19 thoughts on “Food Stamps for Cool Ranch Doritos?

  1. “Goods you might want to spend food stamps on” – as Bill Clinton might have said, ‘depends on what “you” means’ – we give food stamps to the adults in the house, but a lot of the support for food stamps is for getting the kids fed. So I am perfectly happy with a WIC type restriction on what food stamps can go for.
    When I was an ambulance driver years ago, you could trade a $12 bottle of vodka for a $20 food stamp coupon. And THAT wasn’t getting the kids fed!

  2. In my state, a family of 8 gets a little over $600 per month. Think about that with today’s food prices. So people buy low cost, filling foods that have little nutritional value- box mac and cheese, ramen, etc. A six-pack of soda is somewhere around three bucks. It’s a cheap treat in a life where there aren’t many treats. Same with Dortios or chips.
    My tax dollars go to all sorts of things I don’t support (corporate incentives, defense budget…) someone buying their kid or themselves a coke is the least of my worries or gripes.

  3. “So people buy low cost, filling foods that have little nutritional value- box mac and cheese, ramen,”
    I think actual families of 8 tend to cook very much from scratch. I’m not saying that the food is necessarily lots more nutritious, it’s just that large families can’t afford prepared food.
    I grocery shop in a poor/student neighborhood and box macaroni is not what I poor people buying lots of at the check stand. You see big packs of store-brand soda, chips, big bargain packs of cheap fresh meat and barely any fruits and vegetables at all, but not vast quantities of the prepared meals. I’m sure they buy prepared meals occasionally, but in my experience, prepared food is more what the college students buy.

  4. I’m with Lisa V–I’m not begrudging anyone the ability to “splurge” on Cool Ranch Doritos once in awhile, and our tax dollars are often used for far more despicable purposes.
    In my state, you no longer get “stamps,” but the money is loaded on a card (ironically called an “Independence” card) and you use it like a debit card, which probably circumvents being able to trade the coupons for anything.
    One of the most memorable parts of “Nickel and Dimed” for me was watching Ehrenreich try to figure out how to cook anything when she was living in a hotel room with only a hotplate, I believe.

  5. I certainly don’t object to people eating Doritos. The fact is, I’m so liberal I don’t even mind if people smoke.
    I’m guessing that none of Drum, McArdle, Laura, or any of the commenters would be willing to let people use food stamps for cigarettes, though.

  6. Ended up this evening on a grocery store line behind a woman who bought over $500 of groceries, had a ton of coupons (I joked to the cashier, “extreme couponer!”) and paid for most of it with an EBT card, and put the rest on a credit card. She had two boys with her about E’s age (plus she looked like a grandmother). I didn’t examine her cart to see if she had foods that society would approve of.

  7. A lot of actual food (rather than snack items) isn’t that great, either, even though the unit cost may be lower than Doritos. Eating lots of white rice, for instance, is associated with Type 2 diabetes (brown rice reduces the risk).
    http://www.voanews.com/english/news/health/Eating-White-Rice-Increases-Diabetes-Risk-97165209.html
    Since Type 2 diabetes is one of the major risks for low-income Americans, maybe the whole food stamp program needs an overhaul to be more of a white list like WIC, but drawn up by actual dietitians, rather than whoever is in charge of dumping US agricultural surplus. Composing that list would be horribly political, of course.

  8. Amy P. brings up a good point. If, for instance, you had an adult child who lost his or her job, home, etc. and became financially dependent, you might well allow money for good purposes (buying a suit for job interviews) and not for bad ones (getting drunk with friends). But with welfare programs, we don’t have the option of having programmatic decisions made by wise individuals who love and care about the individual recipients. Instead, it’s a choice between government bureaucrats, who serve many constituencies, and people who have, on average, demonstrated considerable incapacity to manage their lives effectively (or they wouldn’t be on welfare). There’s no a priori reason to think that the bureaucrats will make better decisions than the recipients.

  9. But with welfare programs, we don’t have the option of having programmatic decisions made by wise individuals who love and care about the individual recipients.
    I don’t think it’s too arbitrarily technocratic to say that food stamps should be spent on food. There are certainly corner cases like white rice as Amy P points out, although those usually have more to do with correlation with inability to control portion sizes than the foods themselves. But making soda, candy, and Cool Ranch Doritos ineligible is an easy call, as those have as much to do with food as getting one’s nails done or spending the money on slot machines.

  10. “…although those usually have more to do with correlation with inability to control portion sizes than the foods themselves.”
    With brown vs. white rice, I think the foods themselves do play a role in determining what portion size will wind up being. At least for me personally, there’s a little voice that says, “Yep, I’ve had enough brown rice” way quicker than the same little voice will speak up to say “Yep, I’ve had enough white rice.”
    I’m a sleepy, low-energy person and I struggle with my weight. At some point I realized that I was using non-stop carbohydrates to keep me awake and functioning (this was particularly true in graduate school and when my kids were small and needed constant vigilance). I’m trying to get off that deadly carbohydrate treadmill by sleeping more, exercising, getting outside (being indoors all day somehow wrecks my appetite regulation), and snacking on things with more heft like nuts and avoiding 100% carbohydrate meals. The problem is that starchy and sugary snacks look cheap, except when you start accounting for the fact that you eat larger portions and much more frequently to keep fueled up.
    I think it’s under-appreciated how different people’s natural energy levels are.

  11. y81, may you never visit the day that you are forced to take some sort of assistance. To make a blanket statement that people on food stamps haven’t managed their lives effectively really shows you are out of touch with many, many people who don’t welcome assistance, but are forced to take it.

  12. “y81, may you never visit the day that you are forced to take some sort of assistance.”
    If y81 ever winds up on food stamps, it will be because he is incapable of managing his life effectively (whether due to head injury, mental illness, dementia fueled spending, substance abuse, gambling or whatever). Now, it is not universally true that everyone on food stamps is there because of being incapable of managing their lives, but it would be true for y81.

  13. The NY Times article on government assistance – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/even-critics-of-safety-net-increasingly-depend-on-it.html?hpw
    is interesting. It doesn’t fall into the trap of saying that if you’re a critic of services you shouldn’t take them (which is the liberal parallel of saying that if you want higher taxes you should voluntarily give extra money to the government). The profile people who are *not* in abject poverty in Chisago County, MN, but receive a broad range of government assistance.

  14. Seriously, “cool ranch doritos” are not food? How about regular doritos?
    I agree with the idea that food stamps should be spent on food, hence the comfort with excluding tobacco, which is not food (in the sense that it contains calories, which can be consumed by humans and converted into energy). But Doritos? not food? chocolate? Where exactly does this “not food” restriction end? Diet sodas, maybe, not food. But sugared-soda? How about sugar? Is that food?

  15. “…tobacco, which is not food (in the sense that it contains calories, which can be consumed by humans and converted into energy…”
    I think a serious smoker (or former smoker) would tell you that yes, tobacco does improve energy and concentration.

  16. Lisa V writes: So people buy low cost, filling foods that have little nutritional value- box mac and cheese, ramen, etc
    You are forgetting that the most important nutritional quality of any food is calories. These foods provide a lot of calories in an inexpensive meal that most children and many adults will eat with enthusiasm.

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