Social Question

christine215's avatar

Fast food Companies are lining up to be able to accept food stamps. What are your thoughts on this?

Asked by christine215 (3158 points ) September 13th, 2011

I have mixed emotions:

I am against the whole “fast food” industry as whole, from their marketing to children, their contribution to the destruction of our environment, and their contribution to the obesity and health problems here in the states…

But on the other hand, I’ve been so poor that I relied on assistance at one time in my life and I know how it felt. I certainly wouldn’t have appreciated what would have felt like the further denigration of having “people” tell me what I was, and was not permitted to eat when I was on assistance.

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54 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

I am against it because:

“I am against the whole “fast food” industry as whole, from their marketing to children, their contribution to the destruction of our environment, and their contribution to the obesity and health problems here in the states…”

^
|
that.

I live in a very poor area and I have witnessed a lot of abuse of the food stamp program on a regular basis (People buying bags of marshmallows, sodas, chips, etc. with their WIC card) which I’m certain contributes to the rising obesity rates, even among the poor. The last thing our healthcare system needs is more validation of a poor diet. This system would basically be a stamp of approval from the gov to horridly unhealthy food, which I don’t approve of.

syz's avatar

I dislike the idea, but I also recognize that it’s cheaper to eat junk than it is to eat healthy.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Blackberry's avatar

I’m against it for your reasoning against fast food industries. The last thing poor kids need is shitty food, but as a practical matter, it’s still food and it’s cheap.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m on the fence, leaning towards allowing it. If food stamps can buy fatty packed food already at supermarkets, I don’t think it is much different. Can food stamps be used that way?

Waiting to see more opinions here before I decide.

christine215's avatar

There are states which already allow SNAP to be used at some fast food chains.
Michigan:Church’s Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Subway, Grandma’s Famous Chicken, Eight Mile Pancake House, Mr. T’s BBQ, Vito’s Pizza,

California: Jack in the Box, Subway, El Pollo Loco, Papa Murphy’s Pizza

Florida: KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Papa Murphy’s Pizza

Arizona: Domino’s Pizza, Golden Corral, Southern Cuisine, Rally’s Hamburger,

tom_g's avatar

I was a recipient of food stamps for a short period while I was unemployed and had a very young daughter to care for. @JLeslie is right. The accepted foods that I was allowed to buy were complete junk.

I’d love to see the ability to use food stamps at local farmers markets. Hell, I’d love to see a system in which food stamp dollars go further when purchasing produce and healthy foods at a supermarket.

Anyway, since fast food is really some of the worst shit legally called “food”, I am opposed to it.

TexasDude's avatar

@tom_g I’d love to see the ability to use food stamps at local farmers markets. Hell, I’d love to see a system in which food stamp dollars go further when purchasing produce and healthy foods at a supermarket.

Has anyone actually proposed this? Because it seems like a great idea

christine215's avatar

@tom_g you actually can use your benefits at many farmers markets now
http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ebt/fm.htm

I’ve been noticing signs at some of the markets which I shop in the summer and thought what great progress the govt’s made in this direction, then I read the article about Fast Food restaurants accepting food stams and thought “one step forward, two steps back”

tom_g's avatar

@christine215 – Great! Thanks for the info. Hope I’ll never need to use these again….

tom_g's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – Good question. I am not aware of anyone proposing something like this. The crazy left-wing-liberal-socialist in me would support anything that would apply this same logic to our food supply. For example, if we wanted to do something about health care costs, wouldn’t it make sense to invest in some level of subsidizing healthy foods in order to make unhealthy food more expensive than healthy food?
EDIT: Swap in a tax on unhealthy food if you’d like.

Cruiser's avatar

People on food stamps are there because they are struggling and even people that are struggling deserve the equal opportunity to afford their families a treat once in a while if they so choose.

JLeslie's avatar

Some communities don’t have farmers markets. Hell, some communities barely have a produce section in their grocery stores, because the local population doesn’t buy those goods. I guess we can try to force them to buy better food by saying that is all we are going “give” you, meaning all we are going to pay for through food stamps, but I am not sure how effective it will be. The trickiest part is the healthiest foods are the most perishable. And, I live in the mid south and I cam tell you the poor people who are fairly unhealthy here who do purchase fresh veggies tend to boil it death and cover it is cheese, butter, and or pork fat, or deep fry it with coating of batter. Seriously, I have never seen anything like it. Deep-fried dill pickles for God’s sake. Every green been has bacon. Broccoli has cheese sauce. I mean really, it would take a huge cultural cooking shift. Good luck.

tom_g's avatar

@JLeslie: “Deep-fried dill pickles for God’s sake. Every green been has bacon. Broccoli has cheese sauce.”

This makes me sad. Green beans have bacon? What does that even mean?

christine215's avatar

@Cruiser
“People on food stamps are there because they are struggling and even people that are struggling deserve the opportunity to afford their families a treat once in a while.”

I have a friend who relayed the story of being in line at the grocery store, and getting dirty looks because she had ice cream and snacks on the belt, as well as “food” to feed the family, she had coupons that she got from WIC for some of the food. What the person who was giving dirty looks and making rude remarks didn’t comprehend is that it was her daughter’s birthday and she was paying for the snacks and ice cream out of her own pocket. She said she felt as if she didn’t “deserve” to be able to buy these treats for her daughter… shameful the stigma that is attached to people when the only thing they’re guilty of is not being able to afford to feed their families!

Cruiser's avatar

@christine215 You humanized my point very well.

Blackberry's avatar

@christine215 But, but, but…...they’re leeches sucking on the government teat. They’re all lazy and on drugs and stuff like that, right?

JLeslie's avatar

Saying they can only buy fresh whole foods with stamps does not preclude them from buying treats with money. Most poor people do have some spending money. Still, on the fence though personally.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g First recipe that popped up in my google search. Notice you melt the butter before frying the bacon in it. Have you ever needed any extra fat to cook bacon? I mean really. This recipe only calls for boiling the beans for 10 minutes, but most restaurants around here must do it for 25. The beans are typically soft mush.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Our farmer’s markets have been taking food stamps for quite awhile. It’s a great idea, but the stamp users don’t buy much at the markets.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe In our area they don’t need to buy much, because our food pantries get local grown produce free from gardeners that plant extra for the food banks.

Here in Wis, food banks give out blocks of cheese, bags of potatoes or apples (in season), and whatever else there is a local surplus of.

Do I agree with food stamps for junk food? Nope. I prefer that the stamps go for real food….But then again, I feed my family organic food. We don’t eat fast food.

Blueroses's avatar

The public assistance stigma cuts the other way also (just to add another perspective).
When I was young, my family fostered a couple of kids. Food stamps were part of the govt. stipend for being a foster family. My mom would use those to buy quality proteins like meat and fresh fish and she would get a lot of snarky comments from people in the stores like “I wish I could afford to eat like that.” Implication being “if you’re poor, you shouldn’t be buying good food with my money.”

So, I guess my position on this issue is that receiving food stamps doesn’t mean the recipient is unable to make good choices (even at fast food restaurants) and giving some assistance doesn’t mean we can strip people’s dignity by removing their element of choice.

Once you give taxes to the govt and the govt gives it out in food stamps, it isn’t your money any more and it isn’t your business how it’s spent at that point. I’d like to see better nutritional counseling for everybody in our country but we need to stop penalizing the poor just for being poor.

jonsblond's avatar

I’ve been struggling with the rising prices at the grocery store. It’s getting more and more difficult to feed my family a healthy meal. I was just thinking this morning that it would actually cost less to take my family to McDonald’s and buy everyone something from the dollar menu than it would be to buy a bunch of produce and lean meat for a meal. it’s really sad

I’ve used food stamps many times throughout adulthood to feed my family. I understand how hard it is to get by and try to feed your family a good meal. I think my favorite comment on this thread is from @Blueroses. Once you give taxes to the govt and the govt gives it out in food stamps, it isn’t your money any more and it isn’t your business how it’s spent at that point. I’d like to see better nutritional counseling for everybody in our country but we need to stop penalizing the poor just for being poor.

christine215's avatar

In my “Peter Pan” world, there would be better education for how to stretch a food dollar in a manner which is healthy for your family.

My step-son, his girlfriend and their 6mo old baby live at home with us. They have a standing offer for dinner every night and nearly all food is “community” food. One night, while me, my husband and my daughter were having dinner, my step-son came home with a bag full of Taco Bell. I said why in the world did you spend your money on Taco Bell, when I have dinner already made?? His answer was (I’m quoting word for word)

“we have to get used to eating on the cheap, when we move out, we won’t be able to afford groceries”

You can buy brown rice, beans, lentils and such in bulk for cents per pound. You can get frozen veggies with a coupon for VERY little money. I’ve done this…hell, we’re doing OK financially and we STILL do this… because of the “extra mouths to feed” I have to really watch my food budget. What he doesn’t realize is you don’t HAVE to eat ‘crap’ food just because you don’t have a lot of money… I can’t help but think that many people on assistance would benefit from a better education about food and nutrition.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I also hate the idea of a stigma associated with being poor. But, I think people feel like if I am going to give someone money, I don’t want to see it wasted. Kind of like your dad pulling the funds when your grades faltered. This is a very common way of thinking, those who hold the money hold the power. Financial independence gives people freedom and autonomy over their lives in our society, and being financially dependent tends to mean someone is at the mercy of the money holder. The person holding the money might be thinking it is good for the other person, teaches them something, or forces them to do the right thing. I think there are all sorts of flaws in that way of thinking, as I have stated here, and stated in money discussions in general. I guess they don’t want to reward what they see as a bad behavior. I admittedly think this way about some things.

Also, when someone themselves have sacrificed to not go onto public assistance, they have little tolerance for those who do when it appears the person could have avoided it.

jonsblond's avatar

@christine215 Poor people don’t always have the money to buy bulk, or a grocery store near them that sell bulk items. I really hate the implication that poor people who don’t buy bulk aren’t educated about food and nutrition.

Blueroses's avatar

@jonsblond Exactly! There’s a horrible group-think association in our country that poor=stupid. And @JLeslie just reinforced it. I know her heart is in the right place and she meant to illustrate an opposite viewpoint, but it shows how condescending people can seem when they aren’t the ones needing some help. Every family’s situation is different, disasters can hit anybody and we need to quit thinking we’re superior to others without having to walk in their shoes.

Damn! This topic makes me angry!

fizzbanger's avatar

Maybe the food stamps could be designated for certain items only, so people aren’t blowing their grocery money on McFlurries… that could get tricky, though.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Like you, I see more damage than good in fast food but I also know I can eat two meals for less than $3.00 a day at some places and have been in the position several times to where that was what was most affordable.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’m in a county seat in upstate NY and we have tons of food stamp and welfare recipients in this area. If you watch how they spend their food dollars you’d buy into the poor=stupid theory. Not stereotyping, but just stating a fact. And I’m sure there’s a least half of the recipients that shop wisely. I think giving more access to fast food would be really bad for the kids.
Welcome to fluther fizzbanger. Nice first answer.

jonsblond's avatar

@Blueroses it makes me angry too And who wants to eat rice and lentils every evening. I have a family of meat lovers to feed. A homemade hamburger with some homemade sweet potato fries and fresh corn on the cob would be nice, but buying 2lbs of meat, sweet potatoes, tomato and lettuce (red leaf, not crappy iceberg) is going to cost much more than 5 sandwiches off the dollar menu at McD’s.

tom_g's avatar

I know this may be slightly off-topic, but many people talk about the cost of fast food being low. However, are we really looking at the cost? Looking just at the financial cost – if we eat fast food x number of times per week, what are the short-term savings vs. long-term costs in health care? Is it really less expensive to eat McDonald’s all the time, then pay when you’re on insulin and have other health problems?

I get why people who are poor might make a decision that goes against their long-term financial and physical health due to the pressures of trying to feed themselves or family. It’s an unfortunate situation. I’d like to see the real price of unhealthy food reflected in the sticker price.

christine215's avatar

@jonsblond, I don’t mean that you’re buying IN BULK, I lived off of rice and/or dried beans that I got from bulk bins at the grocery store… so that I could buy enough to feed myself and my daughter because that’s exactly how little money I had left to my name until I got paid again or until I received my next allotment of “food stamps”

Did I WANT to eat rice and beans every day?? NO! Of course not, but I had a small child to feed and I wasn’t going to fill her up with McNuggets and Happy Meals.

I am thankful that it’s been a long time since then, but back when I was on assistance you had “food stamps” they were like monopoly money, you were given a certain dollar amount in a tear out booklet and you’d have to stand there while people rolled their eyes at you waiting in line, because you were supposed to put your “food stamp eligible” purchases separate from the “rest” of your order… and if there was any change in amount over a dollar, they’d give you back your change in smaller Food stamp coupons, and if the cashier didn’t have them in his/her drawer the people behind you in line would make a real big deal about huffing and puffing to show their lack of tolerance/understanding/patience for how badly you were inconveniencing them for getting stuck in line behind a “welfare” recipient on “Food Stamps”

So, please… I don’t mean to condescend, or assume that just because people are “poor” that they’re “dumb” about food, but I DO think that we as a whole could benefit from better education for proper nutrition, that our KIDS should be better taught how to eat right. I can also point to statistics which show that the poorest among us are also the ones who suffer from obesity and its’ ill effects more than people of higher incomes… but I won’t belabor that point, because it’s pretty standard knowledge.

Response moderated
fizzbanger's avatar

@adirondackwannabe Thanks!

@jonsblond
I happened upon an article about this buying-in-bulk business earlier (link). A lady in San Francisco claims that she shops at Whole Foods for bulk-bin “bargains”.

tom_g's avatar

Just for some perspective before people start going all crazy over how all of our taxes are going to support these programs, here’s a little perspective:

Where did my tax dollars go?

According to this, a mere $304 (or 1.5% of my total taxes paid) went to “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (food stamps program). In my opinion, the taxpayers are hardly being robbed when it comes to this program – especially when you compare it to other areas the taxes I have paid have gone to.

JLeslie's avatar

I should add I have a close relative on medicaid currently, and she is applying for food stamps. I am grateful these services exist. I don’t want restrictions on the food she can buy actually, now that I think about it.

Blueroses's avatar

@JLeslie Assistance is different now than it was in your father’s time. I see so many families here snowed in by an inefficient system. It’s an all-or-nothing qualification. You might think that an additional income would be a hand-up, but it doesn’t work that way in our current world.

To qualify for benefits, a family must have an income eligibility. That gives them food, healthcare, childcare and some (little) cash. It isn’t an easy road, it’s subsistence only. Add a new income, say $9/hour. This actually reduces the subsistence amount for the family because they no longer qualify for childcare or healthcare. PLUS, the income reduces the food supplement and the cash. Now, they are worse off than they were before they added an income. The current system is designed to keep people dependent and it’s a trap a lot of families can not find their way out of.

Many areas do not have high paying jobs with benefits available for one or both adults and they certainly can’t afford to pack up and move the family to a place where there might be more jobs.

If public assistance were a la carte, for ex: you get a job and you have 18 months of the same food, health and childcare benefits, people could get out from under it. As it stands, the system is fucked.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blueroses Just to clarify, my grandfather and father were not on assistance. My grandfather maintained shelter and food for his family, but it was minimal.

I agree the system sucks in many ways. Encourages staying in the system. But, aside from the system there are people making bad choices, many times because they don’t know any better, or because of their life experiences, or reject the cultural values and norms of those more financially prosperous. Not everyone who is poor or struggling is on financial assistance.

Blueroses's avatar

@JLeslie And not everybody who is on public assistance is taking advantage. I would say the majority are not, because it isn’t an easy way to live. You did say that tax dollars paid for your father’s school and that is no longer the case in most areas.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blueroses I am not sure what you really are trying to explain to me. I think the majority of people on public assistance are not taking advantage.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blueroses Tax dollars still pay for primary and secondary education. True, college is a different story. Although, the college he went to in NYC is still very very inexpensive. 12 credit hours is about $2,000 I think? Here is a Wikipedia about it’s history. When my dad went they took the cream of crop. It was not a city college for those who could not get into better schools, rather a college for the top kids who could not afford school. My dad went on to get his PhD at an Ivy league, he had two scholarship offers, well one was a fellowship from Yale, the other Wharton. The Northeastern schools at the time sought undergrads from the Hunter. While most of the city schools around the country that take the poor and and minorities do not have a high status or ranking I am not sure how the college is ranked today, but I think it holds its own.

Here is information on the city college system of NY in general

You know, a bunch of liberals and Jews in NYC. What can I say. They care about educating the masses.

Blueroses's avatar

OK. I apologize for derailing the thread. I could go on forever about the way our system doesn’t work. But. The upshot is, I can’t judge people for the way they choose to spend their dollar, whether it’s a job-earned dollar or a food-stamp dollar (don’t forget that many people using assistance paid in for years before their circumstances changed…. oh hell, here I go again)

Once it’s their dollar, it isn’t yours. Nobody will tell you not to buy Kraft mac & cheese with your money. Maybe you eat all veggies, all week until you have an indulgence day. Quit judging and quit assuming you know everything about every person. That point has been illustrated on this thread often enough.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blueroses Oh, but you are wrong. People sit back and judge how others spend their money whether they earned it, were given it, if it is welfare, or lottery money, or whatever. I admit to judging people who make $200k a year and mortgaged everything to the hilt, and then when they lose their job lose everything. I don’t understand people who spend every penny they earn and have new flat screen tv’s, a new Mercedes, have to stay in 5 star hotels, and have zero in savings. That to me is not simply hitting hard times. But, again, I also see how some people really just don’t know any better. Were never taught to save, never had an example of it in their life. They tend to ride the good and bad times up and down, while I want to level out the road to be smooth. Different personality maybe? My inlaws had all sorts of money and would spend spend spend. When they hit a hard time they had nothing after having had multiple homes and new cars every year, etc.

I guess when someone gifts money, they no longer have say over how it will be spent. But, public assistance is not really gift. It is more of a social reality. Although, I do understand your point about people paying into the system and then hitting a hard time, I completely agree with you. This is part of the reason when I spoke of my relative I want her to be able to spend food stamps on whatever food she wants. She is ill, and her diet is very limited. NY does indeed limit what can be bought with food stamps. No matter what they will help if she can get them.

Blueroses's avatar

@JLeslie Funny how it sounds like we’re arguing when we are essentially saying the same thing. You: Thank goodness for a system that allows my relative (whose situation I understand) allows for this.
Me: Don’t think you’re entitled to pass judgement on any one person until you know their story.

same thing.—

Seek's avatar

I am currently receiving food stamps.

If I purchased only fresh, whole foods, I could feed my family for about two weeks out of the month. Fact.

However, I do the best I can, trying to find a balance between fresh whole foods (which I’d absolutely prefer) and $0.88 frozen pizzas and TV dinners and ramen for daily lunches, occasionally doing more of the latter in order to afford the odd Publix deli sub or a “special breakfast”, when I bring home a half dozen bagels and a few doughnuts.

That said, I do not see the reasoning in allowing SNAP purchases at restaurants, mostly the SNAP program forbids my buying hot fried chicken at the grocery store. Why the hell should they allow hot fried chicken from KFC and not from Publix, where it’s a good deal less expensive?

christine215's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr
The frozen pizzas and ramen noodles are still better for you than BK/KFC Mickey Dee’s or 99.99% of the food that the fast food chains crank out.

Seek's avatar

It’s not exactly Quiche Lorraine, but I’m not complaining.

Being at a point in my life where if the SNAP wasn’t there, it would be a choice of food or homelessness, the last thing I need is to worry about what other people think of what I’m buying with the SNAP money. I have enough problems. If I can find a way to let my family feel normal while we’re going through a hard time, I will. And I budget the SNAP money carefully to be able to do that. Normal people have Duncan Hines Brownies from time to time after dinner, sometimes with a little vanilla ice cream on top. I do my due dilligence and shop with coupons and wait for BOGO sales on bagged frozen veggies, so I don’t feel bad about it. And I shouldn’t.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Sweet holy moly, while I think the fast food places are trying to glean more money and sales from the American public in these lean economic times, I also see it as helpful to the really downtrodden poor. Many of the homeless, or near homeless people, I know in this area have always complained that the way the EBT cards worked, worked against them. If you are surfing a sofa here and there or you are truly in a tent, you can’t keep perishables like milk, meat, vegetables, and cheese. Anything that would spoil, you can’t really buy because it would be pointless. You can buy beans, pasta, and such but if you have no kitchen, it is hard to cook it. Most can only eat stuff already cooked or is self-contained like Cup-o-soup type meals. Outside of that, all there is left is fast food and restaurants, and they cannot afford the restaurants.

Blueroses's avatar

That’s another excellent point @Hypocrisy_Central. Bulk staples do nothing for people without pantries and kitchens. You can eat a carrot, but where are you going to store the rest of the bunch?

The EBT cards did do something to remove the stigma because they look like using a bank debit card. Also, it got rid of that vulture middle man who used to buy food stamp coupons for .50 on the dollar, cash.

Nullo's avatar

I don’t like it; stewardship of resources is already hard to come by, and these people would be encouraging bad spending though they’re not the only ones. In fact, it might be better to stop doing food stamps altogether, and try a different system.

@Hypocrisy_Central Fire is one of Man’s oldest friends, as is his ability to improvise.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What’s the source of this question? I haven’t heard any government representative advocating food stamps be used for prepared food of any kind.

Where is the report that someone is suggesting food stamps be used at fast food restaurants coming from?

christine215's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake it was reported on ABC “Go” a few days ago,
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/09/fast-food-chains-getting-into-the-food-stamp-act/

it’s been the practice in the states which I’ve already listed, it’s being proposed in more states and for a larger number of fast food chains.
(something tells me that you won’t “hear” any government rep advocating this…)

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@christine215 : Thanks for the link.

fizzbanger's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central You make a good point. It’s really hard to access substantial food when you don’t have a kitchen.

I’ve never used public assistance, but I lived in my car one time when I was in college (it wasn’t that bad – I kept my things in storage, worked at a Starbucks, and got plenty of showers with a gym membership). Almost everything I ate was fast food, from grilled chicken salads to $1.00 sides of mashed potatoes from Applebee’s. I did stash frozen Lean Cuisine and pizza-type things in the back of the freezer at work…

Everyone’s got to do what they’ve got to do with whatever resources are at hand. Sometimes people have too much on their plate (oof) to worry about nutrition. You know you’re eating crappy food… you vow that it will get better someday (hopefully), you play it day-by-day and try to make mostly good choices.

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