Tag Archives: Food Stamps

How Much To Eat Healthy


Some time ago we discussed the cost of eating per month specifically as it pertains to food stamps:

We much more generous than the average as described by the democrats.In fact, an individual can earn up to $14,532 and still qualify for $200 a month.  To be sure, 14k a year isn’t much money at all; rent surely would take most of it.  But, 50 bucks is a bunch more than $31.50.  If I had an extra 20 to spend in my challenge I could almost certainly afford a twelve pack.

Where it gets really interesting, however, is at the 2 household range.  There a person can earn $19,680 a year and still qualify for $367.00 a month.  In fact, if approved, an individual could earn $30,000 and qualify for that amount.

As I mention in the post later on, “not the life of luxury”.

Now, what does it cost to go from a poor diet to a healthy diet?

If you want to eat a more healthful diet, you’re going to have to shell out more cash, right? (After all, Whole Foods didn’t get the nickname “Whole Paycheck” for nothing.)

But until recently, that widely held bit of conventional wisdom hadn’t really been assessed in a rigorous, systematic way, says , a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

So he and his colleagues decided to pore over 27 studies from 10 different developed countries that looked at the retail prices of food grouped by healthfulness. Across these countries, it turns out, the cost difference between eating a healthful and unhealthful diet was pretty much the same: about $1.50 per day. And that price gap held true when they focused their research just on U.S. food prices, the researchers found in their of these studies.

One dollar fifty American.

That’s less than $50 a month – the average amount played on the lottery.  And much MUCH less than the weekly food stamp challenge and certainly dramatically less than the amount allocated by the state currently.

The money line, pardon the pun?

“Just as an excuse to not eat healthy,” he says, “for most Americans, I think price is not an excuse.”


Food Stamps – Wrong Solution

Food Stamps

It’s a little old, but this story has been in my stack for a few days:

(MoneyWatch) It is late October, so Adrianne Flowers is out of money to buy food for her family. That is no surprise. Feeding five kids is expensive, and the roughly $600 in food stamps she gets from the federal government never lasts the whole month. “I’m barely making it,” said the 31-year-old Washington, D.C., resident and single mother.

When reading that story the more interesting question regarding social policy is not, “How do we feed this family?”  Rather, the more interesting question is, “How do we prevent such family structures from forming?”

I’m a married father of two living in a two person income household.  My wife and I are both professional managers in a Fortune 50 company.  When someone in my peer group reports that they have 4 kids, much less 5, my reaction is always, “Really?  FOUR kids?  How do you do it?”

A recent post discussing the subsidies of Yale educated professionals has generated a LOT of emotional responses.  However people feel about the fact that people receive benefits, no is disputing the fact that this couple is free to live the life they choose.  I would submit that Ms. Flowers fits that same case.  Namely, if you wanna have 5 kids feel free, however, if you find that you are unable to support those children, don’t look to society to support them for you.

No one is saying that Ms. Flowers isn’t at liberty to build her family as she sees fit.  I’m just saying that I should have the same liberty as it applies to my property.

Entitlement Programs

Julia Mom

Entitlement Programs

The welfare state is a divide between the Liberal and the Conservative.  In fact, it’s one of the main fault lines that defines the two ideologies.  Imagine what could be accomplished if the two sides would try and come together.

1.  It would take the right to acknowledge that there is a place for a safety net for the nation.

2.  It would take the left to treat the problem in the same way that organizations treat problems.

First, we have to admit and acknowledge that there are folks living around us who, through the normal vagrancies and winds of life, find themselves in need.  Little or no money, food is a struggle and a home safe from the elements is a luxury.  For the spiritual, our faith calls us to come to the aid and assistance.  For others, it isn’t a matter of faith, it’s simply the mark of a moral and caring human being.

Regardless of how you get to the conclusion, the reasonable individual wants to help those in need.

The Divergence.

There are three aspects of the programs that, in my mind, create and fuel the differences between the two sides.  They are:

  1. How do we measure
  2. Do they end
  3. Are they moral and consistent with the concept of Liberty

The first divide is crucial in my mind.  Given that we are all invested and wanna help, it now becomes important to identify strategies that work and separate them from the ones that don’t.  In my world, failing ideas are shut down and thrown away allowing the resources engaged in those activities to be re-purposed into the programs that DO work.

Too often in the public sector a certain dogma exists within the programs creating an element of “faith” that becomes personal and results in long time failing programs to continue.  And, perversely,  it is never admitted that the program isn’t working.  Rather, the argument is made that not enough money has been funneled to the failed attempt.  This creates the very undesirable effect of funneling more and more money to the absolute worst ideas.

The second difference between the right and the left is the concept that, while life does present difficulties in ratios that can be difficult to manage, at some point the individual must assume responsibility for himself.  That is, any program designed to provide a “hand-up” must, by definition, end.


And the program needs to be built with that in mind.  Not only in its funding structure but in its charter goal.  Consider unemployment.  I can buy the argument that we should provide benefits. [though I wash that unemployment insurance could be managed privately] But the program must have a defined end date after which the individual leaves the program and is allowed to manage his own life again.

This isn’t just from a funding perspective, as I mentioned, but as a design element.  As part of the unemployment program, we should ask ourselves when designing it, “what is going to happen to Pino when the time is up?  Will we have prepared him or life without benefits?”

If those questions aren’t answered and addressed, we’ve not helped the man but rather delayed the inevitable condition of permanent joblessness.

Last is the concept of morality or of Individual Liberty.

I love seeing those cute pictures on Facebook from my Liberal friends.  The ones where Jesus is commanding us to feed the poor and care for the sick.  The message, obviously, is that programs like food stamps and Obamacare are explicitly our obligation.

I’ve always thought them funny though.  Because while we are required, as decent caring  human beings, to care for others, the whole concept is that WE care for the less fortunate.  It was never assumed that I would take money from my neighbor to the West and give it to my needy neighbor to the East.

In other words, while government necessarily requires the concept of a tax, there comes a time when the confiscation of wealth for my own charities shifts from proper and necessary government to theft.  No one would think it moral if 3 people to vote to “tax” of their companion’s money.

I would leave you with this.  By failing to address issue 1 we are left with a system that cannot handle issue 2.  And now it becomes a horse race every election to draw the line in issue 3.  The result?


Julia’s Mother.  A citizen who comes to the very rational conclusion that the perverse system has created incentives that are not normal:

The U.S. welfare system sure creates some crazy disincentives to working your way up the ladder. Benefits stacked upon benefits can mean it is financially better, at least in the short term, to stay at a lower-paying jobs rather than taking a higher paying job and losing those benefits. This is called the “welfare cliff.”

Let’s take the example of a single mom with two kids, 1 and 4. She has a $29,000 a year job, putting the kids in daycare during the day while she works.

As the above chart  – via Gary Alexander, Pennsylvania’s secretary of Public Welfare — shows, the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income and benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income & benefits of $57,045.

New York Food Stamp Fraud

Food Stamp

Two lessons in one story:


Last week, The Post revealed how New Yorkers on welfare are buying food with their benefit cards and shipping it in blue barrels to poor relatives in the Caribbean.

But not everyone is giving the taxpayer-funded fare to starving children abroad. The Post last week found two people hawking barrels of American products for a profit on the streets of Santiago.

“It’s a really easy way to make money, and it doesn’t cost me anything,” a seller named Maria-Teresa said Friday.

Maria-Teresa said she uses some of the products but vends the rest out of her Santiago home, providing markdowns of $1 to $2 compared to what her buyers would pay in local shops.

“I don’t know how much of a business it is, but I know a lot of people are doing it,” she said.

The black-market maven even takes her customers’ requests for hot-ticket items. Her best-sellers include a 19-ounce box of Frosted Flakes, which goes for $6.50 at Dominican supermarkets. She sells it for $2 less — after her sister buys it on sale for $2.99.

But because the sister uses her Electronic Benefit Transfer card, she actually pays nothing — taxpayers foot the $2.99.

Maria-Teresa also offers a 24-ounce Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box for $2, compared to the $4 Dominican counterpart. The Kellogg’s variety costs $2.99 on sale at Western Beef.

A 23-ounce container of powdered Enfamil baby formula goes for $25 in the United States and $19 in Santiago but Maria-Teresa sells it for $15. “People want the best quality for the price, so they buy the formula made in the US,” she said.

The average monthly wage in Dominican Republic is about 7,000 pesos, or just $167, and that’s why the black market has become so profitable, Maria-Teresa said.

So, lesson #1:

The inefficiencies of the government programs are everywhere.

And the 2nd lesson:

Markets in everything.

But, why even bother buying, packing, shipping and then selling fraudulent goods?

And the food-stamp fraud doesn’t stop there. She said her sister has Bronx grocers ring up bogus $250 transactions with her EBT card.

In exchange, the stores hand her $200 cash and pocket the rest. No goods are exchanged. Instead, Maria-Teresa’s sister sends the money to Santiago — when she’s not spending it on liquor or other nonfood items.

“We do it all the time, and a lot of people do this,” Maria-Teresa said. “It’s a way of laundering money, but it’s easier because it’s free.”

It’s easier, she says, because it’s free.


Eating Like A College Student – Update

Food Stamps

I have recently posted on the democrat’s challenge to eat on the average weekly amount of benefits under SNAP – $31.50 – and of the republican’s attempt to meet that challenge.

Nickgb posted over at PYM of his attempt to replicate that attempt here and here.

Then I gave it a college try here.  And I hit it:

For $31.50, I have eaten for a week AND included veggies and fruits.  Plus I have a small beginning for next week to help me out even further.

But I wanted to see if North Carolina was “average”.

I went here to find out:

North Carolina Benefits

We much more generous than the average as described by the democrats.In fact, an individual can earn up to $14,532 and still qualify for $200 a month.  To be sure, 14k a year isn’t much money at all; rent surely would take most of it.  But, 50 bucks is a bunch more than $31.50.  If I had an extra 20 to spend in my challenge I could almost certainly afford a twelve pack.

Where it gets really interesting, however, is at the 2 household range.  There a person can earn $19,680 a year and still qualify for $367.00 a month.  In fact, if approved, an individual could earn $30,000 and qualify for that amount.

And if that individual is the mother of a young child?


  • 128 oz of juice per month
  • 4 gallons of milk per month
  • 36 oz of cereal per month
  • A dozen eggs
  • 2 lbs of bread
  • 18 oz of peanut butter

Again, not the life of luxury and excess.  But I’m not sure that most people would  support the idea of providing such aid to someone making 20-30k a year if they were asked.

Eating Like A College Student – My Take

Food Stamps

About two weeks ago I posted on an attempt to eat on an average allotment of food stamp distribution.  My analysis:

I’m sure I could eat better on less than Mr. Ferguson.

This combined with nickgb’s critique of Ferguson:

…my combined total was $45.88, well over the challenge amount.  So, either Safeway has a 66% markup over Dollar Tree’s prices, or Ferguson is being deceptive with the items he bought, or he’s lying.  We report, you decide.

And his update:

This is really not a healthy diet for an adult, and that should tell you something about SNAP benefits.  It’s disturbing that Ferguson thinks that his canned meat diet shows that benefits are too high.

I thought I would see how I could do in living up to my bragging.

First breakfast.

So, in life I don’t eat breakfast, but I get that most people do.  So I’ll stipulate to breakfast.  Given that breakfast, when I do eat it, is highly repetative I’m going with this:



At $0.50 a day that comes to $3.50 a week.  And adding a slice or two of toast:


The total for breakfast is $2.69 + $3.50 = $6.19.

Now lunch.

I’m going to use a combination of sandwiches and noodles for this.  First the sandwiches.  I already have the bread, so that’s free.  I’ll eat peanut butter sandwiches two times a week.  Adding the peanut butter:

Peanut Butter

I’m up to $9.80.  5 days to go.

The rest of the work week I’m going to go Asian – Raman:


And I’ll add broccoli:


The total for three lunches is $1.17 / 6 = $0.20 per day or $0.60 for the week for the noodles and the broccoli is $0.75 a day.  Per day total is $0.95 for a 3 day total of $2.85.

I have to buy lunch now for Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I’ll go small and have a frozen meal:

Chicken Fried Chicken

That’s a buck and a quarter.  Add an apple:


Which is 2 per pound, $0.70 per apple, and you get a Saturday lunch for $1.95.

Sunday lunch comes later.

Now for dinner.

I have 7 to buy.  First two:


That’s right – frozen pizza.  I eat half a pizza a sitting.  I can buy a deluxe pizza for 3 bucks.  That comes to $1.50 a night.

Next, beans and rice.  Not the nasty kind out of a can, but the kind you make yourself.



And then Beans:


Together that’s $7.62.  But it counts for two meals -at least- so I charge $3.80 per meal.

Next comes a pasta dinner.  The noodles:


And the sauce:


That’s $3.28 for the both and I’ll eat pasta twice.  However, the sale is on the sauce so I get to save $0.95.  I’ll take it.  Total cost for my two pasta dinners?  $2.33.

My last dinner will be steak.  I can find it for:


Combined with the rice I’ve already paid for, I have a nice steak and rice dinner.  Add a veggie if you want to, broccoli, and the whole meal comes to $8.58.

But at 1.5 pounds, I get to eat it twice.  Call it my last lunch.

That’s every meal.  My cost so far?


That’s significantly more than the $31.50 I was allocated.  What to do?

Well, I’ve noticed that my list includes items that I’m having to buy for the first time, things like peanut butter, rice and bread.  However, I’ll play by the rules and accept that I’m starting with a bare cupboard.  So, I’ll ditch the steak and exchange it for Raman but keep the broccoli.

That gets me to $26.80 plus $0.20 for the Raman and the total is a straight $27.00.

I have 4 bucks to play with.



I’ll take 4 of ’em.  Two per pound and I’ve spent $1.14.

Some carrots:


And now I’m up to $2.43.

How about some eggs:


I’m over.  If I buy the eggs, I’m at $4.71.  I’ll keep the eggs and put back 1 banana.  I did it.  I get $0.27 back for the banana and my bill sits at $4.44.

Now, I have eaten for the week and have a nice beginning for next week.  I don’t have to purchase bread, peanut butter or rice next week.  In fact, I don’t have to buy eggs or carrots either.

I’ve noticed that I didn’t purchase anything to drink.  In my real life, I do not drink milk, but do have beer and wine with my evening meals.  I recognize that this is an issue, but water for a week is not unrealistic.  Further, it has occurred to me that I didn’t include butter in my budget, something that I do have on my toast and my eggs.  So I may have further tweaks, but the point is the same.

For $31.50, I have eaten for a week AND included veggies and fruits.  Plus I have a small beginning for next week to help me out even further.

Eating Like A College Student

College Student

So, the recent “Farm Bill” is really a food stamp bill.  And the recent decision by North Carolina republicans to reduce unemployment benefits to a more rational amount is really a “War on the Poor”.

Recently, democrats have issued the “NAP” challenge.  That is, try and eat on the amount allocated through the food stamp program – $31.50 a week.

I’m pretty sure I could do it, but a republican staffer did:

Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman’s communications director and agriculture policy advisor, Donny Ferguson, says he has been able to eat well on $27.58 for a week, less than the $31.50 House Democrats have limited themselves to for their “SNAP Challenge.”

“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps.  I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself.  I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” Ferguson said of the challenge.

Stockman’s office noted that Ferguson did not use coupons, discount programs, or a shopping list, and he shopped at locations accessible via public transportation.

“Not only did I buy a week’s worth of food on what Democrats claim is too little, I have money left over.  Based on my personal experience with SNAP benefit limits we have room to cut about 12 percent more,” Ferguson said.

On his list were items that wouldn’t make mine:

  • Root beer
  • Honeycomb cereal
  • Popsicles
  • Cookies

Off the top of my head, I would have:

  • Ramen
  • Broccoli
  • Bananas
  • Raw walnuts or almonds
  • Rice
  • Eggs
  • Pasta
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Some form of salad green – probably fresh spinach

I’m sure I could eat better on less than Mr. Ferguson.

Food Stamp Abuse

It seems that Newt stepped in it a bit:

“Remember, this is the best food stamp president in history. So more Americans today get food stamps than before. And we now give it away as cash — you don’t get food stamps. You get a credit card, and the credit card can be used for anything. We have people who take their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii. They give food stamps now to millionaires because, after all, don’t you want to be compassionate? You know, the Obama model: isn’t there somebody you’d like to give money to this week. That’s why we’re now going to help bailout Italy because we haven’t bailed out enough people this week, the president thought let’s write another check. After all, we have so much extra money.”

It turns out that people can’t actually buy tickets to Hawaii with their EBT cards.  I don’t know if Newt was literally trying to make that case or if he was just making the larger point that we have fraud in the food stamp program, and, even if we didn’t, the program is bloated beyond reasonable expectations.

Anyway, I found this at Laura Ingram via:

The program works.  For sure.

When Irrational Incentives Work

It makes the Leftists mad.

I’m convinced that we all want the same thing in this world.  We want people to work hard, take care of themselves and when they can’t, we wanna make sure we do what we can to help ’em.  Serious.  Who doesn’t want that?

The difference is in the process.

Continue reading