It sends chills down your spine when you compare the treatment of those in the social security system in the U.S. as compared to the U.K., and that folks is saying something!
The wickedness of the elite and the establishment in relation to their control of the poorest in society never fails to shock. Limited to $1.40 per day for food, you couldn’t even pick up the cheapest ready meal in the U.K., never mind anything approaching a nutritious meal. Nevertheless, new rules in the U.S. concerning what those claiming benefits can spend their food stamps on, plus limiting cash withdrawals, will drive even more into abject poverty and malnutrition.
Makes you shudder to think what would happen in the U.K. if the government brought such controls in, but the right for the government to introduce payment cards was after all in the Welfare Reform Act.
When meat is too good to eat on food stamps
In the US, additional curbs are being put on what food items poor families can buy with their welfare benefits
A man in North Carolina uses a food bank to supplement his $16 monthly food stamps. Photograph: James Robinson/Commissioned for The Guardian
For a large chunk of the time when I was growing up my family relied on social security benefits, which, among other things, meant being shrewd about food. We made the limited household budget stretch with careful meal planning, which sometimes involved cheap meat substitutes or low-cost cuts of the real thing. So, when reports emerge in the US, as they’ve done recently, about attempts to restrict what groceries the poorest of the poor can spend their subsistence food stamps on, it hits home.
How can it help a family in the grip of poverty to restrict the limited options they already have at the supermarket? But this is exactly what many on the right of the political spectrum have been advocating for the most impoverished people in America. Absurdly, in some instances, suggested restrictions have included staples such as meat and fish.
There have been attempts recently to introduce ever-harsher conditions by prescribing what those on food stamps can buy. Proponents of these restrictions argue they are necessary to prevent abuse of the system. With echoes of claims about abuses of the benefits system in Britain, they claim (again against the evidence) that there is widespread fraud with people on food stamps living the life of Riley on lobster.
This year Kansas enacted a stunningly regressive policy, placing limits on what people on food stamps (otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme, Snap) can buy. In Wisconsin, legislators proposed banning shops that accept food stamps from selling shellfish to recipients, as well as making it tougher to get basics such as pasta sauce and dried beans. One particularly egregious suggestion to ban “seafood and steak” for food-stamp holders in Missouri (and yes, that would have included cheap cans of nutritious foodstuffs such as tuna) thankfully failed.