Food stamp usage, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) has dramatically risen under the Obama administration, so much so that Newt Gingrich dubbed Obama the “food stamp president”. One in 15 now receives assistance. Yet usage varies widely from county to county.

A nice interactive map by Slate addresses the question How Many People Around You Receive Food Stamps?

In some parts of the country, as few as 1 in 20 people receive food stamps. In others, the figure is more than 1 in 3. Low-income households that meet SNAP eligibility requirements receive a payment card that can only be used to buy government-approved essential foods.

Due to the high unemployment rate, the Obama administration has also waived a 1996 job requirement—a rule that made finding a job or enrolling in job training a prerequisite for receiving SNAP benefits—for 46 states. Republican leaders are trying to reinstate the requirement to counteract the program’s escalating cost.

Click on the above link to see an interactive map by zipcode or county. I entered a few zipcodes to see the results

  • Vermilion County Illinois – My hometown of Danville, – 21%
  • Cook County Illinois – Chicago – 16%
  • Alexander County Illinois – East St. Louis – 34%
  • Wayne County Michigan – Detroit – 28%
  • Los Angeles County California – 9%
  • Tulare County California – 22%

What Can Be Done?

Some Republicans want to reinstate the rule that made finding a job or enrolling in job training a prerequisite for receiving SNAP benefits. That may unduly punsih kids on the program.

I suggest something more beneficial and more healthy as well. Sharply curtail what can be purchased under the program:

  • No soft drinks
  • No snacks
  • No crackers
  • No cakes or cookies 
  • No cake or cookie mixes
  • No frozen foods other than frozen orange juice
  • No candy
  • Limited amount of meat
  • No brand names of anything where store brands are available

For the sake of cleanliness, I would expand the program to allow purchase of generic soaps and cleaners.

The idea is to give people a strong incentive to get off the system, not punish those who cannot, and not punish children whose parents refuse to take the initiative.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock