The Los Angeles Times today published an op-ed by the co-chairs of the Association of Health Care Journalists’ Right to Know Committee calling on Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to end the secrecy surrounding the multibillion-dollar food stamps program.
“The debate in Congress about cutting the food stamp program has sparked predictable clashes between those who want to help the poor and those who want to cut government spending,” the opinion column said. “But strangely missing from the arguments is a shocking fact: The public, including Congress, knows almost nothing about how the program’s $80 billion is spent.”
Compared with other safety net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (the official name for food stamps) stands out as the most opaque. The public has no information about how much money is collected by individual retailers or which foods are purchased with SNAP dollars.
As a result, decisions about the program are made in ignorance, and communities are deprived of vital information on whether SNAP recipients have access to healthful foods.
The op-ed, by Felice J. Freyer and Irene M. Wielawski, continues several months of advocacy by AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee to improve public access to SNAP data.
”Publication of this piece in the Los Angeles Times will draw wider attention to our concerns, at a time when Congress is debating SNAP spending,” Freyer said. “It really is outrageous that such a huge program is shielded from public scrutiny.”
AHCJ, joined by six other journalism and open-government groups, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the matter in April. “With any federal program, but especially one as large as SNAP, records should be public unless there is a compelling reason to hide them,” the letter said. Vilsack has not responded.
I can tell you my experience on $200/mo. Almost anything labeled “food” can be bought, and that includes cokes, cookies, candy and high sugars. But fruits and vegetables are so expensive, it is impossible to buy them as one should. My mouth waters for fruit, but I by-pass that section because of the hunger for them (and most are not ripe anyway). Nothing is bought unless on sale, nothing except milk. I buy very little meat, if ever, and get it thru frozen dinners which seem to be fairly well balanced and those are 2 meals a day. However I am elderly and do not have growing hungry kids to feed. Foods that weigh heavy in the stomach are a necessity: potatoes, never rice. Before I qualified for SNAP I lived on potatoes, parsley and milk. One might think it boring, but when hunger pains attack, quelling the pains is what counts.
I have read that wasteful disposable diapers were lobbied thru to be on food stamps. This only encourages more irresponsible “breeding,” of more children on SNAP, what do they care if their diapers are paid for? If any nonfood is allowed, it should be toothpaste and toothbrushes. Though I believe the high sugar non-nutrient foods should be taken off the list like candy and sodas, gum takes away hunger pains – I couldn’t get along without it. Keeping my stomach shrunk is a necessity, or I get hungrier faster.
I am very thankful for SNAP to add to my only income, Social Security. I could not eat if not for SNAP. For the destitute elderly such as, my conclusion is that the Feds think that it is the duty of the elderly to die. Luckily at 70 I am at the end of my life and who wants to be around for climate change, the destruction of forests, and the extermination of wildlife like elephants for ivory thru greed and overpopulation where men won’t keep their pants zipped or get the “cut”? Little old ladies such as I are the powerless in this world. The only thing I have is my landline and internet to let people know I am alive. However, I can tell you from experience my kind of poverty is not living.
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