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Food Stamps

The United States Department of Agriculture created the Food Stamps program in 1969 to help an increasingly growing population with purchasing of food.  This program intends to prevent the malnutrition that we see in other countries that is frequently associated with poverty.  Food insecurity is the lack of availability of food in the house.  It refers to the inability of a family to consistently provide meals to their household members.  In addition to Food Stamps, the Women Infants and Children program (WIC), also supports households with a low socioeconomic status. 

Welfare programs like Food Stamps and WIC are typically utilized by families as a last resort to help pay for food and infant formula.  One recent study showed that as many as 10% of Americans use Food Stamps due to the high prices of gas and food.  Families also use it when someone loses a job, an extra member is added to the household, or when the economy beings to recess.  In these situations, families typically use the programs for a short duration until they can get back on their feet.  However, some families tend to remain on public assistance programs like Food Stamps and WIC for longer than average.  For example, some families may use a program even after securing employment.  This may be due to the fact that minimum wage does not cover the increase in food prices.

While Food Stamps works to allow a specific amount of money each month to be designated to a family in need to pay for groceries, often the amount given is hardly enough to cover what is truly needed to buy groceries.  For example, a family of three may receive just $200 to cover an entire month of groceries.  Families in these situations often end up buying foods that are less nutritious due to the fact that they cannot afford to buy more.  So, foods like fresh fruits and vegetables end up getting exchanged for canned vegetables and juice. 

The WIC program works to provide community nutrition education to help families make healthier eating decisions, however, this nutrition education is often in vain because families simply cannot afford to eat healthy.  Both Food Stamps and WIC and just supplemental programs meaning if a family cannot afford to buy groceries outside of these programs, they simply will have to face food insecurity until they can. 

Now, generally speaking most agree that WIC is a better program to help keep low income families relatively healthy because this program only permits the families to buy specific healthy foods for their families.  Foods like milk, eggs, cereal, juice, peanut butter, carrots, etc are all foods that provide essential nutrients for families all across the country.  Food Stamps is often disputed and praised at the same time because they allow families to buy whatever they want, which often lets them buy cheaper items.  However, families also can use that money to buy cheap unhealthy foods like chips or soda. 

Many people argue that people abuse the Food Stamps program due to the fact that families are allowed to stay on it for a long time.  For example, the state of Minnesota allows families to utilize public assistance programs like Food Stamps for a maximum of five consecutive years.  This argument is difficult to disagree with in recent times especially due to the fact again that minimum wage is so low.  For example, even if someone was able to secure a job at minimum wage, at the end of the day working 40 hours a week is often not worth it if you can’t afford to pay for rent, food, daycare, etc.  People in this situation often find it better to just accept public assistance and not look for another job or improve their situation because in the end it is just not worth it.

Food Stamps is often argued against also due to the fact that people often are kicked out of the program the minute they secure a decent paying job.  For example, if the income cut off is $2000 a month for a family of five and the family starts to make $2001 a month, this means they make too much money and therefore are automatically kicked out of the program.  This makes it difficult for families to even be motivated to get a raise.  Who would want to report that they make an extra dollar a month just to end up losing the extra $200 they usually get through Food Stamps?  No one would.

In light of this, the debate usually ends with people saying that Food Stamps is a valued but poorly formulated program.  Food Stamps, along with other public assistance programs often mimic this same conclusion.  Welfare programs have great value overall as far as helping families in need, but often they function to support people staying on public assistance longer than necessary due to ridiculous rules like making a penny over the income guidelines. 
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