be a realistic option in any society?

        Is powerty not the ideal of christianity? Are rich people wellcome to Heaven? I thought Paul said something contrary to that. You know the Bible, correct me if I am wrong.

        • I think there is a certain sense of a lack of morality when people claim to bee too poor to take care of themselves, and then use the money given to them — which is supposed to be used to survive — for luxuries i.e., cigarettes, alcohol, drugs. Everyone always asks me how I know the poor do these things. Well, I work in some of the poorer neighborhoods. I deliver the checks, the food stamp cards. I also see the use of drugs (openly, and offered to me), the use of alcohol (openly and offered to me), I see the $10, $20 lotto tickets being scratched on the stoops. I see the cartons of cigarettes being bought and smoked. I see it all. So yes, that is immoral.

          In my opinion, the vast majority of the poor (95% or better) are poor due to a life time of bad and irresponsible decisions. Getting involved with drugs and alcohol in the teens. Early sexual activity, which usually leads to poverty. Dropping out of school. All these things lead to poverty, and they are all voluntary. What happens is we see the culmination of bad decisions when people are adults and then feel sorry for them. Sure its perfectly ok to feel sorry, but lets not pretend there was nothing they could have done about it.

          I think there is a trade off. People get used to not working, or very minimally working and getting public subsidies, and they live in sqular. They get that. And because they are used to it, it becomes life, and its just the way it is. Sure, they, like everyone else would live to increase their standard of living, but it takes a lot more hard work and determination than many are willing to put in.

          I think a good many people could get jobs if they were determined enough. For example, sates like Texas and North Dakota are full of jobs to be had. Sometimes you have to move to where the jobs are. The late Sam Kinnison had a bit where he mocked the starving people in the African deserts. Specifically, his “solution” to end world hunger. Its the same principle, but with jobs. But most people arent willing to move distences for a job when they can hang out and collect.

          The bible doesnt say people <em<should be poor. The Bible says people who are poor, but still are able to keep their faith and praise God is a good, noble and righteous thing. It says the love of money is the root of evil, but not money or wealth itself. The BIble says it is difficult to be rich and enter heaven, but that is because the wealthier someone is, the more they trust in themselves and less in God, the more pride they have in themselves, and the less glory they give God. So its not that the rich cannot enter heaven, its that they end up abandoning God in exchange for money and themselves.

  6. The african people from the most arid areas are moving from there. Europe is full of those people. Often enough where they came from a continous war for resources seems never ending. Some resources are arable land and food itself. Others are raw materials like oil or gass that are sold for us westerners to consume. The immigrants from Africa are not allways wellcome in Europe. Their desperate situation is used to make them work for very low price. This lowers the price of work in general and the less educated part of european society hates the africans for that, as they feel they are loosing jobs to the africans. However, these are usually jobs no-one would like to do, like cleaning public toilets. In effect they are used as a slave labour and the division between them and the poor europeans is in the interrest of the capitalist, who benefits from the hate betweent the groups, as it prevents them from organizing and demanding better pay and living conditions.

    Yes there is many people who become “institutionalized” into living in squalor. This is often not only the result of bad choises, but also the limited options poor people have. Some may rise by a result of hard work, but not all people are equipped to rise from that. I do not think early sexual activity leads to powerty, rather it is the lack of sexual education that has that effect. Many rich people have early sexual experiences, of course it depends how early are we talking about here.

    Reducing social benefits would not lead to raising standards of living. Look at Chile, which is a rich country in minerals and fertile land. During the Pinochet regime all social benefits were reduced to a minimum. The gap between the rich and the poor grew and the middle class was a diminshing group also. India has no social benefits and that is easily wittnessed by the amount of the very poor people, whom most of the actually are working to survive. They are producing the many consumer products we in the west are so used to. Common standards of living are highest in countries where there are social benefits for the poorest, and usually the so called middle class is biggest in societes, where those benefits are good. There is a simple reason. Social benefits for the unemployed keep the prize of work from collapsing. Hence, middle class is not “deserving” or “earning” its right to be able to have better standard of living. It is only and simply benefiting from the social benefits to the poor.

    • You missed the whole point with the video. Its the same idea, bit about jobs. If someone is living in an area where there is no jobs, perpetual handouts don’t help. Sometimes the best thing is to move to where the jobs are and get yourself one.

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