So this (pictured above) is my weekly grocery cart. It looks pretty much the same as my grocery cart has looked every week for the last 10 years, with a little increase in amounts since our family has grown. You don’t see the proteins, because we use mostly what’s left in the freezer that we got on sale. You don’t see the salt and the seasonings, because we use mostly what we bought in bulk from a reputable retailer who takes whatever form of payment we are currently using. You don’t see how much more veg we would get over the summer when we were on food stamps, because of the Double Up Food Bucks program. That was the only way we could afford to go to Michigan Farmers Markets, and get food that tastes so fresh that you can smell the soil behind it… and we used that program! A lot!
The big guilt purchase we often got off SNAP was a birthday cake for one of the two kids we had at the time. At least one year, that was the birthday present.
We always ran out of food money before the end of the month. Still do, even though we don’t qualify for those benefits anymore. But our diet is basically healthy, basically consistent.
Recently, it’s been proposed that SNAP benefits revert to a singular and specific manufactured diet – centrally formed, produced, and distributed in nonperishable format. A return to government cheese, on a grand scale. Remember that stuff? Maybe you just remember jokes about it.
Not to mention the general discussion of this idea… that every family would only ever be able to eat anything that came in a box – through the mail? to an address? 1 in 17 kids in our school system are housing unstable… I personally know some folks who don’t have a working stove but only a microwave… Here are three ADDITIONAL major categories of reasons that this is a ridiculously stupid idea.
Allergies. Every single family I know has at least one member with some pretty severe food aversions or allergies, especially young kids who often have lactose or corn or wheat or some kind of intolerance that effects their ability to digest breast milk when mom eats it, formula when it’s included in that, or food itself once they get old enough.
Diet. There is absolutely no source of information anywhere ever that says we should eat fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. There is no economic reason. There is no dietary reason. There is no cultural reason. There are no reasons to cut out Fresh Foods from anyone’s diet, ever. Because we know that it makes people systemically ill.
Economics. You don’t have to tell me how much money could be saved by the federal government by becoming their own production and distribution model for all the food assistance everywhere in the country ever. Because I’m smart enough to know that all of that money that got pulled out of our local markets, the subsequent economic desolation that would ensue makes current food deserts look like Fantastical Oasises of Bounty.
So if you are a lawmaker who is considering this change on any level whatsoever, maybe you can consider how hard it is for your constituents to get food in the first place. While you’re simultaneously telling all of these low income people who need help to eat any sufficient food at all, that they need to be eating more fresh fruits and vegetables (I’ve seen the billboards, plenty of money is spent on “educating” people who “should know better”), so their brains can work better, and their kids can learn better, and they can be healthier and save society money for their long-term healthcare… Maybe you can put it together that taking any fresh food possibilities from them so that they can have shelf-stable, highly processed, invariable, high sodium foods that literally steal the livelihood out of local markets (business!) is a really dumb thing to do.
Rebecca La Duca
Mothering Justice Member, Kalamazoo