Oh, Missouri. Oh Missourah? Or is it Oh Misery if you are receiving food stamps? (Or live in Ferguson?)
A Republican state lawmaker in Missouri is apparently pushing for legislation that would severely limit what food stamp recipients can buy, reports The Washington Post. The bill being proposed would ban recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits the purchase of “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.”
“The intention of the bill is to get the food stamp program back to its original intent, which is nutrition assistance,” said Rick Brattin, the representative who is sponsoring the proposed legislation, reports The Post.
So Brattin’s argument is that the food stamp program is primarily an effort to provide “nutrition,” and so restricting the food stamp purchase of things with no real nutritional value including cookies, chips, soda and energy drinks may be a good thing. But what about those last two — “seafood and steak”?
Isn’t the omega-3 benefit from salmon and other seafood part of not only a well-balanced diet but a healthy one? And as the author of the article points out, steak is “such a broad category that it’s essentially banning people from buying any flat cuts of beef, from porterhouse to flank.”
Does this seem fishy to you? Is it an attempt to one, demonize the poor, and two, playing right into the tired trope of the “welfare queens” of yesteryear—those shiftless crooks that spend YOUR hard earned tax money on lobster and filet mignon? This whole thing frankly smacks of repression mixed with a bit of hateration, for lack of a better word.
The working poor – yes, those who work sometimes need help because their wage is not quite a living one (see those workers at McDonald’s who are told by their own companies how to access SNAP benefits )– probably work harder than any legislator in any statehouse in any state or city in this country.
The Post reports that the Republican legislator Brattin had this to say in response to the pushback bubbling:
Brattin admits that the language might need some tweaking. “My intention wasn’t to get rid of canned tuna and fish sticks,” he said. But he also insists that people are abusing the system by purchasing luxury foods, and believes that that must be stopped, even if it ends up requiring the inclusion of other less luxurious items.
“I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards,” he said. “When I can’t afford it on my pay, I don’t want people on the taxpayer’s dime to afford those kinds of foods either.”
So tuna fish and fish sticks are OK, but surf and turf is a little too fancy for poor folk? Essentially, some people don’t want poor people to purchase what they deem to be “luxury” foods. This is a disgusting display of both government overstepping its bounds and serious blanket judgement of those who access government benefits for their families. Suppose folks eat beans all month so that they can treat themselves to steak at the end of the month? Can you please get out of my plate???
The Post reports that “currently, a household of one can qualify for up to $194 dollars a month, or fewer than $7 dollars day, as part of SNAP, according to the Department of Agriculture. For a household of two, it’s roughly twice that. For a household of three, it’s about three times the amount.” How much lobster can you really get here?
The Community Food & Justice Coalition shows that 48.7 percent of those receiving food assistance are children; also, most SNAP households include children, the elderly or disabled people.
Don’t legislators in Missouri have other things to be worried about besides what people are eating? How about dealing with the rampant documented racism in some of their police and court systems? How about real community development in places like Ferguson?
Oh, that would actually benefit (and not stigmatize) poor people and people of color. Right.
SOURCE: The Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty