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News Opinion

Trump Stamps Out SNAP Production for Unfinished Proposal

With the newly proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, President Donald Trump is attempting to steer America’s hungry population down a road with no pavement, speed limit, or direction.

The newly proposed, “America’s Harvest Box” project, aims to deliver all that a family would need, in terms of nutrition, without the hassle of choosing your food for yourself via food stamps. It seems making America great again means controlling even the most basic of human functions — finding your own food.

By taking that one factor of agency away from the people that might need that freedom the most, Trump is effectively force feeding a nation with these “Harvest Boxes.”

Fiscally, it’s fraught with doublespeak and underlying costs.

Reducing the Department of Agriculture’s budget by nearly 30 percent, or over $200 billion, in the next 10 years, with only four pages of text is reckless. Changing the way people eat their food should take a little longer than a college newspaper’s length to be deemed a considerable amount.

The idea alone seems Orwellian; having a pre-packaged box of food delivered to your doorstep instead of being able to choose for yourself makes the recipients seem like inmates.

Recipients of food stamps have long since adjusted to the workings of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), yet the entire system is up for a rehaul with this new proposal.

While SNAP doesn’t live up to its idealistic standards, it got the job done. One of the problems with SNAP was the restrictions on what families can and can’t buy from certain stores. Things like diapers or other hygienic household supplies seem to be missing from the list of available purchases for these families.

However, that one problem doesn’t require a complete overhaul of a system that’s been helping families survive and thrive. Such families were still able to buy what foods they personally needed, accounting for allergies and certain nutritional needs.

But with the Harvest Box, these particulars are dismissed entirely. Each house will be receiving the same box full of, “shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables,” according to the USDA.

It seems President Trump’s already assumed detached perception of reality is verified as he sees the over 16 million households to be identical in their diets.

The idea, as quoted by the White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, is akin to that of the Blue Apron program, whose stocks fell lower than Trump’s approval ratings in 2017, and hasn’t been able to keep a customer longer than 2 years.

With more than 41 million people eligible for the box, this plan needs to get some fine tuning and have some questions answered, like whether or not the shipping costs will be covered, or whether or not it can accommodate food allergies or religious specificities.

Though the nutritional and food security these SNAP recipients have been granted thus far hasn’t been stellar, it still has been working for them.

Seeing as the amount of people receiving SNAP benefits has lessened since 2016 shows that despite controversy, the program is helping those in need of it, and that’s something to be optimistic about.

The administration posits that the change is due in part of the rate of fraud going on with the cards that SNAP recipients use. However, the rate of fraud in these cases is less than 2 percent, or less than $3 billion, according to the USDA.

With no consideration to specifics or attention to the public, these changes are nothing more than the transcribed pontifications of an old, delusional and out-of-touch President.

Thankfully, this proposal is just that, a proposal, and any chance of it actually coming to fruition lays in the hands of Congress, which hopefully has enough sense to see through this feckless idea.

Photo: Salvation Army USA West // Flickr

 

Categories
FOODBEAST Hit-Or-Miss

Starving College Students Turn To Food Stamps, Food Pantries For Help

Most of us have memories of struggling as a broke college student. In my case, I remember going through weeks of school, surviving off boxes of cereal, Cup Noodles, and dollar pizzas. I never thought twice of the lack of nutrition I was getting, and simply put it aside as part of the poor college student experience.

Of course, during my freshman year, I had access to the dining hall because, as a residential student, I was required to purchase a meal plan. The cheapest meal plan was about $3,000 and offered 10-14 swipes a week into the main dining hall and some odd “points” that could be used like cash at convenience stores. Looking back on it, it was a complete rip-off.

To be fair, I used my meal plan often, but it was always a last resort for me, as it also was for my fellow schoolmates. We were basically served the same food everyday besides the special of the day, it was always overcrowded, and it wasn’t very accommodating to those with food allergies or specific diets. Simply put, there was an overabundance of fried, greasy foods and not enough fresh whole foods.

I had no idea then, but I now realize that I was experiencing food insecurity. And you  or your someone you know probably experienced it yourself, too.

So how has decent food become such an actual luxury for students?

For a growing number of college students nationwide, food continues to be just that: a basic human need that has been put on the back burner due to college tuitions and fees, rent, and school supplies. According to the Washington Examiner, “college expenses have risen exponentially — so much so that Pell Grants, which used to cover about 75% of the cost of attendance at a public four-year college for lower-income students, now cover only about 30% of expenses.”

Unfortunately, as long as college tuitions continue to steadily rise, food insecurity amongst students will as well. The main concern is, however, that these food insecurity issues create a rippling effect for even more problems. According to that same article, a survey found that “64 percent of these food insecure students faced some form of housing insecurity and 15 percent reported experiencing some form of homelessness in the past 12 months. Faced with this reality, these students are forced to pick up extra shifts, even if it means missing class, and some are dropping out.”

With limited options and access to decent food, college students are now turning to food stamps or food pantries on campus for help.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a University of California survey of 9,000 students from all 10 campuses showed that 19% said that they had too little to eat due to limited resources, while around 23% ate substandard food with little variation and limited nutrition.

According to that same article, more than 500 UC Berkeley students have applied for food stamps since January, up from 111 in all of 2016, and just 41 the year before. The food stamps, also known as CalFresh, allow eligible students to obtain up to $192 worth of groceries a month.

The CalFresh website for UC Berkeley states that students must meet income requirements, be a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident, be enrolled as at least a half time student, and work a minimum of 80 hours a month to be eligible for food stamps.

For those who may not meet those requirements but still struggle with food insecurity, on-campus food pantries have also become a popular aid for struggling students.

For instance, in Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey, there’s a food pantry that gives their students free donated food, no financial questions asked. Stocked with cereals, canned goods, and other staples like milk, eggs, and bread, students are welcome to take around five pounds of food at a time, according to NJ.com.

Although many of the students who visit the pantry are those who are from a low-income background, the pantry is open to everybody. This allows students who may feel food insecurity in-between paychecks or those who had to use all their earned money on a medical or personal emergency still have access to enough food until their next pay day.

UC Berkeley also has a food pantry to “provide emergency relief to help students continue on to successfully complete and obtain their degrees.” They’ve also experienced a huge spike in students taking advantage of these resources, recording 1,549 unique visitors for September only, according to the SF Chronicle.

Clearly, many schools nationwide are stepping up to help ease the snowballing of these student hunger problems. Although their efforts are commendable, many schools are just starting to create programs that are too premature to say for certain if they are sustainable. Perhaps a real solution to end food insecurity for students may not be to add more resources, but to take a long hard look at the schools’ integral budgeting system.

Categories
Health News Packaged Food

House Of Representatives Passes Budget Containing Food Stamps Cuts Of At Least $10 Billion

When the new budget for the federal government is finally passed, there’s a good chance that billions of dollars will be cut from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides and issues food stamps. A budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week could bring the food stamps cuts total to well over $10 billion.

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Photo: Paul Sableman on Flickr

The Sentinel reports that the House’s passed budget would cut $10 billion from SNAP over 10 years, but also recommends an additional $150 billion in cuts over that same time frame. Newsweek also reports a total in $150 billion in cuts to poverty programs in the $4.1 trillion budget, a slash in spending that affects SNAP as well. The initial $10 billion in spending decreases alone could force anywhere from about 150,000-550,000 families out of the program per year.

The House recommends that the reductions come from restructuring the program to make less people eligible, cap the available amount of money for qualifying households, and asks states to pay more for their share of the program. Jared Call from California Food Policy Advocates told Newsweek that for the Golden State, their pay increase could amount to as much as $1.8 billion as a result.

Currently, 93 percent of federal SNAP funding is spent on food, with the remainder going to administrative costs.

SNAP has seen a decrease in enrollment in recent years, which is mainly attributed to the economy’s improvement since the Great Recession. However, only about 75% of eligible participants enroll for SNAP, largely because many don’t know that they qualify or simply find the application process too complex to complete. With 1 in 6 Americans going hungry every year, a number that exceeds almost any developed nation, programs like SNAP exist to help alleviate national food security issues.

For those wondering if and when the House’s budget will become law, it will first need to be reconciled with the Senate’s budget, which aims to be passed next week. The final budget agreed upon by both houses of Congress would then be sent to the President for signature or veto. It remains to be seen just how much of the SNAP cuts will make it into that final appropriations bill as of now.

Categories
Feel Good Health News

For the First Time Ever, Food Stamp Users Can Buy Food Online

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Photo: Civil Eats

For those living in areas where fresh, healthy food is hard to find, this is amazing news and a true blessing.

The USDA announced the launch of a new pilot program for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to begin purchasing food online. This program is limited to a few states and retailers for now due to the higher security needed for food stamp online purchasing and the newness of the system. As the online system for SNAP food stamps is incorporated and security of the program tested, the USDA plans to expand this online system to all retailers nationwide in the future.

So far, the available retailers and states they will serve for the online order and purchase program is as follows:

Amazon – Maryland, New Jersey, New York

FreshDirect – New York

Safeway – Maryland, Oregon, Washington,

ShopRite – Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

Hy-Vee, Inc. – Iowa

Hart’s Local Grocers – New York (based in Rochester)

Dash’s Market – New York (based in Buffalo)

The launching of this program is great news for anybody on food stamps. While food stamps have allowed the purchase of healthier food in recent years, its always required going to a grocery store or food retailer to purchase food. The issue with that is that some of the 44 million people in SNAP live in so-called “food deserts,” or areas where grocery stores and establishments to purchase fresh food barely exist or don’t exist at all. At least 2 million low-income people live in food deserts without access to a vehicle.

With this online ordering program, people on SNAP will find it much easier to get the food they need. While the pilot program won’t cover service or delivery fees, it still provides welcome monetary relief and delivery convenience for those who live in food deserts.

 

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Gwenyth Paltrow Tries To Eat Poor For A Week, Fails Miserably Like Everyone Else

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Gwyneth Paltrow is notable for her advocation of eating a nutritionally balanced diet. When the Academy Academy Award-winning actress recently placed herself into the dietary reality of a person living in poverty, however, she realized that her former health suggestions didn’t fit everyone’s budget.

On April 9, Paltrow publicly announced that she had decided to accept the #FoodBankNYCChallenge, which challenges participants to live on a $29 food stamp budget for one week. The financial restrictiveness of the entire experience hit her hard, and four days in, her plan ended up faltering over chicken and licorice.

Paltrow said on her lifestyle website, Goop:

“As I suspected, we only made it through about four days, when I personally broke and had some chicken and fresh vegetables (and in full transparency, half a bag of black licorice). My perspective has been forever altered by how difficult it was to eat wholesome, nutritious food on that budget, even for just a few days – a challenge that 47 million Americans face every day, week, and year.”

Though she broadcasted on social media that she had accepted the food stamps task on April 9, she actually started on April 3, meaning that she had already failed the challenge by the time she announced she was participating.

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Despite her ultimate failure to uphold the suggestion, Paltrow did successfully publicize the weekly difficulties low-income Americans, especially working mothers, endure when attempting to maintain a sustainable diet on just below $30. Paltrow said:

“After trying to complete this challenge (I would give myself a C-), I am even more outraged that there is still not equal pay in the workplace. Sorry to go on a tangent, but many hardworking mothers are being asked to do the impossible: Feed their families on a budget which can only support food businesses that provide low-quality food.”

 

In order to provide background for the issue, she cited statistics released by the White House:

“Full-time women workers earnings are only about 77 percent of their male counterparts earnings. The pay gap is even greater for African-American and Latina women, with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man.”

From her experience with this challenge, Paltrow concludes:

“I know hunger doesn’t always touch us all directly — but it does touch us all indirectly. After this week, I am even more grateful that I am able to provide high-quality food for my kids. Let’s all do what we can to make this a basic human right and not a privilege.”

Written by Melinda Sherrill of NextShark

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Gwyneth Paltrow is Living off $29 Worth of Food This Week and People Are Not Impressed

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To raise awareness and funds for New York’s food banks, 42-year-old actress Gwyneth Paltrow has vowed to participate in Mario Batali’s “Food Bank Challenge.” Here, she’ll be required to live on $29 worth of food for the week, NYC’s weekly food allowance for people on food stamps.

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Last week, she tweeted a photo of what she bought for $29.

Since her tweet, she’s been under scrutiny for her choices not being realistic to what a typical person on food stamps buys.

The Frisky notes that if Paltrow ate this for the week, she’d be consuming less than 1000 calories a day.

Rebecca Vipond of The Frisky wrote:

“Nutritionally speaking, this is a vitamin bonanza […] But people who live on [food stamps] don’t just have to get nutrients, they have to get actual calories, because they tend to have very physical lives, doing service labour and taking care of children and not necessarily being able to afford a car and so forth.”

Apart from all the harsh critique, I’m sure we can all agree that at least she’s bringing awareness to a serious issue, right?

Written by Jacob Wagner of NextShark

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Mario Batali Decides to Eat Like the Rest of Us — On a Budget

Acclaimed New York chef, Mario Batali, has descended from the Mount Olympus of Cuisine in order to feed his family the same way 46 million Americans feed themselves — with food stamps. Since Congress is threatening potential cuts to the program, Batali and his family have accepted the challenge (presented by the Food Bank for New York City) of eating for one week on a strict budget, in protest.

If the calculations are correct, that means about $31 per person can be spent on food for the entire week, or to break it down even further, $1.48 per person, per meal.  Now, that would seem like a tall order to fill for a lot of people, but it must be exceptionally difficult for someone like Chef Batali, who is used to eating and working with some mighty fine foods.  Although this ingenious plan was cooked up by their father (heh, see what I did there?), Batali’s kids seem to be handling it well:

“They’re having more peanut butter and jelly than they’ve had in the last 10 years because bread is inexpensive and peanut butter and jelly, if you buy it at the right place at the right time, is cheap,” Batali said.

Sound the trumpets! They have to eat sandwiches and buy crappy school lunches? Such martyrdom! I am pretty sure that experience describes my entire childhood and most of the time I spent in college, but hey, we appreciate your sacrifice.

The chef’s reaction to the experience thus far?
“I’m f–ing starving.”

Welcome to America, Mario.

[Via The Huffington Post and ABC News]

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

Can You Live on $30 Food Stamps for a Whole Week?

If you don’t believe it’s hard to live on $30 a week on food stamps like many individuals in this country do, Shelia Steffen, a reporter from CNN, put her body through the test and will tell you how much of a struggle it truly is. With the $30 worth of food stamps, she wrote that she was only able to get: beans, rice, farina, chicken, pasta, broccoli, a few bell peppers and tomatoes along with the accoutrements for PB & J sandwiches. A significant decrease from her normal grocery bill. For her, the worst part was not only feeling malnourished from lack of food almost everyday, but the constant task of having to plan out her meals made her more hungry.

It’s kind of hard to believe in a country where obesity is a huge epidemic that food costs are on the rise, and there are thousands of hungry Americans trying to live day to day. However, the two occurrences go hand and hand. Most impoverished families in America get most of their groceries by using government food stamps, and often to stretch what little they do receive, they end up relying on cheap overly processed foods that leads to under nutrition and poor health.

[via eatocracy.cnn.com]