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Old 06-13-2004, 11:23 PM
astro astro is offline
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What was government cheese?

Re the 5 lb blocks they gave away on street corners out of the back of trucks about 20 years ago. What kind of cheese was it? Oh, and what the hell was the government doing with all that cheese anyway. And why the trucks?

I tried googling the history of government cheese, but all I get are links for some big hair band named "Government Cheese", and tons of ironic references.
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Old 06-13-2004, 11:39 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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The food was given away because otherwise it would have spoiled. It was purchased IIRC as part of various farm subsidy programs. The government would purchase food produced by farmers that the market couldn't otherwise absorb. The cheese I had was given in conjunction with other food assistance programs, e.g. food stamps. A friend of mine on disability and food stamps got it. It was an American-type cheese, but I imagine other cheeses may have been produced. I'm not aware of food being given away off trucks.
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Old 06-13-2004, 11:40 PM
HugoRed HugoRed is offline
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What is Government chees

During the Reagan administration the cheese stored in government warehouses was given to the poor, those on food stamps and lots of other folks.
The cheese was there because of government subsidies to the dairy industry, started God only know when or why.
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Old 06-13-2004, 11:43 PM
HugoRed HugoRed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HugoRed
During the Reagan administration the cheese stored in government warehouses was given to the poor, those on food stamps and lots of other folks.
The cheese was there because of government subsidies to the dairy industry, started God only know when or why.
Forgot...the chees was mostly Wisconson cheddar, but could have come from any state because there was no labels on the individual packages.
The cases, however, did identify the origin.
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Old 06-13-2004, 11:44 PM
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The government has huge reserves of cheese and other dairy products, partly as a byproduct of the dairy price support programs. These are intended both as a market stockpile to ease market fluctuations, and (cheese being perishable) are used for public programs. I don't think the military is allowed to use it, due to the lobbying of the Dairy Industry; I think the military has to buy their cheese on market.

A portion of the stockpiled cheese was turned over to state and local agencies for food aid. A lot of these agencies (e.g. local churches) didn't demand any needs test - anyone who wanted to show up for a block of government cheese each month could do so. AFAIK abuse was not a big problem, due to the stigma of receiving 'welfare cheese". I ate some while visiting a friend in the 1980s. It was just your standard "American cheese" (AKA "Canadian Cheese" to you Canadians) which makes it a definite step above the "pasteurized process cheese food slices" many Americans buy from the brand name producers, but nothing special in the world of cheeses.

It made a hell of a grilled cheese sandwich, however.
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Old 06-13-2004, 11:46 PM
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It started long before Reagan. The government cheese we used to get when I was a kid in the '60s was yellow/orange American-cheese type stuff (as I recall, some kind of process cheese). It was not given away "off the backs of trucks," you had to go pick it up at a depot or warehouse. We also go government mystery meat (spam-type stuff, plus a stringy kind of canned beef), rice, and powdered milk.
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Old 06-13-2004, 11:54 PM
Berkut Berkut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
I tried googling the history of government cheese, but all I get are links for some big hair band named "Government Cheese", and tons of ironic references.
Ha! I haven't heard of the band Government Cheese in years. Joe Elvis was (is?) a radio DJ here in Nashville.
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:11 AM
tremorviolet tremorviolet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
I tried googling the history of government cheese, but all I get are links for some big hair band named "Government Cheese", and tons of ironic references.
One of the former members wrote a book called The Cheese Chronicles which is a definitive account of what life is like for a small quasi-famous band on tour. Excellent read.

On topic: My family aquired some of the cheese (through a really circuitous route, my mom was the county attorney for a small rural county that just happened to have a few blocks at the courthouse they needed to get rid of). KP is right, it was just standard American cheese...
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Berkut
Ha! I haven't heard of the band Government Cheese in years. Joe Elvis was (is?) a radio DJ here in Nashville.
"Camping on acid! The tent's turning into a monster!" Joe Elvis is on 105.9 FM starting at 3 PM.
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Old 06-14-2004, 07:55 AM
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'American cheese' in Canada is still 'American cheese', or 'processed cheese' (which it is presumably also called in the US). There are a lot of products where 'American' is translated to 'Canadian' for sale in Canada, but American cheese isn't really one of them. Translating 'American' to 'Canadian' is kind of overused and often sounds corny, especially for something like 'all-Canadian sandwich', because 'all-Canadian' isn't really a common expression. Presumably American cheese can't be called 'Canadian cheese' because labelling restrictions would require the product to be manufactured in Canada, with Canadian-produced milk, in order to be called 'Canadian'.

Process cheese in French is 'fromage fondu'. Government cheese in French... well, I don't think there's Canadian government cheese, but I guess it would have to be called 'fromage de chômage'. =)
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Old 06-14-2004, 08:15 AM
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Hmm, let's see: goat's cheese comes from goats; so government cheese... well, never let it be said that those politicians didn't give their all to the nation
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HugoRed
During the Reagan administration the cheese stored in government warehouses was given to the poor, those on food stamps and lots of other folks.
The cheese was there because of government subsidies to the dairy industry, started God only know when or why.
Let me tell ya all about it... We were once a white collar middle class family.
Dad graduated with high honors. He was 50 when Reagan came along to divide and conquer the middle class. This cheese was one of the few foods we had to eat thanks to Reaganomics! His economic plans stole (money, tax breaks, quality of life) from the poor and gave to the rich! Let Nancy eat "emotional cake" today for the millions who lost everything under Tyrant Ronnie! If you prospered in those years, you prospered off ill-gotten gains (knowingly or unknowingly).

And that's the way it was. The truth has to be known!
- Jinx
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Old 06-14-2004, 12:46 PM
Surreal Surreal is offline
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Jinx, haven't you already been given a warning about making political postings in the General Questions forum?
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Old 06-14-2004, 01:11 PM
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From In Living Color's skit, What If Archie Bunker Was Black?:

Archie: Edith! What's fo' dinner?
Edith: Oh, Archie, it's your favorite! Macaroni and da government cheese!
Archie: Aw, geez, Edith! You know what da government cheese does to me! I spend more time on the throne than Queen Latifah!
  #15  
Old 06-14-2004, 01:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KP
It was just your standard "American cheese" (AKA "Canadian Cheese" to you Canadians) .
What the hell is Canadian Cheese? Never heard of it.

For that matter, what's American Cheese? Is that your word for cheddar?

Rick, a Canadian.
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Old 06-14-2004, 01:48 PM
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I don't suppose there's still Gov't. Cheese waiting to be had, is there? I suppose we could always ask Lesko...
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:04 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay
For that matter, what's American Cheese? Is that your word for cheddar?
http://www.mycustompak.com/healthNot...can_Cheese.htm
Quote:
American cheese is essentially young cheddar cheese, made of pasteurized cows’ milk, which then goes through a shredding and heating process. Various other dairy ingredients, such as dyes and emulsifiers, are added to create a smooth, mild, odorless, meltable, and stable product.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:14 PM
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As a kid growing up in the early 80s, my family was on welfare and other gov't assistance for a short spell. My mom brought home government cheese on a couple of occaisions for us, and the family universally disliked it. I recall it being much like processed american cheese, but even more rubbery, like bathroom silicon. It also had a funny chemical taste to it. Being poor starving kids that would swim a piranha-infested river just to get a corndog with Velveeta on it, it says a lot of the quality of government cheese that we refused to eat it.
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:19 PM
Jinx Jinx is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surreal
Jinx, haven't you already been given a warning about making political postings in the General Questions forum?
Maybe so, but I cannot parse out my life. Do not deny me what I lived. The cheese was a critical piece of my life back then. I can still taste the cheese and hear them coming to take the house away from us... Tell the moderators to allow some leeway for post trama! - Jinx
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Old 06-14-2004, 02:42 PM
Palikia Palikia is offline
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Government cheese still exists as part of the WIC program for Women Infants & Children. This is a program to provide nutrition to low income, pregnant women and their children. Cheese, milk, eggs seem to be the basics provided.
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Old 06-14-2004, 03:29 PM
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A portion of the stockpiled cheese was turned over to state and local agencies for food aid. A lot of these agencies (e.g. local churches) didn't demand any needs test - anyone who wanted to show up for a block of government cheese each month could do so.
Indeed. When I was a young'un, my family did not qualify for food stamps (although we should have: The local beaurocrats in charge of the decision refused to believe that a couple with a master's degree and a most of a bachelor's could possibly be out of work), but we did get government cheese, which we picked up at the basement of the church. My memory is that it was more like Colby, but as I said, that was long ago, so it may have been cheddar. In any event, it was very well-suited to grilled cheese sandwiches, and it wasn't all that bad (or at least we didn't think so... Then again, we also drank powdered milk).
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Old 06-14-2004, 03:52 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinx
Maybe so, but I cannot parse out my life. Do not deny me what I lived. The cheese was a critical piece of my life back then. I can still taste the cheese and hear them coming to take the house away from us... Tell the moderators to allow some leeway for post trama! - Jinx
Jinx, not to dogpile or junior Mod, but your comments have no place in GQ. This forum is for factual answers to factual questions. Of your post:
Quote:
Let me tell ya all about it... We were once a white collar middle class family.
Dad graduated with high honors. He was 50 when Reagan came along to divide and conquer the middle class. This cheese was one of the few foods we had to eat thanks to Reaganomics! His economic plans stole (money, tax breaks, quality of life) from the poor and gave to the rich! Let Nancy eat "emotional cake" today for the millions who lost everything under Tyrant Ronnie! If you prospered in those years, you prospered off ill-gotten gains (knowingly or unknowingly).

And that's the way it was. The truth has to be known!
here is the factual part:
Quote:
We were once a white collar middle class family. Dad graduated with high honors. He was 50 when Reagan came along...This cheese was one of the few foods we had to eat....
The rest is fodder for GD or the Pit. I'm all for trashing RR in the proper forum but post-traumatic or not your posting here was 85% wrong.
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Old 06-14-2004, 04:13 PM
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Quote:
American cheese is essentially young cheddar cheese, made of pasteurized cows’ milk, which then goes through a shredding and heating process. Various other dairy ingredients, such as dyes and emulsifiers, are added to create a smooth, mild, odorless, meltable, and stable product.
So it's cheese with all the actual cheesiness taken out?
  #24  
Old 06-14-2004, 06:20 PM
John Kentzel-Griffin John Kentzel-Griffin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinx
Let me tell ya all about it... We were once a white collar middle class family.
Dad graduated with high honors. He was 50 when Reagan came along to divide and conquer the middle class. This cheese was one of the few foods we had to eat thanks to Reaganomics! His economic plans stole (money, tax breaks, quality of life) from the poor and gave to the rich! Let Nancy eat "emotional cake" today for the millions who lost everything under Tyrant Ronnie! If you prospered in those years, you prospered off ill-gotten gains (knowingly or unknowingly).

And that's the way it was. The truth has to be known!
- Jinx
Jinx,

We have a Great Debates forum where you can discuss politics. You will keep politics out of General Questions. You don't get any leeway for your troubled life. Consider yourself warned.

DrMatrix - GQ Moderator
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Old 06-14-2004, 06:29 PM
obfusciatrist obfusciatrist is offline
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We ate quite a bit of government cheese when I was a kid.

I don't recall it being any worse than any other generic cheddar you'd find at Safeway. Though I imagine that the diary farms weren't giving their best stuff as surplus, so the odds of getting outliers (in terms of quality) was probably much increased.

I think for most it was the stigma more than the actual quality that made us kids not want to eat it.
  #26  
Old 06-14-2004, 07:06 PM
MysteryFellow63427 MysteryFellow63427 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto
"American cheese is . . . [a] smooth, mild, odorless, meltable, and stable product."
It appears they forgot "disgusting."
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Old 06-14-2004, 07:16 PM
D.E.S.K.Top668 D.E.S.K.Top668 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Palikia
Government cheese still exists as part of the WIC program for Women Infants & Children. Snip-->
At least in the parts of Nevada and California where I lived, that's not exactly true. You don't get the items directly from the government but instead get vouchers listing the items allotted. You then go to a grocery store and use the vouchers to purchase those items. So if you're allowed two pounds of cheese on a voucher, you can get any combination of wic approved cheese that adds up to two pounds.
The actual "Government Cheese" I remember as a kid in Texas was a Velveeta type substance. God-awful on sandwiches* but is was great for nachos and macoroni & cheese.
*the sole exception being grilled cheese and grilled cheese & spam

Peace - DESK
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Old 06-14-2004, 07:37 PM
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D.E.S.K. TOP668 is correct about the vouchers. Here in Texas the grocery stores have items identified as WIC approved and I understand there are also WIC stores in some areas. At least with the vouchers there is some choice between American cheese and cheddar, but don’t expect to get Brie with your voucher.
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Old 06-14-2004, 07:48 PM
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Wow, I remember government cheese from back in the 50's and early 60's. It was good! Of course, that was before we knew how to "process" the hell out of it. The major problem with the surplus food program was that a lot of people didn't know how to cook with what was offered and most of it was disgusting right out of the containers.

As more people de-learned cooking skills because of more and more processed and precooked foods being available, the complaints about the program grew. Food stamps were designed as a replacement for surplus food. People wanted the freedom to buy their own food, not be stuck with what the government wanted to feed them. There used to be a lot of restrictions on what you could buy with food stamps too. Those have been greatly relaxed over the years.

I didn't realize that surplus food was still available today. I remember that sometime in the 60's or 70's there was a big push to empty warehouses of the stuff and for a while, anyone could go pick up food whereas it used to be restricted to those who qualified.
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Old 06-14-2004, 08:05 PM
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Ah, the 1980's....

I was one of the ones who somehow escaped wealth during the Reagan years, and I ate a hell of a lot of "gub'mint cheez"

American cheese is, at best, like a very mild cheddar. The cheese program give away did use real cheese, as opposed to the truly vile, plastic-tile-like "pasturized process cheese food" which attempts to masquerade as a cheese-like food. That said, the quality would vary at times, including one memorable 5 lbs block that proved to be moldy when I got it home. It is a mark of just how dire my financial straits were at the time that, rather than toss the block, I cut away the visible mold and ate what was left.

I also took advantage of the free flour, powdered milk, and occassional cans of food marked "salvage" one could also obtain fairly easily. That, along with rice, potatoes, onions, and whatever was on the "bruised fruit and vegetable" rack at the local store comprised my diet for longer than I care to recall.

Fortunately, my financial situation has much improved over the last 20 years.
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Old 06-14-2004, 09:42 PM
Otto Otto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cillasi
I didn't realize that surplus food was still available today. I remember that sometime in the 60's or 70's there was a big push to empty warehouses of the stuff and for a while, anyone could go pick up food whereas it used to be restricted to those who qualified.
Yeah, the giveaways continue. My ex's family was/is the regular recipient of boxes upon boxes of giveaway food. They got so much that he would give the stuff they couldn't use to me. Since it was a mix of USDA-distributed food (with NOT TO BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED in big bold letters on the generic-but-not-the-old-school-black-on-white-generic labels), store-brand and name-brand stuff, and since my ex's family were in the country illegally, my feeling is that it came from a local food pantry which aided with government distribution rather than directly from a government program. I'm not a big canned vegetable eater so I still have a bunch of it cluttering up my cupboards. I suppose I ought to take it to a food pantry or something.
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Old 06-14-2004, 09:52 PM
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I always heard it was Velveeta.
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Old 06-15-2004, 12:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roches
Process cheese in French is 'fromage fondu'. Government cheese in French... well, I don't think there's Canadian government cheese, but I guess it would have to be called 'fromage de chômage'. =)
No it's not -- "fromage fondue" is melted cheese. I liked the second translation, though.

The WIC program in Massachusetts works much like others have said, where you use WIC vouchers to purchase approved foodstuffs from the grocery store.
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Old 06-15-2004, 01:09 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick
Ah, the 1980's....

I was one of the ones who somehow escaped wealth during the Reagan years, and I ate a hell of a lot of "gub'mint cheez"

American cheese is, at best, like a very mild cheddar. The cheese program give away did use real cheese, as opposed to the truly vile, plastic-tile-like "pasturized process cheese food" which attempts to masquerade as a cheese-like food. That said, the quality would vary at times, including one memorable 5 lbs block that proved to be moldy when I got it home. It is a mark of just how dire my financial straits were at the time that, rather than toss the block, I cut away the visible mold and ate what was left.

I also took advantage of the free flour, powdered milk, and occassional cans of food marked "salvage" one could also obtain fairly easily. That, along with rice, potatoes, onions, and whatever was on the "bruised fruit and vegetable" rack at the local store comprised my diet for longer than I care to recall.

Fortunately, my financial situation has much improved over the last 20 years.
Actually, the Bodoni family is pretty well situated financially these days, and we'll STILL cut off the visible mold from cheese and eat what's left, unless it's just covered with mold or the cheese has gotten too ripe for our tastes. And we're fairly picky about what we eat, too. But cheese is made by allowing milk to rot and infecting it with selected molds.

Now, I WILL throw away a whole loaf of bread if there's a spot of mold bigger than about a quarter on it. I figure the mold spores are all through the bread.
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Old 06-15-2004, 05:48 AM
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Trust me, this was MOLDY cheese. I wound up with little mold-free chunks, less than half the block. Maybe I should have said I cut the mold-free cheese off the rest.

It wasn't really a happy time for me, foodwise.
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Old 06-15-2004, 08:54 AM
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During my homeless days in NYC, I once took a box of government cheese out of the garbage, cut off the moldy parts, and ate the rest with a box of saltines I bought with a dollar I had found. It was okay, and great to have that much food in my stomach.
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Old 06-15-2004, 11:40 AM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HugoRed
... The cheese was there because of government subsidies to the dairy industry, started God only know when or why.
I think the cheese was in the government's warehouse because of an old idea, based on an even older idea as the cite below points out, that originated in 1936-37 during the Great Depressions. It was promoted by Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace and was known as the ever-normal granary.

The idea was that a buffer, a sort of "surge tank," could be used to smooth out the wild fluctuations of farmers' incomes because of swings in the price of commodities. During good-weather years with overproduction the government would buy the surplus to keep prices up and during bad-weather years sell those accumulated surpluses to keep prices down. Bad crop growing years were very much on everyone's mind at the time because along with the depression there were several years of severe drought in the Midwest. The futures market in commodities has somewhat the same effect without the formal, organized goal of stabilizing prices.
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Old 06-15-2004, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D.E.S.K.Top668
At least in the parts of Nevada and California where I lived, that's not exactly true. You don't get the items directly from the government but instead get vouchers listing the items allotted. You then go to a grocery store and use the vouchers to purchase those items. So if you're allowed two pounds of cheese on a voucher, you can get any combination of wic approved cheese that adds up to two pounds.
While I can't directly respond to the OP, I'm grateful for these small moments when some of my real-life experiences can add to discussions already in progress. Since very little here at the SDMB has to do with Oracle programming or Warhammer 40,000, I love to help out when it comes to things that involve grocery stores - especially those in Texas.

When I worked for Albertsons all those years ago, we did a fairly brisk trade in WIC-approved items. The system is as D.E.S.K.Top668 describes it: families particpating in the WIC program could periodically get vouchers for certain "essentials;" I personally saw and handled vouchers for cereal, milk, eggs, cheese, beans, and even baby formula.

In that time (c. 1990-1994), each voucher had both a list of acceptable brands to choose from and a maximum price threshold. In addition, they were only good on or after a specified date. Furthermore, the bearer was required to choose only one brand for some items, and might even be restricted to what size containers (i.e. "six eight-ounce cans OR two twenty-four-ounce cans" for example) he could select.

The vouchers worked more like a blank check from the government than food stamps. Each one was filled in with the amount, stamped with a special imprint, and signed by both the cashier and the customer. The customer got his product and Albertsons was reimbursed for the merchandise.
  #39  
Old 06-15-2004, 09:40 PM
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Government dairy subsidies were started in the 1930s when the interstate transportation of milk was not practical. Knowing that it was important that school-age children should have milk in their daily diets, the federal government encouraged the widespread production of milk by offering subsidies to dairy farmers throughout America. The amount of the subsidies was based on the producer's distance from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which at the time was at the heart of America's dairyland. (Thus, Wisconsin dairy farmers oppose dairy subsidies, as they get the raw end of the deal.)
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