by Brittany Shaddix
In the 2012 fiscal year, nearly $75 billion dollars was spent to provide over 47 million Americans assistance under the federal food stamp program- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. With so many Americans out of work and struggling to make ends meet, this program can help ensure that many children who might otherwise go without, have access to sustenance.
However, due to mismanagement of this government program, billions have not always been spent on nutritious meals for those receiving subsidies. While the program is named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, there is no requirement that food purchased by beneficiaries provide nutritional value. Recipients are not just purchasing unhealthy items at the grocery store; they are also using their food stamps to purchase fast food, or other items, wherever their EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards are accepted. For example, the Social Services Director for Los Angeles County says, “His department lacks the resources to decide whether restaurants offer enough healthy choices, and would need another agency to monitor that.”
According to a study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, more than $2 billion of sugary beverage purchases come from food stamps each year. In California, individuals may use their benefits in chains such as Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Dominos. In Oregon, recipients may use their food stamps to purchase drinks at Starbucks counters located inside of grocery stores, as long as the individual purchases a cold beverage or an approved food. In Memphis, Tennessee, undercover reporters claim they saw customers use their EBT cards to buy beer, diapers and condoms. Also, an Ohio television station has reported that food stamps also paid for guns and cars.
The problem is not just improper purchases, but also the program sending benefits to dead and duplicate recipients. About $1.4 million worth of unnecessary payments were given out each month in New York and Massachusetts alone. The USDA Inspector General reported that 2000 dead people were still receiving food stamps in these two states. It was also found that 7,236 individuals were receiving duplicate benefits.
As well as abuse and mismanagement within the program, the 2009 stimulus bill under the Obama administration added an additional $45 billion into this failing system. Democratic Senators fight wholeheartedly against Republicans hoping to reform the SNAP Program, which has doubled in “assistance” since President Bush’s final years. Under the Obama administration this program covers over 47 million Americans, or nearly one out of 6 Americans. We by no means mean to withhold assistance to those struggling, but when such rapid expansion and abuse exists, we must look at the policy and not those begging for reform.
One can find stories such as these in states across the nation. This level of mismanagement and abuse on this system has resulted in billions of wasted tax dollars. As the late, great Ronald Reagan once said: “Welfare’s purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence.” This statement could not be more true in today’s world; where rapid expansion and little accountability does no more than create a dependency state…