Saturday, December 8, 2012

If you only knew the truth
I hear so many people fussing about food stamps and their distaste for those who use them. They post on Facebook "I sure wish I had an I Phone like the lady using the food stamps." This is really just their drama about something they think their fed up with.
Food Stamps aren't paper stamps any longer and one would have to get pretty nosey to actually know that someone was using them in most supermarket settings. They are digital now and look like a credit card. In most settings the card swipes on the same PIN pad that you and I swipe our debit card on.
Nonetheless, you're pissed. You've either seen it first hand or heard about someone buying buying candy, chewing gum or other junk food with food stamps then buying lottery tickets, beer, cigarettes and other stuff with cash. You've got a right to be pissed. But you're probably pissed at the wrong person. If you knew the truth you'd be spitting bullets.
There have been various food stamp programs in history. Every one of them has had good purpose to some degree but even the program's purpose isn't what it's sold as. The programs have all been attached to a farm bill of some sort and has always been a program of the United States Department of Agriculture, whose mission is to promote U.S. agriculture, thus in the early days only nutritious products that were produced in the United States were eligible to be part of the program.
The program first began in 1939 and ended in 1943. A huge 30 million people received stamps then. As a percentage of population that would be much, much higher than the approximately 53 million recipients today. Those were some tough times back then but the great depression had ended and World War II had begun. The war depleted a lot of resources but it also created a lot of jobs, so I am not clear as to why there were so many people on food stamps then.
President Kennedy reintroduced the program as a pilot in 1961. That pilot ended in 1964.
The program again returned in the 1970s. In 1979 there were 20 million recipients.
The Food Stamp Program or SNAP (supplemental nutritional assistance program) has always been sold to promote U.S. Agriculture while promoting good nutrition amongst our impoverished citizens. Sounds well and good but it has gotten ugly and ugly for the wrong reasons.
The lady that you're bitching about didn't change the rules nor did she request changes. Big business got involved. Big business has lots of politicians in its pocket. The program turned into a money grab for big corporations. The impoverished were merely the mule to move the money from government to corporate farms, supermarket chains, food canneries, food processors, soft drink companies, confectioners and corn producers.
On the good side of this scenario it creates jobs. On the bad side the whole thing is a failure because it doesn't promote U.S. agriculture and it actually promotes poor nutrition as it perpetuates poverty. It doesn't have to be this way but it is.

We are all on food stamps to some degree. We may work at a place that makes money from them in some way. Our 401-K investments may be in these corporations that are essentially on welfare by making money directly or indirectly from the program. Not all bad but certainly not good.
There are huge numbers of food stamp recipients that should not qualify for the program. While tough measures should be taken to determine qualifying participants it is more important that we get control of the qualifying products because qualifying the wrong products helps to perpetuate poverty and poor health. It also encourages bogus personal qualification.
As we become angry at the mule that moves our money to the big corporations what's really happening? The program is supposed to provide supplemental nutritional assistance. What in hell is nutritional about a pack of chewing gum, a donut or the other garbage they buy with their card. Even those who attempt to purchase nutritious food by reading the facts chart on the label have a difficult time because the charts are written to deceive. A dill pickle in a pouch has 24% of our daily allowance of sodium. That's high as hell, but when we examine it carefully we learn that we are supposed to share it with 8 people. The damned thing is intended to be consumed by one person but manipulating the facts makes it appear bad not horrible. It actually has 216% of your daily allowance of sodium.
Much of the stuff purchased with food stamps is loaded with sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. There are also enormous levels of sodium and carbohydrates. Do you see where this is headed? We are paying to support the worst nutrition imaginable.
The food we pay for will most definitely lead to poor health. Go ahead, Draw the link line from Food stamp program to Medicaid Program. Now, who do you think is going to pay for the poor health? We are.
Who influenced this? Do you have any idea how powerful the Corn Lobby is? Why do you think HFCS is in practically everything we eat? The corn lobby convinced our legislators that the introduction of high fructose corn syrup to our food makes it healthier. That same lobby has gotten it approved to now change the ethanol in gasoline from E-10 to E-15 even though the auto manufacturers say that it will void your warranty (I'll save that rant for another time).
By the year 2037, a staggering 40% of the U.S. population will be diabetic. This ain't no joke y'all. The big corporations don't care. There's a pharmaceutical corporation who will have their hand in our pockets then treating the problems that we paid to create.
Perhaps the lady in front of you at the market should take responsibility. I won't argue with you there but I will create a picture for you: You have a 22 year old single mother of three. Daddy is junkie most days and on a good day he doesn't hold a job. Mom didn't finish school. She's the second or third generation of single parents so her mother didn't finish school either. This family has a long history of making poor decisions. So, we load up a food stamp card with hundreds of dollars on it and expect her to begin making good decisions now? Who's the fool here?
This program should provide good nutritional education. It should be nearly impossible to buy anything but wholesome US produced foods that are high in protien and low in fats. Providing common sense assistance will eventually lead to a better life style, better health and a better culture.
The food stamp program is great for some people but it could be good for every citizen in this country if it were used properly. To do that we have to get corporations out of its mission. We, as good compassionate citizens should be pleased that the program exists but we should insist on very strict product eligibility.
What can we do? We can write our congressional leaders. Their phone numbers, addresses and email aren't difficult to get. Insist that he/she take a stand to make the food stamp program the really great program that it could and should be by assuring its provision of good nutrition to qualifying individuals.

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