This year has seen, evidently, a new rash of politicians and liberal journalists demonstrating how "hard" it is to get along on food stamps. Now, I'm as sympathetic to the poor as the next guy, but I really think this misses the point.
First of all, what will result if people are satisfied on what they can buy on food stamps and other welfare? I'd guess that about 26 million people will rely on them because hunger doesn't drive them to improve their situation.
Oops, that's our current situation.
That said, when I saw some of the lists of food bought for the $21 in food stamps (plus $10 in other funds recommended), I quickly realized that they were mostly buying packaging. Here's my contribution for a week's diet on food stamps, along with approximate costs, calories, and fit to the "nutrition pyramid." In a week, the average person needs about 15000 calories, 14 servings of dairy, 14 servings of protein, 28 servings of fruit and vegetables, and 35 or more servings of grains.
My grocery list: 1 gallon milk (2500 calories/16 servings dairy, $3), 1 box cereal (2000 calories/15 servings grains/$3), 2 cans frozen fruit juice (1200 calories/12 servings fruit/$3), 4 lbs bananas (10 servings fruit/1000 calories/$2), 2 loaves of bread (40 servings grains/3200 calories/$5), 1 jar peanut butter (8 servings protein/3200 calories/$2), 1 box macaroni (8 servings grains/1600 cal/$1, 1 jar spaghetti sauce (500 calories/8 servings vegetables/$2). Overall, over 15000 calories, 16 servings of dairy, 60 of grains, 30 of fruits & vegetables, and eight of protein.
Not a princely diet, but enough calories, and a reasonable mix of nutrients. Keep in mind now that you've still got $10 to spend. Let's use it to make your diet a bit more interesting. Add a pound of sausage for your noodles ($3), a head of lettuce ($2), salad dressing ($2), and a pound of cheese ($3) to the mix. Now we're cooking, right?
Yup, and we've added about 4000 calories, ten servings of protein (and a few of dairy--cheese qualifies in part as both), and about ten servings of vegetables. You've also got enough food for nine days, not just a week, and you hardly need to cook.
In short, for anyone who knows how to shop, and especially for anyone who knows how to cook, food stamps can be used for a pretty decent diet. I should know, as I've been feeding my family on this kind of budget for years, along with pets and non-food grocery items.
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