Monday column reprise
Note from Dan: While I’m on vacation, I’m bringing you some oldie-but-goodie columns from the past. This one ran Jan. 26, 2010. Since then, the number of American on food stamps (or SNAP) has grown to nearly 47 million. And still, there are no rule preventing recipients from buying soda pop or potato chips with them — go figure.
The local supermarket checkout clerk who called last week had a point. I won’t use her name because if I did her employer would fire her, she said.
Her complaint concerns what people buy with taxpayer-funded food stamps (actually it’s a debit card these days). She sees it every day, she said, and she ran down a list:
Cheetos. Soda pop. All manner of sweetened, fried, salted and superprocessed foods.
I interrupted when she got to the lobsters.
“Wait a minute,” I said incredulously. “You really see people buying lobsters with food stamps?”
“Well, not at my store — we don’t sell them,” she replied. “But you should see the mounds of shrimp and all the crab legs they buy.
“Next time you go to the grocery store, watch,” she said. “Because 90 percent of the items they buy have no nutritional value.”
That 90 percent zilch-nutrition figure sounds too high — but it might be about average for all grocery shoppers.
Have you looked at all the highly processed non-nutritional junk crammed onto supermarket shelves these days? It takes up most of every aisle.
If this indeed is a problem, it is growing, because the use of food stamps reached a dubious zenith in November.
At that point, The New York Times reported, the program was feeding one in eight people in this country, including one in four children. In 2008, the cost surpassed $35 billion annually. In Roanoke, one in five people, and two out of every five children, are fed by food stamps.
Certainly some of this money gets spent on meat, dairy products, fruit, vegetables and grains.
But with food stamps, you can also buy pretty much anything you can eat or drink except hot prepared foods or alcohol.
Susan Akers, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, noted in an e-mail that nutrition education for food stamp recipients is an emphasis of the agency’s program.
At the same time, she noted, “there are no clear standards for defining foods as good or bad or healthy or not healthy.”
READ THE REST OF THIS COLUMN HERE.