New Study Finds Food Stamps Help Reduce Poverty

Finally, there’s some good news about food stamps that doesn’t have to do with fraud or Octomoms. A new study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the food-stamp program (SNAP) reduced the poverty rate by 8 percent in 2009.

The Times reports that the recession coincided with an increase in participation in the food-stamp program: Enrollment went up by 45 percent from January 2009 to January 2012. But this year, this increase has lessened slightly, a change that could indicate that the economic recovery was affecting families living below the poverty line, according to Stacy Dean, a researcher of the food-stamp program at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who was quoted in the Times article. Meanwhile, food stamps are turning out to be useful for more than just feeding families. The Rose Supper Club in Montgomery, Alabama, has started charging a reduced cover of $5 to people who present a food-stamp card at the door, The Daily Caller reports. Fox News has picked up the story — and things were starting to look up publicity-wise for the government program.


10 Food Product Mascots That Give Us Nightmares

10. Little Debbie — You ought to have the face of an angel, Little Debbie; instead your visage is wrinkly and witchy. You are your own grandmother, and you’re wearing her clothes, too: plaid shirt with collar that lies perfectly flat and strange white straw hat trimmed in sky blue.

Is there something weirdly obscene about this packaging, or is it our imagination?

9. Kool-Aid Smiling Pitcher — We liked you better when you were fat, and perspiration glistened on your overweight brow. Now, you’re shaping up and getting skinnier and skinnier, riding a stationary bike wearing knee pads. Are you afraid of falling off? You are a pitcher filled with delicious juice-like drinks, Smiley, not a gym-goer!

8. Green Giant — Wait! Weren’t you the giant that was chasing us and screaming “Fe, fi, fo, fum? I smell the blood of a foodie?” You’re smiling now, but it’s the smile of a sexual predator, and when our backs are turned you’re doubtlessly going to ream us out with a thick can of peas.

7. Hamburger Helper Hand — “Tell it to the hand,” as the expression goes, but this is not even a real hand, it’s a cartoon hand, and the face upon its palm reminds us of the ants running out of the hand with a hole ripped in it in Un Chien Andalou. Please, stop it from talking! And why, oh why, does he have a clown nose? Is that a worm in his mouth?

6. Chef Boyardee — When we were kids, we never knew you were Italian, since all chefs were French back then. You’ve grown old on the can, like one of those paintings on the wall at Hogwarts. Are you going to start talking to us now, too? We fear being smothered in one of your cans of mushy mini-ravioli.

5. Snap, Crackle & Pop — We know why you’re so manically hyper, Crackle, you’re clearly on a crack high, but what about the other two? Have you snapped someone’s neck, Snap, and have you “popped” someone in the argot of organized crime hit men, Pop? Whatever the reason, please stop jumping around in my breakfast food!

4. Lucky Charms Leprechaun — And while we’re on the subject of cereal mascots, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun is one of the creepiest, so creepy that he inspired a series of horror films. Can’t you see the evil lurking behind his pasted-on smile? And isn’t he supposed to kill you if you come near his treasure (i.e., Lucky Charms)? His sphincter-like ears are particularly distressing.

3. Pillsbury Doughboy — One look into your empty blue eyes and we know you’re intent on mayhem, P.D.B., like your cousin, the Michelin Rubber Man. And your gaping toothless mouth reminds us how putty-white and corpse-like you are.

2. Tennessee Pride Mascot — OK, you don’t have a name yet, but you roam the backwoods roads with your sawdusty biscuits hoping to stumble upon some hapless wayfarer. And your stick, swung at someone’s head from behind, is lethal. You are a genetic mutation, as evidenced by only three fingers and one thumb. And who walks around barefoot, unless they have the hooves of Satan? The package demands, “Taste the pride.”

Ready for the scariest food-product mascot of all time?

1. Gorton’s Fisherman — Steel-blue eyes, blue rope around your neck, beard too perfectly trimmed, rubberized coat to keep your clothes dry from blood spatters — we’ve got your number, Gorty! We saw I Know What You Did Last Summer, and have long realized that you’re nothing but a common slasher, and if we reach our arms into the freezer case to try to extract some of your unsustainable sole or cod filets, you’ll whip a grappling hook out of your yellow slicker and cut us to ribbons. Please, let us wake up before that happens!



Jesse Jackson Slams Newt Gingrich Over Food Stamps

And the food-stamp fracas continues!

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has just blasted Newt Gingrich for his comments that Barack Obama is a “food stamp” president, and has come out against the Republican presidential hopeful, telling Politico: “Food stamps (are the) lifeline for many Americans — they help farmers, they help the grocery industry, and mostly, they help people who are malnourished.”

But wait, there’s more!

“For him to disparage the food stamps is to not understand the 50 million in the country living in poverty. He is showing disdain for the poor,” Jackson said.

Now, in case you don’t remember how began the SNAP — Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — shitshow, Newt Gingrich told reporters in December that “you don’t get food stamps. … You get a credit card and the credit card can be used for anything. We’ve had people take their food-stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii.”

He also said that millionaires can get food stamps, which is totally untrue.

Then, he continued on with his anti-SNAP screed, telling reporters several days later that Obama is the “finest food-stamp president.”

Gingrich’s comments have come under fire not just from political opponents, but from media and economic analysts.

Many have reported that SNAP enrollment first grew during George W. Bush’s presidency, not Obama’s tenure. The Bush administration aggressively courted eligible Americans to seek benefits, CNBC reports. Experts say that SNAP has ballooned mainly because of the economy — not Obama.

The latest in the SNAP spat stems from Gingrich’s comments Monday night, when a Fox News reporter accused the candidate of belittling people with “racially charged remarks,” Politico notes.


USDA Shutters Hundreds of Outposts

The agency that helps farmers and ranchers — and basically just makes sure that the country’s food production goes smoothly and that Americans are fed — is shutting down hundreds of regional offices to save money, the Associated Press reports.

The closures will save the agency $150 million, the AP notes — affecting at least 46 states and Washington.

Other cost-cutting measures for the agency — which has a $145 billion budget — announced by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday include finding cheaper cell phone plans for USDA staffers.

A lot of the changes will greatly impact the agency’s research arm: USDA scientists have typically done things like try to figure out how to make Alaskan wasteland arable, or how to best irrigate parched deserts. The Obama administration said earlier this year that it wants to shave at least $42 million from the USDA’s ag research, the AP writes.

The USDA also organizes aid for the poor, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.


Food Stamp Spending Surges at City Greenmarkets

More and more food stamps are getting spent at the city’s farmers’ markets — and on healthy items such as fresh produce — according to an exclusive report by NY1.

The City Council says that Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card transactions at Greenmarkets shot up 23 percent in 2011, Rebecca Spitz reports.

The overwhelming majority — 75 percent — of the $600,000 in federal food-stamp money spent at these markets purchased fruits and veggies.

Twenty percent was used for dairy and eggs, NY1 notes, and only 5 percent was spent on baked goods.

Forty-three of the city’s 53 farmers’ markets accept EBT cards.

In recent months, food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — have come under intense scrutiny.

As the 2012 election nears, some candidates have even used SNAP as a talking point, wrongly accusing recipients of traveling to Hawaii with the benefits rather than buying food.


Cops: Food Stamps Traded for Blow and Cash

So you can’t use food stamps to go to Hawaii — but you might be able to feed your cocaine habit with them.

Cops in Lynn, Massachusetts — a Boston suburb — say eight people used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for coke and cash, according to The Boston Globe.

Police told reporters that four Lynn bodegas routinely overcharged on SNAP transactions — which work like debit cards.

So, customers would pay $100 in SNAP funds for food, but actually receive $50 in groceries and $50. Authorities say the scheme has gone on since at least 2009, according to the Globe.

Some of these convenience stores truly lived up to their names, even offering customers blow in exchange for food stamps.


Millionaires on Food Stamps?

A new GOP-backed bill would prevent super-rich people from getting food stamps, even though they already can’t, The New York Times reports.

Republicans want to renew the payroll-tax holiday.

Part of their bill requires that Americans who rake in more than $1 million cannot get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, the paper notes. If made into law, the proposed legislation would also keep top earners from getting unemployment benefits.

But there aren’t really any millionaires on food stamps.

“As it turns out, millionaires on food stamps are about as rare as petunias in January, even if you count a lottery winner in Michigan who managed to collect the benefit until chagrined officials in the state put an end to it,” the reporter writes.

In fact, you can’t earn more than 130 percent above poverty level to acquire SNAP: “For a family of three that would be a gross monthly income of $2,008.”

It is possible that some low earners might be wealthy in other ways — such as owning a fancy car — since a lot of the states and territories don’t ask SNAP applicants to claim other assets. This is pretty rare, though.

Food stamps, deeply polemic and highly politicized, have recently come under fire.

Newt Gingrich, who wants to run on the Republican ticket in the 2012 presidential election, criticized the program, incorrectly saying that you can pay for Hawaii vacations with SNAP credits. He also called President Barack Obama the “finest food-stamp president.”

On December 6, a mother killed herself and shot her two children in a Texas welfare office, and reports indicate that she was upset over being denied SNAP.

Recent analyses have suggested that food stamps might boost the economy. About one in seven Americans receives SNAP, the Times says.


Report: Food Stamps Boost Economy

About one-third of the people who can get food stamps do not, meaning many U.S. states have lost out on a steady source of cash, Bloomberg reports.

According to the news service, people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, spend about $64 billion per year.

In states like California and Colorado, almost half of the people who qualify for SNAP aren’t receiving the benefits — meaning they have less money to spend elsewhere, Bloomberg reports.

“Federal food assistance does more to boost consumer spending than any other stimulus program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus program, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics,” the newswire notes.

“In a 2008 report, Zandi found that increasing food-stamp payments by $1 boosts U.S. gross domestic product by $1.73. A USDA report two years later estimated that an increase of $1 billion in SNAP expenditures would raise GDP by $1.79 billion.”

In other words: Food stamps can help the U.S. economy, which is kinda in the toilet right now.

What experts want: more resources to help needy Americans get aid, so they can buy goods and services.

But that’s probably not going to happen.

The food-stamp program, for whatever reason, continues to be a highly politicized — and polemic — issue.

In fact, it’s already being used as a campaign theme in the 2012 presidential election, with Newt Gingrich alleging mass fraud.

In Iowa, where food banks struggle to feed the hungry, Gingrich wrongly claimed that vacations to Hawaii could be purchased with SNAP benefits — and that millionaires qualified. He got in a lot of trouble for his statements, but he hasn’t taken them back.

Instead, he keeps calling Barack Obama the food-stamp president — and implying that poor people can’t be trusted to buy food.


Newt Gingrich: Obama Is the “Finest Food Stamp” President

Newt Gingrich thinks Barack Obama is a bad president — for helping more poor Americans eat.

Thing is, Obama isn’t exactly responsible for recent, record-setting numbers of food-stamp beneficiaries.

Gingrich, who wants to run on the Republican ticket in the 2012 presidential election, has repeatedly criticized both the food-stamp program and President Obama, under whose leadership the benefits expanded.

Gingrich’s statements have gotten flak from analysts, as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) first grew during George W. Bush’s presidency, not Obama’s tenure. The Bush administration aggressively courted eligible Americans to seek benefits, CNBC reports. Experts say that SNAP has ballooned mainly because of the economy — not Obama’s policies.

In his latest tirade against SNAP, however, Gingrich told CNBC: “We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food-stamp president in the American history, in Barack Obama, and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks.”

Last month, Gingrich told reporters that people used SNAP for exotic getaways.

“You don’t get food stamps,” the former House speaker told the media. “You get a credit card, and the credit card can be used for anything. We’ve had people take their food-stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii.”

He then told ABC: “They give food stamps now to millionaires. Because after all, don’t you want to be compassionate? You know the Obama model: Isn’t there somebody you’d like to give money to this week?”

Of course, these statements are completely full of shit. Gingrich has yet to recant any of his BS claims.


More Vets Seek Food Stamps

What better way to start your day than with sobering news?

Turns out, the downturn economy hasn’t just prompted more everyday Americans to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps.

As reported in Stars and Stripes, “nearly $88 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2011, up from $31 million in 2008.”

The Defense Department doesn’t track commissary sales, so it’s unclear which military personnel seek benefits.

Analysts believe, however, that recent vets are the demographic most likely to need help: 860,000 sought unemployment benefits in October.

Statisticians consider some 25 percent of these men and women to be “young veterans.”

What all this basically means: After you have fought a war for the U.S., you might also have to fight to put food on the table.