Let’s SNAP the Negative Stereotypes

June 23, 2020

Enough with bashing poor and hungry people.

Like everyone who reports the news, in whatever capacity, I’ve been accused of excessive negativity. That’s why I’m happy to dwell on this piece of good news: Nevada recently became the 19th state to allow SNAP benefits to be used online.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), commonly known as food stamps, is of course more important now, during the pandemic, than ever. With unemployment at record levels, more people need help affording the necessities of life.

In addition, people experiencing the kind of life crises that lead to food insecurity tend to have other problems that preclude them from jumping in a car and driving to the grocery store. Such as not having a car. Or being immunocompromised, or just generally unhealthy enough to not want to expose themselves to a potentially deadly virus simply to be able to eat.

So Nevada is letting SNAP recipients get their food delivered. But only by Walmart and Amazon. And not Whole Foods, which Amazon owns. And no delivery costs; the recipients have to pay those.

Why, you may ask? Probably for the same reason that the number of states that allow SNAP purchases online stands at 19 and not the logical number, which is 50: Because some politicians love to jerk around SNAP recipients for the crime of being poor.

These are the sort of pols who are always proposing stupid laws against SNAP money being wasted on steak, lobster or some other supposedly frivolous luxury. It never occurs to them that 1) people who blow their whole monthly allowance on, say, a day’s supply of caviar, will have no SNAP money for the rest of the month, which would punish them quite effectively while not costing taxpayers a dime; 2) the vast majority of poor people know what they and their families need.

That second part is why SNAP is more efficient, effective and beneficial than the best food banks: It lets people participate in the mainstream food system. Grocery stores, the processors who supply them, the ingredient houses who supply the processors, and the rest of the food supply chain gets nurtured and strengthened through the participation of people who, after all, are Americans who need to eat.

If conservative politicians can’t or won’t see that, it might be a good idea for food processors and retailers to help them understand. A concerted effort on behalf of greater SNAP availability would not only be humane; it would help the industry’s bottom line.

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