Misleading Food Stamp Campaign By Progressive Officials

As the son of a widow, and as a person who once ate on far less than a food stamp budget, I am amused by the wealthy, privileged progressive officials who make it sound like they can’t eat properly on $5 a day. You can find such people featured in a Washington Post story yesterday entitled “Montgomery Officials Try Eating for $5 a Day.” Supposedly, they are doing this in “an attempt to simulate” life for participants in the federal food stamp program, which now has a “record” “46.2 million people” in it “at a cost of more than $70 billion.” Are they really that bad at managing their money? It makes me wonder if some of them were born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

As a young lawyer, I consistently spent less than $5 a day on food — generally less than a dollar per meal — and managed to have a well-balanced diet including nutritious vegetables and healthy proteins. Indeed, in 2007, The Washington Post itself had a story in its health section about how various people, such as a chef and a natural foods store owner, were able to live quite well on a food stamps budget. For example, Rick Hindle, executive chef for the Skadden, Arps law firm, “showed recently that you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen to prepare healthful food for $1 or less per meal.” You can easily spend less on food than the poorest food stamp recipients and still enjoy a healthy, low-fat diet rich in vitamins and fiber. That’s what a Quaker vegetarian found when he decided to limit his weekly spending on food to a food stamp budget, even though he ate only organic food (which costs much more than typical food).

Earlier, Maryland food stamp official Kevin McGuire tried to rationalize spending more taxpayer money on food stamps by putting himself on the “Food Stamp Challenge,” a deceptive exercise in which participants deliberately live on less than any actual food stamp recipient has to spend on food. Participants live entirely on an average food stamp benefit,” even though it’s just part of the food budget of the people who actually receive it. The “average” benefit is given to people who have income of their own to spend; it is less than the maximum food stamp benefit, which is what people with little other income to spend on food receive. Back when I was single, I ate a well-balanced diet while spending far less over the long term than the “average food stamp benefit.” I ate lots of potatoes (which are cheap and nutritious, more so than the pasta McGuire ate, which, unlike potatoes, contains no vitamin C and few minerals), plenty of cheap canned fish and vegetables bought in bulk (I bought 500 cans of tuna, an excellent source of protein, on sale for 20 cents each, and filled my small car with them), plus milk, bananas, and carrots. Similarly, when my wife first immigrated to America, she managed to eat plenty of nutritious vegetables while living on a salary of less than $1,200 per month, and spending less than food stamp recipients do on food.

Record numbers of Americans are now on food stamps, food stamp fraud has risen into the billions, and even wealthy people have become eligible for food stamps in some states as the federal government rewards states for expanding eligibility to people who don’t need them. (Meanwhile, as James Bovard noted in The Wall Street Journal, “The Obama Administration is . . . cracking down on state governments’ antifraud measures.”)