Free Food Facts

The following article I wrote appeared in the Great Falls Tribune, September 19, 2012

 

Lunch is not the only free food children get at some schools. Some schools offer breakfast before school, Second Chance Breakfast for children that are tardy, a midmorning snack, lunch, after-school supper and a backpack of food meant to get kids through the weekend. In the summer, at schools, parks and other sites, kids are served lunch five days a week. Kids of all incomes come.

President Barack Obama’s Community Eligibility Option, CEO, now makes an entire school district’s kids eligible for free lunch, even if only one school in the district has enough low-income kids. One Montana school lunch administrator, upon hearing of this said, “I don’t think the people will go for that. You’ll be feeding Bill Gates’ kids.” One Michigan state official writes, “This is a way to capture more students (in the free lunch program).”

School lunch waste is about 30 percent. In a Colorado study, free school lunch kids waste 46 percent more food than regular price kids, hardly evidence that low-income children are hungrier.

School programs often provide all the calories a kid needs; then some kids go home and eat the food stamp pop, candy bars, take-and-bake pizza and doughnuts.

A family of six can get $23,900 per year in food stamps, free school food and food bank food. A non-recipient family of six usually spends $11,500 per year on food.

At one food bank, a person or a family of two gets a box of food worth $320 for the month, about 160 pounds of food.

A family of six can earn up to $55,000 and qualify for food stamps and another food program, Women, Infants and Children, or WIC.

At least 57 percent of food-stamp spending is for foods high in high-fructose corn syrup, cholesterol, fat and sodium. The poor are adding weight faster than the non-poor.

The food-stamp program this year costs $75 billion. It is 75 percent of the farm bill now being debated in Congress. Maybe the bill should be called the high-fructose corn syrup producers bill. A healthy food list reform, along the lines of the WIC program, could cut spending in half; no recipient would go hungry and the nation’s deficit would be substantially reduced.

The USDA and the Obama administration are aggressively urging those who qualify for food stamps, but do not presently receive them, to sign up.

Food-stamp recipients can call Schwan’s home grocery delivery service to purchase ice cream and other prepared foods. Randy’s Fine Foods is a food delivery company that sells almost exclusively to food-stamp cardholders. As reported by the San Antonio Express-News, Randy’s sells, “frozen meat, breaded shrimp, catfish nuggets and chicken tenders. But junk food is the big seller. Pop Tarts, Famous Amos and Oreo cookies. Honey buns, candy bars and corn dogs. Laffy Taffy and cheesecake.”

Most people scoff when asked if they think a man who can afford to pay pasture rent for five horses should get food stamps, as was reported in a Bozeman case. People generally do not feel that a man who can afford to ride his Harley cross-country to the Sturgis rally should be receiving food stamps. Such receipt was verified by a convenience store clerk in South Dakota.

Some 39 states, including Montana, have no real asset test for food stamps, which means wealthy families without anyone in the job market are eligible. Mr. Fick, a Michigan resident, won $2 million in the lottery and continued to receive $200 per month in food stamps.

One worker in Montana’s Office of Public Assistance says, “There’s something wrong with the whole system.” This worker thinks there should be an asset test and a time limit, that the income-eligibility cap should return to where it was prior to 2009, and that the public has a right to determine what can be bought, “not Porterhouse steak, pop, candy and $20 bakery cakes.”

Free food has proliferated.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The lessons of history show that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is a violation of the traditions of America.”

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