Feb 132018

OK, yeah, they don’t actually do “food stamps” as such, but debit cards. The government gives recipients money (essentially) that the recipients are supposed to spend on food. And of course, not only are there all kinds of inefficiencies in the system, there are all kinds of opportunities for fraud. So, gotta say this sounds promising:

Trump wants to slash food stamps and replace them with a ‘Blue Apron-type program’

In short: rather than giving people debit cards to procure food with, the plan is to just… give people food.

Those foods would include shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned meat, fruits and vegetables, according to the USDA. The department estimates that it could supply these goods at about half the cost of retail, slashing the cost of SNAP while still feeding the hungry.

Since this is the sort of thing I have proposed here before, I gotta say this is a good idea. Make the staples free – free and nutritious and bland – and there will be little opportunity for a black market or fraud. Plus by going straight to making cheap food available directly, you can skip over whole reams of bureaucracy… and bureaucrats.

There are of course questions needing answering and problems needing resolving. Would food be delivered directly to recipients, or would they have to go pick them up? Would there be a single “box” of food for everyone from children to old folks? Would a box include food appropriate for a wide range of people leading to wastage, or different types?

Yes, yes, the ideologically pure libertarian/conservative standpoint would be to say that the only acceptable solution is to get rid of government food handouts entirely, since they are not constitutionally mandated. While that’s true, it’s not a pragmatic solution. Do that, and you will hand the proglodytes a permanent electoral majority.

 Posted by at 12:10 am
  • MzUnGu

    A huge/majority portion of food cost is the shipping and packaging. Blue Apron is for lazy rich kids that pretend to cook, it’s expensive. Outside of urban area, it’ll be insane. Much more cost effective to send money, and take advantage of existing channels.

    • Scottlowther

      That’s why I’ve suggested here and previously the idea of leaving the free food in existing stores. Instead of getting a card that lets you buy food, you get s card that lets you pick up a box and leave. Of course stores would be annoyed at the loss if business, but perhaps that could be somewhat offset by the government “renting space” for the food boxes. People coming in for their free food might stick around to buy other stuff… but if so that would be their own money, not taxpayer.

      I’d still rather that the government made freely available to *everyone * bricks of food loaf. Nutritious and bland, everything you need to be healthy in one incredibly cheap block that nobody would eat if they had any better options.

      • Knigh26

        I like this idea, heck I would insulate my house with food loaf for the coming break down of civilization, lol.

      • sferrin

        Only if they did away with welfare completely.

      • MzUnGu

        That would work, but doesn’t current food stamp /card thing does the same thing. it limits that you can only use it to buy food items.

        The local pantry here that’s run by a non-profit but works with the county. They operate pretty much like a grocery store that stocks a bunch of donated or almost out dated perishable and low income folks like my retired neighbor goes and picked up what he needed. I thought it works pretty well.

        I imagine 80-90% of the assisted living things are taken care of in the county/city level like this, maybe like 10% is taken care of by the fed level when localities don’t have that kind of setup in place.

        • Doug Pirahna

          >That would work, but doesn’t current food stamp /card thing does the
          >same thing. it limits that you can only use it to buy food items.
          Yes and no unfortunately.

          Yes it limits you to food items only (except for deli or prepared food items) but there’s no limit on what type of food you can get.

          So you can spend your whole allotment on Doritos or steak and there’s nothing in place to prevent that. Or you could buy $100 worth of expensive meat, sell it for half price to someone and use the cash for whatever.
          Or like Scott mentioned before, someone can buy ~$80 worth of bottled water, our it all out and return the empties for ~$24 worth of deposit.

          The WIC program has specific limits on what you can buy with it, mainly staple foods that are the lowest price available. So there’s really not a whole lot of opportunity for a black market because the acceptable items are low priced anyway.

          At a minimum I think food stamps should have the same restrictions as WIC on the types of food one can buy

        • Ulrich Brasche III

          there actually is no technical limit on what you can buy with an EBT card, especially since all other cash aid, which can openly be spent on anything, is also distributed thru the card. the card account does not realy differentiate “food money” vs “other money” and we are explicitly not allowed to monitor purchases to see how they’re spent (privacy is for clients, not the rest of us apparently). The only actual control is, if the POS system is properly geared for EBT (which actually works using bank debit card systems so works anywhere credit cards do) it tells the cashier to limit purchases, but the cashier doesn’t have to and often will not to avoid hassle and feigned outrage. Only thing we can and have done, is limit the *locations* it can be used. A few years ago, after a rare media report, we denied the cards use at ATMs registered at liquor stores (which was rescinded because ‘there was no other grocery nearby’ excuse) strip clubs, casinos, and even tho there was no reported abuse, gun shops. Now nothing keeps anyone from simply walking across the street to another ATM though. Source: 15 plus years in Social Services IT, backend data and working officially on the policy of “removing the stigma of welfare” as assigned.

      • Herp McDerp

        Nutritious and bland, everything you need to be healthy in one
        incredibly cheap block that nobody would eat if they had any better

        Graduate students would eat it!

    • sferrin

      Harder to buy lottery tickets, iphones, and Nikes with a loaf a bread. Also, they aren’t proposing replacing it WITH Blue Apron. As far as shipping you could contract UPS or FedEx (or even piggy back on the postal service). There’s no reason you couldn’t use “existing channels” as the food has to get their anyway.

  • Doug Pirahna

    The ‘welfare’ office used to give out commodities back in the day, these were largely shelf stable items such as: powdered milk, powdered eggs, flour, dried beans, canned fruit, canned meats and maybe butter and cheese (the classic government cheese).
    You could also get these items if you met certain income limits but weren’t actually getting a welfare check (mainly elderly on limited SS incomes).
    All of the items were nutritious and could be turned into different meals without much trouble, since they were largely low-value items the resale market was mostly non-existent (alcoholics wold try to sell their allocation for a few bucks to buy booze and that was about it)

    Source for the above, several family members that worked for the welfare office over the years.

    I’m not sure if they still do this or everything went over to EBT/SNAP? I know the WIC program has done fairly well because they limit what you can purchase in terms of items and those items have to be the cheapest available (ie – you can buy milk but its always the store brand)

    I think I’ve mentioned this before, my old school system finally saw the light a few years ago and realized it was costing them more in administrative costs to do the reduced price/free school lunches than it would be to just give any kid that qualified a free one.
    Then they took a step back and noticed that the regular lunch program was a huge administrative cost as well, so in the end it was cheaper to give all of the kids in school a free breakfast and lunch every day than trying to work out the payment details.

    I would prefer that the money currently going into the food stamp program actually be used to feed people that need it and not on waste or administrative overhead.

    • Herp McDerp

      If I recall correctly, this was also a policy proposed for the national level by Milton Friedman during the Nixon administration. Since it would have been a program under the Evil Nixon, and it would have eliminated some of the bureaucracy, guess which political party was dead set against it.

  • becida

    The food stamp program does good, yes it can be abused but everything can be abused. The abuse is outweighed by the good it does.

    • sferrin

      It would be able to do even more good if it were made much more difficult /unappealing to abuse though, no?

      • becida

        The food stamp money gets spent at some sort of store, there it helps with jobs and delivery people and all that. It moves in the community.
        Trying to make it more difficult to abuse makes more difficult to use, is there a good mid point? Probably but I’d be very surprised if our govt could find that point.
        If you want people to stand in line for a bag of govt beans, a bag of govt rice and block of govt cheese I’d guess you’d get some people but then the real winners would be the people making the bags & boxes and the corporate farms manufacturing the food.

  • This hurts my strip club, where are my rights?

  • Thucydides_of_Athens

    Best way to tweak Progressives who are against it is to remind them this was the way FDR dealt with welfare hunger during the Great Depression. If FDR approved, why are they against it now?