In my early twenties, I worked as a cashier in a grocery store for about 15 minutes. Okay, maybe 15 days. Regardless of time – which seemed eternal anyway – it was a job I knew was not for me. It wasn’t just my aching feet from standing in one place for hours. It wasn’t only the pathetic pay of minimum wage. What really got to me? I started working in one way or another at the age of 12 (I think I even babysat before that, but I digress). I will never try to convince anyone that I am a golden employee. I never was. I hated work. Every damn job pretty much. So I guess the fact that I had to drag my hungover ass out of bed and to work early in the morning didn’t help my attitude when shoppers would come thru my line with T-Bones, Chocolate, Soda, Shrimp…stuff I sure as hell couldn’t afford. If it didn’t say Raman Noodles on the package, I didn’t recognize it. And when it was time to pay – food stamps. Are you flippin’ serious? And even tho that was a short moment in my life, I have never really forgotten those awakening encounters.
According to Rueters: Spending on food stamps, renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has zoomed in the past couple of years. Some $39.8 billion was appropriated in fiscal 2008 and $54 billion this fiscal year. (article found here)
There is no denying that food stamp fraud is rampant around the country. Detroit recently had a story regarding how many stores have been found guilty for their involvement in the fraud. According to the Associate Press: There have been at least 122 fraud-related convictions of owners or employees in the five-state Midwest region since 2007, nearly double the number from 2004-06, says USDA, which oversees the welfare program. About half of those have occurred in southeastern Michigan.
This does not include the fraud that is committed solely by food stamp recipients. A percentage of recipients have been guilty of trading their food stamp cards for drugs, liquor and cash. According to the Chicago Sun Times: By 1995, investigative agencies were estimating fraud of all kinds that cost as much as $2 billion. Trafficking – the fraudulent sale of food stamps for cash – diverted $815 million a year from the program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture believes.
Clearly, there must be a better way. I skipped college economics because that shit is for the right minded…which I am not. If you give me numbers, I get a headache. However, I don’t think it takes a financial wizard to realize this ain’t workin’.
And then I was thinking while driving thru the city, why are their so many empty, abandoned, unkept buildings? SO many. And I hardly believe this is only a Racine issue. So, here’s what I am thinking…bare with me, thinking hurts too…why – instead of doling out tax supported funds each month to individuals, why not use some of that money to pay local farmers to grow a certain percentage of wholesome, natural, healthy food to be distributed solely to food bank warehouses. Warehouses being some of these unoccupied structures around the city/state/country. Then add a reasonable tax to fast food in order to help pay for lean dairy and meat products. Then, instead of giving money…each week the recipients can “shop” throughout the warehouse for fresh, healthy food, which of course would be free.
I won’t even get into the subject of many poverty level children being victims of an unhealthy lifestyle, poor eating habits and little preventative care. Clearly making healthy options just as available and much more affordable would benefit these children in countless ways. As it stands now, it is much cheaper to go to McDonalds. Fresh produce, lean meats, fish…this is all very expensive. And it only makes sense for that to be the other way around. Again, countless benefits.
Now, this is simply a thought I have been having the past couple days. I in no way claim to be an expert. So I would like to hear from those who think this would not work…and why. That’s all I have for now.