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Old 02-13-2018, 03:56 PM
Inbred Mm domesticus Inbred Mm domesticus is offline
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SNAP Budget Proposal - Is Individual Delivery of Food Packages Really Going to Save Money?

The President's budget, has this (from here)

Quote:
Trump's proposal would require people who receive at least $90 a month from the program to get about half of their benefits in the form of a “USDA food package,” rather than by purchasing the food themselves, NPR reported.

The proposed change would affect more than 80 percent of people enrolled in SNAP.

The packages recipients would be given would not include fresh fruits or vegetables. Instead, according to NPR, the packages would consist of "shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables."
This seems like a good modification to the program if it will save ~12.9 billion a year as promised, but I feel like the analysis of the cost of deliveries must be faulty.

Of course, I am no expert on this topic and am making some assumptions. First, I am assuming the food bought on food stamps is delivered to grocery stores by a highly efficient delivery system forged in the crucible of the market (not the supermarket, but the Market). Second, I am assuming the proposed system would use something like the US Postal Service to deliver food packages to individuals' homes, which sounds inefficient and prone to much error, especially in poor and rural areas.

Given the contrast in these assumptions, this proposal will
  • not reduce the nutritional value of the food provided by SNAP
  • it may reduce costs in supplying nutrition and calories versus how it is done now
  • but the delivery system will be costly
  • overall, the efficiency gains, if any, will be minimal
  • there will be a cost permanently etched in public debt in changing from the current to the new system.

Last edited by Inbred Mm domesticus; 02-13-2018 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:01 PM
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How would this program address dietary restrictions individuals may have?
Will the food packages be labeled "Poor People Food""Government Food"?
Will there be money to buy fresh fruits and/or vegetables?
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:08 PM
Inbred Mm domesticus Inbred Mm domesticus is offline
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If you're taking more than $90 assistance / monthly half the additional assistance comes from these canned goods. So there should be money to buy fresh fruit if desired.

I don't see how canned versus fresh fruit is important really. Canned produce is less likely to spoil and is just as nutritious as the fresh food.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:17 PM
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Who pays for storing and handling of the food?
Who manages distribution?
Who staffs those warehouses/offices?
Who handles purchasing, negotiates contracts, etc etc?

There is already a pretty efficient vector to get food to people's tables. I'm not sure what the argument is for replacing it with a whole new infrastructure, and a whole new set of government employees and private leaches, um, contractors to re-create it extra-specially for poor folks.

This "plan" doesn't save money by getting food more efficiently to those who need it, it does it by limiting the things available for purchase with SNAP funds.

If Republicans really want to save money, they should cut the budget, and just limit purchases with SNAP funds to "shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables." (Maybe there's a SNAP A account for soda and lobsters that gets X dollars, and a SNAP B account for government-sanctioned necessities). This "deliver it to your door in a box" idea is an expensive red herring that belies an alterior motive to "cost savings".

Last edited by Eonwe; 02-13-2018 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:19 PM
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Much has been made of the food deserts in poor communities -- it may be a faulty assumption that SNAP benefits spent in person are spent at (market) efficient grocery stores. At least some of it is probably spent at corner stores with steep markups.

Also, the government is buying in bulk and appears to be making more... disciplined purchases (beans, cereal, pasta). They may be replacing $45 in benefits with the equivalent of $20 in actual groceries, depending on how the benefits are typically used.

Just a WAG.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:20 PM
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I remember government commodities-powdered eggs, Karo syrup, cans of "pork product", bags of "oatmeal" that had dust and corn in it and various other food items of poor to mediocre quality.
Since Trump is the one proposing this, I would hazard a guess that the bids to provide these staples will go to the lowest bidders and/or friends of his, and that there will be nothing in the budget for extra food inspectors(not that they have enough now.)
Oh, and "Buh-Bye" organic food.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:30 PM
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Much has been made of the food deserts in poor communities -- it may be a faulty assumption that SNAP benefits spent in person are spent at (market) efficient grocery stores. At least some of it is probably spent at corner stores with steep markups.
For sure there are issues in the current system. This solution possibly addresses them in some communities by accident.

Quote:
Also, the government is buying in bulk and appears to be making more... disciplined purchases (beans, cereal, pasta). They may be replacing $45 in benefits with the equivalent of $20 in actual groceries, depending on how the benefits are typically used.

Just a WAG.
This is exactly it. If the government wants to tell people that they can only buy certain things with SNAP (or a portion of their SNAP), then they should implement that (or try to, and see how successful they are). This shipping food direct to poor people plan smells of pork (no pun intended) to private enterprise who'll want to manage/run the program, and will also create more government jobs. The economic component of this plan is, at first glance, practically anti-Republican (he says sarcastically).

But, it's pretty obvious that this is about making sure poor people don't get more joy than they deserve, and the economic arguments are after-the-fact, unsupported bullshit.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Inbred Mm domesticus View Post
Of course, I am no expert on this topic and am making some assumptions. First, I am assuming the food bought on food stamps is delivered to grocery stores by a highly efficient delivery system forged in the crucible of the market (not the supermarket, but the Market).
The discussion ends with this point.

One of the questions asked in one of my Economics exams was:

Why do we have the government distribute education, but not food?

It was an essay question but long story short: The market is incredibly good at distributing food. Ridiculously good. The market (in a free country) distributes food as well as anything CAN be distributed. It distributes food with incredible logistical skill, to as many people as have ever been fed in human history, in the quantities needed, with surprisingly little waste and overhead.

The chances the government could do this within a million miles as well as the market are zero. None whatsoever. It will absolutely result in the delivery of food being screwed up, or being wildly more expensive, or both.
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Old 02-13-2018, 04:38 PM
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Step 1: Acquire the food.
Currently supermarkets buy food to sell. They attempt to get food at low prices so they can make as much of a profit as possible.
In theory, the government could buy this same food at these same prices and avoid taking a profit, reducing the total cost to the consumer.
Or, alternatively, they could just set up some fat profitable contracts with food suppliers in return for 'campaign donations', with no particular concern for saving money.

Step 2: Ensure the food is of decent quality.
Currently stores are motivated to screen their sellers for ones that provide bad food. This food is sold to everyone, and if it's bad then the wealthy people who come will take their money elsewhere.
The government would be significantly less able to either screen sellers or change sellers if one was shipping rotten food. Also, with the massive amount of food being shipped it would be easy for the sellers to slip in their lesser-quality product among the rest -- preventing that from happen would require frequent costly quality checks and audits, with punishments for infractions. That or the government could just choose not to care, allowing the sellers to use the system as a method for offloading lesser quality and/or rotten food without fear of reprisal.

Step 3: Figure out where the food is supposed to go.
Currently people pick out their own food. It works great, except to observing assholes who think they should only eat dirt. The stores, for their part, only have to keep track of the total overall sales in their area to estimate how much food the area needs. This process is streamlined from a cost perspective.
Under the new system it would take a staggering amount of work to figure out which people get which food - which families are larger? Which people are gluten intolerant? Which people are diabetic? Which people have life-threatening allergies? Organizing this would require positively boggling amounts of bureaucratic effort and invasive tracking. It would probably cost more than the raw food does.
Or they could just ship everyone the same generic box of food-from-highest-donators without concerns about whether it's enough to feed them or whether it will kill them. Peanut butter for all, yo!

Step 4: Deliver the food.
Currently stores have food shipped to themselves via efficient trucks. Consumers fetch the food from there and deliver it to their own front doors for similarly low cost.
The government has a few potential approaches for this. The absolute dumbest would be to ship everything from the central warehouse via a private carrier - the costs would be staggering. (The politicians would get a nice 'donation' for that though.) The USPS could do this for closer to costs, but there's no way they'd be as efficient as the stores themselves are.

Summary of steps:
- Maybe a little cheaper but probably more expensive.
- Way more expensive unless the government decides to ship people rotten food.
- Staggeringly more expensive unless the government decides to starve/kill people.
- More expensive, unless it's WAY more expensive.

Sounds like a great idea! Let's do it!
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Czarcasm View Post
I remember government commodities-powdered eggs, Karo syrup, cans of "pork product", bags of "oatmeal" that had dust and corn in it and various other food items of poor to mediocre quality.
Since Trump is the one proposing this, I would hazard a guess that the bids to provide these staples will go to the lowest bidders and/or friends of his, and that there will be nothing in the budget for extra food inspectors(not that they have enough now.)
Oh, and "Buh-Bye" organic food.
And there's a reason such fell out of favor. It just costs more doing it that way. And that was even when they weren't doing much of anything.

And, more selfishly, I can't imaging grocery stores enjoying the lost revenue. Sure, they may not make as much with SNAP: I don't know if they get the full price or not. But some is better than none. And grocery store profit margins aren't actually all that great, especially in the types of stores that poorer people shop in.

This sounds like an idea to appeal to the ignorant, anti-poor base, but without much reason to worry it will be carried out. I mean, I could be wrong, but that's what I'm seeing right now. Though, question is, how many of those Trump supporters are poor enough for food stamps? I know that I know a lot of people on food stamps, and most of my state voted for Trump....

Last edited by BigT; 02-13-2018 at 07:13 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:51 PM
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It won't save money. It will ensure that money flows into the hands of the "correct" people.
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:11 PM
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I think it's a great idea! I've thought we should do it ever since I first heard of this service. Fresh, nutritious ingredients pre-measured right down to the organic turmeric, and easy instructions to put it all together in no time. Yep, Hello Fresh and Blue Apron can solve our food-desert problems and put poor kids on the road to a lifetime of healthy eating.

What?
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Old 02-13-2018, 08:15 PM
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My first take on it was...how will some poor cook the food? Not everyone has access in the US to a full or even partial kitchen, which is one of the reasons why a lot of poor end up eating take out or fast food or junk food that doesn't take a lot of preparation.

It's an interesting idea, at least conceptually, to do something like Blue Apron (which is how I saw it described)...you could really produce meals that were healthy and fairly easy to prepare and ship them to those who most need it. But I think moving from the concept to reality is going to be problematic, especially considering who is proposing it (I seriously doubt Trump et al are going to gear the program to really assist those who need it most, as opposed a scheme to cut the budget so they can spend the money on other things).
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:20 PM
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This is more of a general budget comment, but I loved this little exchange this morning that served to remind me of the real impact of Presidential Budget proposals.

Steve Inskeep - Q: "Does Congress care what the President puts in a budget proposal?"
Tamara Keith - A: "Here's how I like to think of it - It's like the advice that your parents give you on how to live your life, you say 'Thanks'..."

Link to audio (scroll down to Politics).
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
The discussion ends with this point.

One of the questions asked in one of my Economics exams was:

Why do we have the government distribute education, but not food?

It was an essay question but long story short: The market is incredibly good at distributing food. Ridiculously good. The market (in a free country) distributes food as well as anything CAN be distributed. It distributes food with incredible logistical skill, to as many people as have ever been fed in human history, in the quantities needed, with surprisingly little waste and overhead.

The chances the government could do this within a million miles as well as the market are zero. None whatsoever. It will absolutely result in the delivery of food being screwed up, or being wildly more expensive, or both.
Someone doesn't believe the "food desert" talking point.
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Old 02-13-2018, 09:46 PM
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Are we sure that these packages are going to be delivered? Maybe the assumption is that the food will all be in some central location, and that it'll be the recipients' responsibility to go there to pick it up. That'd certainly save money.

Topeka is a central location. Maybe that's where they'll have the food.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:14 PM
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Instead of letting the private sector handle the problem of food distribution, which they have been highly successful at for decades and have all the infrastructure in place, we will run giant government program in parallel with them built from scratch at enormous cost to the tax payer.

When did Republicans become the Socialist party?
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
One of the questions asked in one of my Economics exams was:

Why do we have the government distribute education, but not food?

It was an essay question but long story short: The market is incredibly good at distributing food. Ridiculously good. The market (in a free country) distributes food as well as anything CAN be distributed. It distributes food with incredible logistical skill, to as many people as have ever been fed in human history, in the quantities needed, with surprisingly little waste and overhead.
I challenge part of your assertion. One of the reasons we have an obesity epidemic is thought that in the free market race to the bottom, the food that does the best - it tastes the best in the short term, it's cheap - is things that are basically carbs and enormous amounts of sugar. Also, it's possible that certain cheap and commonly used ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup or transfats, are actually in fact a form of poison that causes obesity.

This would probably be an example of market failure. Without the government to step in and ban the unhealthy food, the average adult (myself included) tends to make short sighted decisions (junk food is so cheap and delicious!) and gets poisoned by it.

With that said, in most areas, healthy food is available at a higher price.

Last edited by SamuelA; 02-13-2018 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:52 PM
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Are we sure that these packages are going to be delivered? Maybe the assumption is that the food will all be in some central location, and that it'll be the recipients' responsibility to go there to pick it up. That'd certainly save money.
Now technically you could make this program work, I think. You could have existing stores prepare government approved packs, or have commercial vendors allowed to produce them. There could be a variety of flavors, though they would need to meet some standard for content. These "packs" would be on the shelves at major retailers and could be traded for points on a food stamp card.

Blue Apron meals are really expensive because they have high quality ingredients, are made on a small scale, have to be packaged and shipped rapidly with chemical cold packs, just not feasible for this.

MREs cost the government more than EBT. Each meal is actually about $4.30 to the government, and you need about 1-2 MREs a day to feed someone. While food stamps is just a flat $200/month.

Technically, by preventing the poor from buying all pretzels and doritos with their EBT card, it might improve their health. I am skeptical that it would save any money. You'd have to pay the store for the shelf space, deal with the issue of people who live too far from any store, etc.

The problem here is essentially it's just a sideshow. We're gonna "make up" for giving the rich 1500 billion dollars in tax breaks by trying to steal a few crumbs from the poor. Because the poor are an easy target. Even though, somewhat hypocritically, many Trump supports are rural and poor themselves.

Last edited by SamuelA; 02-13-2018 at 10:54 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:34 PM
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SamuelA

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Even though, somewhat hypocritically, many Trump supports are rural and poor themselves.
Hypocritical how?

And they are supposed to expect assistance as a "right"? It is not.

Last edited by anomalous1; 02-13-2018 at 11:35 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:38 PM
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With that said, in most areas, healthy food is available at a higher price.
So... the plan is to reduce funds the poor have to purchase healthy food, even though we know healthy food costs more?

Uh, yeah, that's going to work out just fine...
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:42 PM
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Technically, by preventing the poor from buying all pretzels and doritos with their EBT card, it might improve their health.
This is the common assumption, but it's wrong. The USDA found that the shopping carts of SNAP recipients contain about the same foods as non-SNAP recipients.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:43 PM
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Hypocritical how?

And they are supposed to expect assistance as a "right"? It is not.
Because they're taking actions to screw themselves. Maybe I should have said stupid. And 5 years after they vote Republican for the 10 time in their life, they get laid off, and suddenly get dumped onto the very same safety net their collective actions have acted to disassemble. And they find out how shitty medicaid is, how meager food stamps are, how there is almost no cash welfare. And they blame the company for laying them off or the economy.

Last edited by SamuelA; 02-13-2018 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:45 PM
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This is the common assumption, but it's wrong. The USDA found that the shopping carts of SNAP recipients contain about the same foods as non-SNAP recipients.
Yes, but Americans are unhealthy in general. Point is that if it was all lentils and Kale or something, maybe the new way to lose weight would be to lose your job. Maybe poor people would be the best looking. Who knows.
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Old 02-13-2018, 11:50 PM
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SamuelA
And they are supposed to expect assistance as a "right"? It is not.
Darn those poor people, expecting that if they can't afford to feed their kids, they have the right to get assistance!
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Old 02-14-2018, 12:40 AM
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Darn those poor people, expecting that if they can't afford to feed their kids, they have the right to get assistance!
No.

It is a privilege, not a right. That being said, of course there should be assistance programs, I was just outlining that. Not to be confused with "It OUGHT to be a right" which I am assuming you mean. Please do not put words in my mouth so to speak.
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:14 AM
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I don't see how canned versus fresh fruit is important really. Canned produce is less likely to spoil and is just as nutritious as the fresh food.
Not even close. Canned produce is almost never as nutritious as fresh, for all the urban myths out there.

Blanching removes a large portion of water-soluble vitamins. Ever wonder why fresh apples have vitamin C in them and applesauce doesn't, unless it's added? That's why. Furthermore, artificial additives are almost never as good as natural ones. But they're cheaper. Any bets on which a business would use?

Also, cans tend to have other substances added to prevent the degradation of the cans themselves. Ever hear of BPA? It's carcinogenic. It's also commonly used for just such a purpose.
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:23 AM
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Now technically you could make this program work, I think. You could have existing stores prepare government approved packs, or have commercial vendors allowed to produce them. There could be a variety of flavors, though they would need to meet some standard for content. These "packs" would be on the shelves at major retailers and could be traded for points on a food stamp card.
Some supermarkets in Belgium offer "weekly boxes". They have several menu choices in their website which change weekly: you choose which ones you want, for how many people and tell them where will you be picking up your box containing the raw ingredients and the recipes (also available in the website, you can choose not to get them on paper). You can set up your profile for different food restrictions and if there's one they haven't considered, email or talk with Customer Service at any of their stores.

To me this seems a lot more useful than a fixed box for everybody. A service like that could be useful for many people: those on EBT could pay it with their EBT, those without would pay with USD (or EUR or whatever the local currency is). There could be options for "I can't cook" or "I can heat up food but not cook".
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Old 02-14-2018, 01:33 AM
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No.

It is a privilege, not a right. That being said, of course there should be assistance programs, I was just outlining that. Not to be confused with "It OUGHT to be a right" which I am assuming you mean. Please do not put words in my mouth so to speak.
I was going by the definition of 'privilege," which according to the OED is

Quote:
a special advantage or authority possessed by a particular person or group
.

Since anyone who meets the financial criteria gets SNAP, it doesn't constitute a privilege.

A right, on the other hand, is (also according to the OED)

Quote:
your opportunity to act and be treated in particular ways that the law promises to protect for the benefit of society
It's an important distinction. If I mischaracterized your views, I apologize.
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:23 AM
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This plan is diabolically clever. It has everybody talking about how much the Poor people and their foodstamps cost the US taxpayer. That is the main aim of this whole plan, and it is already succeeding.

What the Dems should do, is contrast how many times over you could pay the whole of all welfare programs combined ten times over, if you refrained from raising the military budget as Trump intends to raise it.
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:41 AM
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It’s diabolcally clever because you just know Trump, his family and his mates ARE going to profit from the distribution or substitution of food products for the poor.

Kind of like how staying at his NY apt, meant every secret service dude had to stay on premise and the taxpayers cut a cheque to Trump to cover the inflated rents for each one! Same goes at his golf course!

In the end, a big chunk of the money spent is gonna end up in Trump pockets somehow. Because that’s how he rolls, it’s what he does best.
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Old 02-14-2018, 05:42 AM
Inbred Mm domesticus Inbred Mm domesticus is offline
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Much has been made of the food deserts in poor communities -- it may be a faulty assumption that SNAP benefits spent in person are spent at (market) efficient grocery stores. At least some of it is probably spent at corner stores with steep markups.
The food deserts point has been made frequently in the thread. Since the states will be left to decide how the food boxes are delivered, this plans' effectiveness in solving the issue of deserts would depend on 50 individual states' solution to the problem.

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Also, the government is buying in bulk and appears to be making more... disciplined purchases (beans, cereal, pasta). They may be replacing $45 in benefits with the equivalent of $20 in actual groceries, depending on how the benefits are typically used.
I have a hard time believing typical food stamps recipients are not making these types of disciplined purchases.

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It was an essay question but long story short: The market is incredibly good at distributing food. Ridiculously good.
I would expect no less. Since this budget envisions each state having its own plan, my guess is utilizing these distribution networks for delivering food to market would be necessary for this to have any hope of efficiency.

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This plan is diabolically clever. It has everybody talking about how much the Poor people and their foodstamps cost the US taxpayer. That is the main aim of this whole plan, and it is already succeeding.

What the Dems should do, is contrast how many times over you could pay the whole of all welfare programs combined ten times over, if you refrained from raising the military budget as Trump intends to raise it.
I would love to see a public discussion of America's unbelievable military budget, but the culture will not allow it. So if I want the government to reduce its budget, these sorts of programs are all that will be discussed.

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Not even close. Canned produce is almost never as nutritious as fresh, for all the urban myths out there.

Blanching removes a large portion of water-soluble vitamins. Ever wonder why fresh apples have vitamin C in them and applesauce doesn't, unless it's added? That's why. Furthermore, artificial additives are almost never as good as natural ones. But they're cheaper. Any bets on which a business would use?

Also, cans tend to have other substances added to prevent the degradation of the cans themselves. Ever hear of BPA? It's carcinogenic. It's also commonly used for just such a purpose.
I read some stuff making similar points this morning, but the plan does allow enough to buy fresh produce so this may be a non-issue.

Many of you seem to be envisioning something more than boxes of packaged and canned goods in this "Blue Apron" style system. This is an unfortunate analogy that hipster journalists are making and I am personally disgusted with it. They are sanitizing the proposal by this comparison.
  #33  
Old 02-14-2018, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by elbows View Post
Itís diabolcally clever because you just know Trump, his family and his mates ARE going to profit from the distribution or substitution of food products for the poor.
Of course Trump and his cronies are always looking for graft opportunities, but this is not a major motive for the proposal.

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Originally Posted by Eonwe View Post
But, it's pretty obvious that this is about making sure poor people don't get more joy than they deserve, and the economic arguments are after-the-fact, unsupported bullshit.
It is quite sad and seems hard to believe but, yes, many Republican proposals aim directly at punishment: punishment of the poor, punishment by skin color, punishment of groups or regions that tend to vote Democratic.

American people need and want to come together as a nation, and to work toward common goals.
By encouraging different groups of the hoi polloi to hate each other, American unity is thwarted. Thus Republican political interests are served.
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Old 02-14-2018, 06:50 AM
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Believe whatever you wish, but I personally think graft is this manís sole motivation.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:15 AM
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It is a privilege, not a right.
After 30 years of paying taxes and promoting the social safety net, I viewed receiving benefits during a period of unemployment as a "privilege" in the same sense that after years of paying life insurance premiums receiving a check after my spouse's death was a "privilege".
  #36  
Old 02-14-2018, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Eonwe View Post
This is exactly it. If the government wants to tell people that they can only buy certain things with SNAP (or a portion of their SNAP), then they should implement that (or try to, and see how successful they are). This shipping food direct to poor people plan smells of pork (no pun intended) to private enterprise who'll want to manage/run the program, and will also create more government jobs.
Since the way this currently works at the point of sale is for the SNAP system to determine via price code what items are or are not allowed this could be done by changing what is and isn't allowed - this is already done for WIC to a very precise degree (a 16 ounce box of X is allowed, two 8 ounce boxes of the same thing, same brand, are not, for example) without the need for the government to get into the procurement, storage, transport, and delivery business. If we really wanted to do so we could similarly restrict SNAP purchases with the infrastructure already in place.

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Originally Posted by Inbred Mm domesticus View Post
I have a hard time believing typical food stamps recipients are not making these types of disciplined purchases.
Can I say, as a cashier who rings up SNAP purchases that by and large this is the case. If you're poor enough to have the lion's share of your monthly food paid for by SNAP, you have to be disciplined in your choices in one way or another. Otherwise your have too much month at the end of your money. If a SNAP recipient does buy a steak (perhaps on sale) it's more likely to wind up stretched into 2-3 meals (added to chilli, stew, stir fry) rather than grilled for just one meal.

The nosy nellies are inclined to focus on the one steak or the bag of chips and ignore the beans, bread, and bag of oranges.

And, if a poor family is living on beans and rice 6 days out of 7 with oranges or apples for dessert and on Sunday want a whole chicken or a steak dinner I'm not going to get upset. That shows good planning and discipline and don't we want to encourage that?

Now, for the people getting just $50 for the entire month SNAP is more likely to be for a "luxury" type item. But such a person is likely going to moving out the program soon anyway (because they must have some sort of income to result in such a low benefit). Again, I don't feel this is worth getting worked up over.

And finally - because most SNAP recipients work most of them are having to pack a lunch. Low-pay jobs typically don't have lavish break rooms - lunch might have to be something that requires no cooking, no heating, and perhaps no refrigerator. That means bottled beverages and things like a bag of chips - you're bitching about what people eat as a portable lunch. Get off your high horse.

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Originally Posted by Eonwe View Post
But, it's pretty obvious that this is about making sure poor people don't get more joy than they deserve, and the economic arguments are after-the-fact, unsupported bullshit.
^ This

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Step 1: Acquire the food.
Currently supermarkets buy food to sell. They attempt to get food at low prices so they can make as much of a profit as possible.
In theory, the government could buy this same food at these same prices and avoid taking a profit, reducing the total cost to the consumer.
Grocery stores typically run a profit of 1-3%. That's it. There's not a lot of "fat" to cut there. It's a cutthroat business where "as much profit as possible" is 3%.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Or, alternatively, they could just set up some fat profitable contracts with food suppliers in return for 'campaign donations', with no particular concern for saving money.
^ This.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Currently stores are motivated to screen their sellers for ones that provide bad food. This food is sold to everyone, and if it's bad then the wealthy people who come will take their money elsewhere.
There are also food inspections, facility inspections, laws, regulations, and fines (or even forced shut downs) for failing to meet them. And yeah, people tend to not want to purchase food from filthy, vermin-ridden places.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Currently people pick out their own food. It works great, except to observing assholes who think they should only eat dirt.
True.

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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Currently stores have food shipped to themselves via efficient trucks. Consumers fetch the food from there and deliver it to their own front doors for similarly low cost. The government has a few potential approaches for this. The absolute dumbest would be to ship everything from the central warehouse via a private carrier - the costs would be staggering. (The politicians would get a nice 'donation' for that though.) The USPS could do this for closer to costs, but there's no way they'd be as efficient as the stores themselves are.
Everyone who brings up the delivery aspect seems to miss the "porch pirate" problem. If no one is home when the box is delivered will it just be left on the door step? Package theft is already a significant problem everywhere. If someone nicks your monthly food box while you're at work (and 70% of SNAP recipients are, in fact, employed) you're really screwed. And these will get stolen. People will steal dirt given the opportunity, they'll definitely run off with anything that might have value.

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Originally Posted by BigT View Post
And, more selfishly, I can't imaging grocery stores enjoying the lost revenue. Sure, they may not make as much with SNAP: I don't know if they get the full price or not.
Yes, stores get full value for anything purchased with SNAP. From the stores viewpoint it makes the same amount regardless of how an item is purchased. The reason just about everyone and their uncle accepts EBT is because there are crapton of people receiving it. Problems with SNAP costs less than problems with bad checks and credit card fraud, both of which stores also accept despite knowing a percentage of transactions are going to be bad.

Quote:
But some is better than none. And grocery store profit margins aren't actually all that great, especially in the types of stores that poorer people shop in.
As I said, grocery profits are typically 1-3%
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by HurricaneDitka View Post
Someone doesn't believe the "food desert" talking point.
I don't, no. Objective evidence suggests it's a myth.

Even if it's very occasionally true, people in the United States are not starving to death for a lack of local food choices. That is not a thing that happens.

Even if there are neighborhoods with a dearth of choices for high quality fresh food,

1. The extent of the problem has been exaggerated to an absurd extent, if you can convince me it exists at all, and

2. It's irrelevant. Food stamps are for people to have food. the marginal difference you're trying to make here is "has enough food" versus "doesn't have enough food." If you think the U.S. government is going to send really high quality food out in Trump Boxes, well, that's just hilarious. When has government-supplied food ever been good stuff?
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:19 AM
Channing Idaho Banks Channing Idaho Banks is offline
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If they took away EBT benefits, people will just start stealing food from stores. I'm sure the stores are going to like that. Plus, when you steal food, you don't steal the cheap stuff, you take the steak and lobster!
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Old 02-14-2018, 08:30 AM
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It's an idea that might (and I emphasize might) work well on the local level. Administered by the federal government for the entire US? Not so much. But as I said in the Pit thread, this is a Trump pipe dream and will never get through Congress.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:02 AM
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There have been this type of thing implemented before - Angel Food Ministries did this nationally until their downfall due to greed. The Box Food Ministries and New Hope Ministries do this on a local level in Atlanta, GA and Kenosha, WI. Smart Choice Food and OneHarvent Food Ministries do this on a multi-state level. USDA is doing trials with on-line providers including Amazon where EBT can be used for purchases.

In other words, this is already being done as an opt-in for EBT recipients, the difference being that it's voluntary, and at least some of them are allowing for customization.
  #41  
Old 02-14-2018, 09:24 AM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
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Believe whatever you wish, but I personally think graft is this manís sole motivation.
Sole... not likely. It has some minor distractive value from the ongoing Russian saga. Since I doubt this idea will ever get past the Twitter stage, temporary distraction might turn out to be it's only value to Trump, though I can picture him fantasizing about the chance for personal enrichment for himself and his buddies.
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  #42  
Old 02-14-2018, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by begbert2 View Post
Step 1: Acquire the food.
Currently supermarkets buy food to sell. They attempt to get food at low prices so they can make as much of a profit as possible.
In theory, the government could buy this same food at these same prices and avoid taking a profit, reducing the total cost to the consumer.
Or, alternatively, they could just set up some fat profitable contracts with food suppliers in return for 'campaign donations', with no particular concern for saving money.

Step 2: Ensure the food is of decent quality.
Currently stores are motivated to screen their sellers for ones that provide bad food. This food is sold to everyone, and if it's bad then the wealthy people who come will take their money elsewhere.
The government would be significantly less able to either screen sellers or change sellers if one was shipping rotten food. Also, with the massive amount of food being shipped it would be easy for the sellers to slip in their lesser-quality product among the rest -- preventing that from happen would require frequent costly quality checks and audits, with punishments for infractions. That or the government could just choose not to care, allowing the sellers to use the system as a method for offloading lesser quality and/or rotten food without fear of reprisal.

Step 3: Figure out where the food is supposed to go.
Currently people pick out their own food. It works great, except to observing assholes who think they should only eat dirt. The stores, for their part, only have to keep track of the total overall sales in their area to estimate how much food the area needs. This process is streamlined from a cost perspective.
Under the new system it would take a staggering amount of work to figure out which people get which food - which families are larger? Which people are gluten intolerant? Which people are diabetic? Which people have life-threatening allergies? Organizing this would require positively boggling amounts of bureaucratic effort and invasive tracking. It would probably cost more than the raw food does.
Or they could just ship everyone the same generic box of food-from-highest-donators without concerns about whether it's enough to feed them or whether it will kill them. Peanut butter for all, yo!

Step 4: Deliver the food.
Currently stores have food shipped to themselves via efficient trucks. Consumers fetch the food from there and deliver it to their own front doors for similarly low cost.
The government has a few potential approaches for this. The absolute dumbest would be to ship everything from the central warehouse via a private carrier - the costs would be staggering. (The politicians would get a nice 'donation' for that though.) The USPS could do this for closer to costs, but there's no way they'd be as efficient as the stores themselves are.

Summary of steps:
- Maybe a little cheaper but probably more expensive.
- Way more expensive unless the government decides to ship people rotten food.
- Staggeringly more expensive unless the government decides to starve/kill people.
- More expensive, unless it's WAY more expensive.

Sounds like a great idea! Let's do it!
This is like a infomercial where people are unable to do a simple task without the gadget. All these concerns are trivially easy to solve.
If the food arrives bad, the recipients can exchange the bad food, and let the program know. If there are too many complaints, cancel the contract and find a new provider.
We already know who gets SNAP benefits and how many people are in their households. If they have allergies or intolerances that can easily be communicated when they sign up for the program. Those that do can be provided an alternate food. We already send them SNAP cards so instead of just a card, we send them a card and a box, mail order is a 130 year old concept that is pretty easy to do.
Odd that many people who think the government can effortlessly run a universal health care system, also believe a mail order business is much too complicated.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:37 AM
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Odd that many people who think the government can effortlessly run a universal health care system, also believe a mail order business is much too complicated.
I think the idea is that it can't do so and save money over the current system. Right now, we just issue a card and the market takes care of the rest. As you assume more and more tasks that the market is currently doing (and doing extremely efficiently), your costs will almost certainly go up.

Last edited by John Mace; 02-14-2018 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by puddleglum View Post
This is like a infomercial where people are unable to do a simple task without the gadget. All these concerns are trivially easy to solve.
If the food arrives bad, the recipients can exchange the bad food, and let the program know. If there are too many complaints, cancel the contract and find a new provider.
And how long will that return-and-exchange take? How long before a bad contract is cancelled? Meanwhile, people go hungry or eat bad food.

Quote:
We already know who gets SNAP benefits and how many people are in their households. If they have allergies or intolerances that can easily be communicated when they sign up for the program.
Or we can let them go to a store and pick out their own food, letting them doing the avoiding and the choosing without the need for bureaucratic intervention.

Quote:
We already send them SNAP cards so instead of just a card, we send them a card and a box, mail order is a 130 year old concept that is pretty easy to do.
Because it's cheaper to just send them a card, and we only have to do that once. A box has to be sent every month and thus there is an ongoing monthly shipping cost.

Quote:
Odd that many people who think the government can effortlessly run a universal health care system, also believe a mail order business is much too complicated.
No one thinks anyone - private or government - can "effortlessly" run a health care system. It's just that the experiment of private vs. public has been run literally more than a hundred times and UHS wins every time on outcomes, extent of coverage, and overall costs.

Likewise, the experiment of private vs. public food distribution has been run hundreds of times. Private wins. That's why the Soviet Union wound up buying staple commodities from the US. In fact, it wins so much that every centralized command economy has wound up either tolerating or allowing private food distribution and sale.
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Old 02-14-2018, 09:46 AM
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I think the idea is that it can't do so and save money over the current system. Right now, we just issue a card and the market takes care of the rest. As you assume more and more tasks that the market is currently doing (and doing extremely efficiently), your costs will almost certainly go up.
Hm...maybe. But maybe not. Basically, I can see economies of scale type thingy happening here. If we allocate $X today and basically let someone choose what they want they are paying market price for whatever they are buying. But if we build meals for them we have a more directed market, so to speak. Plus, as a bonus, we could actually have the meals being prepared to be both more nutritious and probably taste better, though the former would be the most important thing.

To me, the biggest issue is still the fact that not everyone has the facilities to make even a prepared meal. I've seen what some of those Blue Apron (and this would pretty obviously be a lower end concept to that) dishes entail, and you still need stuff like a stove and burners, pots and pans. I'm sure you could do a lot with pre-preparation that they don't do so you wouldn't need to cut stuff up and the like, but you'd still need some kitchen facilities unless we are talking about microwave meals or something....perhaps something like the militaries MRE system that has heating elements with it? Not sure but that's going to be one of the big challenges, IMHO, at least for the concept.
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Last edited by XT; 02-14-2018 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:04 AM
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Can I say, as a cashier who rings up SNAP purchases that by and large this is the case. If you're poor enough to have the lion's share of your monthly food paid for by SNAP, you have to be disciplined in your choices in one way or another. Otherwise your have too much month at the end of your money. If a SNAP recipient does buy a steak (perhaps on sale) it's more likely to wind up stretched into 2-3 meals (added to chilli, stew, stir fry) rather than grilled for just one meal.

The nosy nellies are inclined to focus on the one steak or the bag of chips and ignore the beans, bread, and bag of oranges.
That's because there shouldn't be *any* amount of steak and chips in their cart, just beans, bread, and oranges. If the intent to make stew out of steak, isn't buying stew meat at list price still cheaper per pound than on-sale steak?

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And, if a poor family is living on beans and rice 6 days out of 7 with oranges or apples for dessert and on Sunday want a whole chicken or a steak dinner I'm not going to get upset. That shows good planning and discipline and don't we want to encourage that?
No, it shows we're giving them too much money if they can both eat basic meals and splurge, as opposed to just eating basic meals throughout the week and Sunday too. If they want to splurge they can get a job and earn money for a splurge.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:06 AM
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"Market price" at the grocery store includes their whopping 4-5% profit margin. Given that most grocery stores are large national or regional chains, I think the economies of scale are already built in. They are feeding 80-90% of populace if we take out the SNAP part, so I'm not sure how you get more economy of scale with a smaller customer base.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:07 AM
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There's also the fact that 70% of SNAP recipients do in fact work. While I would prefer to eat healthy stir frys or soups/stews or casseroles for meals where I work the break room does not support actual cooking. When I worked on constructions sites the facilities were even more primitive, or even absent (some sites didn't have running water or even toilets - because we were there to install them) Some of that junk/convenience food EBT recipients buy is stuff that requires neither cooking/heating nor cooling for lunch purposes. If your working outdoors in 90 degree heat you need something that isn't going to go bad sitting in your vehicle a couple hours, and icepacks can only do so much. I might have a well-equipped kitchen, but I don't have access to it while at work.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:14 AM
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Considering the margins it might be more efficient to place restrictions such that a certain percent of the the EBT has to be used on certain foods. I'm not sure I'd agree to even this because it would probably emphasize price over nutrition. I wouldn't be completely against it if it did place an emphasis on nutrition, except that, just like the wall, it is not accomplishing anything and costing more.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:16 AM
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"Market price" at the grocery store includes their whopping 4-5% profit margin. Given that most grocery stores are large national or regional chains, I think the economies of scale are already built in. They are feeding 80-90% of populace if we take out the SNAP part, so I'm not sure how you get more economy of scale with a smaller customer base.
I'm making some large number of a small number of recipes using X, Y and Z ingredients as opposed to allowing someone to buy whatever they like at the same rate as everyone else pays. If I buy 10,000 lbs of beef, say, it's going to cost me less per pound than going out and buying a pound of beef...no? Same goes for basically everything else.

Seems obvious to me that you COULD do it this way, but you seem to think that wouldn't be the case.
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