Monday, August 29, 2011

Why we need SNAP

Speaking of NPR, yesterday on the way to church I listened to a story about Food Stamps.

How telling is it that this story was reported by a business reporter?

While she gave a good summary of the increase in the use of SNAP, as the program is now called, and all that in anticipation of more discouraging figures to be released this week, I found her analysis pretty ignorant.

It is not rising prices that necessitate the increased use of SNAP in the United States, but the high cost of everything else, high unemployment and sinking real wages, and the widening gap between rich and poor, including the working poor.

In our country working families spend as little as 9% of their income on food. The poor may spend a greater percentage, but nothing like the 50% or more that people in the poorest countries spend on nourishment.

Think about this: If the cost of grain, let's say corn, doubles, then for people in the two-thirds world, who are apt to buy the corn and grind it themselves as a staple food, for porridge or tortillas, the cost of food doubles. But for people in this country, who buy corn in the form of breakfast cereal, where only 10%, let's say, of the cost of a box of cereal actually goes for the corn in all its forms, then the cost of a $3 box of cereal becomes $3.30, only a 10% increase.

Our economic woes and inequities, not world food prices, are largely responsible for the need for supplements to people's incomes - which we give in the form of food assistance.

The reporter also opines that tax payers are not happy with putting food on other people's tables. Do those tax payers think about how they are supporting commodity crops (that corn again) which make their own grocery bill less expensive, and yield some of the foods which contribute to the ills driving up health care costs - also partially funded by their taxes. An ill nourished nation is a drain on all our pocketbooks in so many ways. Resenting helping some of our neighbors to eat a little bit better seems penny wise and pound foolish, nevermind mean spirited.

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