Food Stamp /Lobster and Steak

It occurs to me that if these people were capable of handling their lives wisely, they would not be getting food stamps.

One thing to consider is that many people on public assistance may never have been taught the basics of good nutrition. Maybe they have no idea how to cook anything that doesn’t have instructions printed on the box. And as tdn says, ‘junk food’ fills you up better than some healthy food.

You mention macaroni and cheese. This has got to be one of the most unhealthy things you can eat. (Just my opinion, though.) Too many carbs, too much fat. But it’s cheap, and it’s filling. Ramen is also loaded with fat, but it is also cheap.

There are a lot of factors that go into what one chooses to buy at the store, and I don’t know if I can address them in a coherent manner; but I’ll take a stab at it.

Imagine a Welfare Mother. She’s getting public assistance, but it’s just enough to get by. Imagine that she’s not well educated. She probably has low self-esteem issues. She has to feed her kids on a very limited budget. Who knows how long she’s been in the ‘welfare cycle’? Was she raised in a welfare home? Or did she get married just out of high school to some Loser (with a capital L), have kids, and then get left on her own? It’s quite possible that she just fucking lazy. Maybe not. You don’t know anything about the person in line in front of you. Maybe she’s given up. She’s been beaten so low that she doesn’t know any other way of life and has accepted her lot.

She goes to the market. She can buy a bit of meat, some fresh vegetables, eggs, rice… whatever. She can use her limited funds to cook a healthy meal for herself and her kids. But she’s beaten. It’s so much easier to grab a box of Insta-Meal-Inna-Box. And what about the snacks? I think it’s been shown, although I have no cites, that sweets make people feel better. Are Twinkies and Ding Dong’s healthy? No, of course not. But they taste good (to some people) and they’re more satisfying than an apple. Doritos are more satisfying than a carrot.

What I’m saying is that these people are probably not laughing up their sleeves and saying, ‘Hahaha! I’m buying junk food on the Public’s dime!’ They probably just don’t know any better.

If our education system were better, then many of these people might have the tools they need to get jobs. If our health care system were better, then maybe they could go to a nutritionist for help with planning their meals. If we made a real effort to curb substance abuse instead of locking people up, then maybe some of the people who have addiction problems would get off drugs. If jobs weren’t outsourced (or if the government offered tax incentives to companies that kept jobs within the country, instead of offering tax incentives that encourage outsourcing), then maybe it would be easier for people to find employment. If we took better care of people with mental issues, then maybe they could get the medication and counselling they need and become productive.

Or not. There are people – and I’ve met some – who are perfectly happy to take public assistance and do whatever it is they do (look after their kids, sit around and watch TV, party with friends, etc.). There are people who abuse the system. There are people, for example, who have learnt how to buy ‘acceptable’ items with food stamps, return them to stores for cash, and then buy cigarettes and alcohol with the money. It’s never going to be perfect.

On the other hand, I personally know a woman who was on welfare who turned her life around. This happened when I was a kid, and I don’t know all of the specifics; but here’s the gist of it: She was the divorced mother of four. She had no choice but to accept public assistance. She used the money to pay her rent and to buy food for herself and her kids. (This may have been before food stamps existed – I don’t know.) In the meantime she enrolled in a community college and learned about computers. She got a job with a defense contractor, and eventually worked her way up into a management position. Not bad for a welfare mom. Though probably an exception, or at least an example of a small percentage of welfare recipients, this is the way the system is supposed to work.

Now about the steak and lobster. I rarely bought lobster when I was employed. I’m not on welfare or receiving food stamps, but if I were I would not be buying lobster. I think I might be a little miffed if I saw someone buying lobster with food stamps. But the stamps are to buy food. Maybe this person had some stamps left over from the previous month and decided to splurge. Should they splurge in their situations? No. But when you have no hope, it’s good to ‘do something special’ once in a while. Steak is cheaper than lobster. How often does this person buy steak? Every day? Once a week? Once a month? You don’t know. I doubt that food stamps woould be enough for a steady diet of steak and lobster. Sometimes you just need meat. (Unless you’re a vegetarian, of course.)

I attended a seminar last week for prospective care salesmen. (There’s a thread about it in MPSIMS.) One of the things that we were told is that we should treat everyone we meet in life as if they would be dead by midnight. The lecturer told a story about when he was in Pennsylvania. He was sick, and had to give a presentation the next day. He was very, very sick. The nearest clinic was about five miles away in another state. (Atlantic City? I don’t remember, and my geographic knowledge of the East Coast is poor.) Since he’d had this infection many times before, he knew that all he needed was some antibiotics. That’s it. Just have a doctor look at him, get some pills, and he’d be okay for his big presentation. There was a guy in the ER who had cut himself cooking. He was yelling, ‘OMYGOD! OMYGOD! OMYGOD!’ over and over. When the man had been taken care of, he kept calling the nurse back to chat. The lecturer was going nuts. He wanted to yell ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP! I WANT MY PILLS!’ Then he remembered the advice that he’d recently been given to treat everyone as if they’d be dead by midnight. He calmed down. Here’s a guy who’s in pain, and he felt he was being selfish because he knew nothing about him and was only concerned with getting his own problem taken care of.

He went over to the old Black man to ask him how he was doing. He chatted a bit and then went back to his bed to be treated. As the man left, he went to the lecturer to tell him thanks for being so kind. He’d never had a White stranger treat him so well.

That same night, after getting his meds and returning to his hotel room, the lecturer got a call from a friend. She was having trouble with her mentally-abusive husband and needed someone to talk to. Mr. L. was groggy and sick, and he asked her to call him later. Then he realised that here was a friend who was asking for help at three in the morning, and he was brushing her off. He imagined she’d be dead by midnight and talked to her. (The woman and her husband got counselling, and apparently fixed their problem.)

Being kind to a total stranger who had been annoying him, and helping a friend in need even though he was very sick made the lecturer feel good. He’d done a couple of good deeds. All because he dropped his stereotypical preconceptions and imagined these people would be dead by midnight.

Is it likely that the person in the market who is buying steak and lobster with food stamps will die in a few hours? Of course not. But it could happen. They might be run over by a speeding ice cream truck. A meteorite may land on their head. Anything could happen. So consider: That steak and lobster dinner that you’re begrudging someone may be their last meal.

Some people really don’t deserve respect; but if we treat people – even the undeserving ones – with respect and consideration, we just might make the world a better place.

Bullshit, I have walked in those shoe’s I have barely got by many times in my past. Spagetti is VERY cheap as I have learned as our many many other meals you can make without having to resort to “junk” food diets. I had to make just plain salted noodles for dinner more then once. If they give enough to people where they can always afford the 3.95 Doritos and not have to buy the 99 cent store brand alternative they get to much!

Wow. I can tell you’ve never really been poor, LookingAround. When I was poor, and jobless, and desperate, I couldn’t even afford to shop at a grocery store. But guess what I could afford? I could afford to eat at the local mini-mart. I could afford to eat at fast food restaurants. Sure I packed on the weight. Sure I was being unhealthy. Tough, because that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Let people decide for themselves what is best for them and theirs. You concentrate on stomaching that store-brand Mac and Cheese, and let them have maybe a little bit of the good stuff every once and a while to satisfy them. Being poor and on assistance sucks and it saps the soul. Would you really deny them what little pleasure they can have?


Excellent post, very excellent post.

I’ve been poorer then most, as I stated in another thread about my life I left home at 16.
I know poor, I also know about 1000 ways to make a potato meal. Pleasure is something earned not something given.

Go out shovel your neighbors walk use that money to purchase a nice dinner out if thats your pleasure. There is always a way to get a pleasure, none of them handed to you.

Well, it’s already been explained six ways from Sunday, but let me try a different tack: You, as a taxpayer from Omaha, have no idea what the circumstances are of the single mom in Harlem. You don’t know how her local stores might be gouging for certain products, or whether she has a working refridgerator, or what her kids will and will not eat. You don’t know what particular food allergies she might have, or what her doctor told her not to eat, or what products might or might not be fresh in her area. In short, you have no clue at all as to how she should spend that money, and yet you want to sit in your comfy suburban home and complain that your tax dollars should only be going for beans and corn. It’s absurd to dictate what other people must eat, no matter who pays for it.

Would you take someone out for dinner, then insist that because you’re paying for it, your guest must get the scallops?

Anyhoo, I’m a little curious as to where people come from politically on this. Any sentence that starts “It’s my tax dollars” sounds like a conservative rant, but it’s followed up by a “more government intrusion” attitude, which makes it sound like contradictory coservative tripe. Then again, I can see some dumb liberals arguing the same point. It’s a wrong point either way.

Yes, great post, Johnny L.A.

For what it’s worth, there’s currently an interesting and relevent thread going in GQ: Explain Food Stamps to a limey - some questions…

One other factor that I am just going to throw out for consideration: How do you think that the companies that manufacture so-called junk food would react if the federal government defined their products as such? Do you think it possible that there just might be some lobbying efforts to prevent this from happening?

I really think that this is just another apparition of the belief, popular with some assholes, that poor people ought to suffer. After all, they are poor because of their own failings, their own shortcomings, their own moral failings, and so God has apportioned to them suffering for these faults. If they wish to cease suffering, they should take positive, affirmative steps to repair their faults, at which point they will magically be transported to a better estate with less suffering.

In other words, if you’re poor, it’s your own fault, and if society makes it too easy to be poor you’ll never have any reason to fix your own faults. Therefore, it is God’s will that the poor should suffer, and who are we to question God’s will?

Another question-if someonen’s buying lobster, well, fresh lobster is fresh, and isn’t it healthier than peanut butter and jelly or mac and cheese?

I love it when people judge entire populations on their limited experiences. “When I was poor, we were so poor that I couldn’t afford SOCKS! I had to put holey mittens on my feet instead!” I really get a kick out of it.

So for all you’ve been through, instead of understanding poverty a little better, you instead are bolstered with a false sense of smug superiority because they’re just lazy or stupid or wasteful.(“If I did it, why can’t they”?) You really think a 45 year old mother of 5 who is working 2 shitty jobs to pay rent and keep her children clothed has the time, the strength or the wherewithall to go out in the frozen morning and offer to shovel neighboring driveways? Or maybe she should pimp her young children out for the $5 or $10 that won’t pay for a meal for all 6 of them?

People like you confuse me.


I don’t have any problem with food stamps, I don’t even have any problem with junk food. What I have big problems with are luxury food items. I am sorry, I don’t care how much you want a “pick me up”, if you’re sucking on the public tit, you don’t get to suck on lobster and shrimp. Food stamps shouldn’t pay for ANY meat that costs more than $5.99/lb, period. The idea is to help poor people get good, nutritious food in their bellies rather than going hungry, not to allow them to gorge on luxury food items at the public’s expense.

How is it that we’re coming from opposite ends of this debate, and yet I also applaud Johnny’s post? :dubious:

As a hijack, let me state that sometimes lobster is more economical than steak. A bad steak is inexpensive, but anything you’d really want to eat is around $11 per pound. Shrimp is about the same. But lobster is only $7.99 per pound, and sometimes it’s on sale.

Back on topic: Back in my poor days, there were only two places to shop that weren’t absurdly far away. One was a convenience store, the other was an organic food store. Both were way overpriced.

At the convenience store, your best bet was prepackaged foods. Anything organic was of questionable freshness (and sometimes, there was no question – it was clearly rotten).

At the organic store, everything was organic, pesticide-free, hormone free, and preservative free. Therefore, the food was hardly free! And sometimes went bad quickly. And they wouldn’t take food stamps.

In that case, what should the government force me to do?

Yet when people that agree with your stand use the same tactics its okay for them right. (Using there past as an example of how my point is wrong)

If that mother of 5 would of stopped and used contraceptives, had an abortion, not had that many kids perhaps she would be okay with ONE job and have the time to shovel a walk for some extra money!

My wife and I have 2 kids, we decided two kids where all she or I could afford if something happens to either one of us the other would still be okay with two kids, use your fucking brains and don’t depend on social services to be there and this would not happen nearly as often.

People like you confuse me.

But this thread was not started to be an attack on welfare, because I never said I disagreed with government help, I disagree with how it is used!

Not true. A pound of steak is a pound of edible flood, a 1 lb lobster yealds less than 1/2 lb of meat. I have to give you credit for your hubris, though. I never thought I’d see anyone trying to defend lobster for poor folks as an economical solution. :eek: :rolleyes:

Almost as well as Sanctimonious Prick 101 paid off for you. So Yay for you, too!

It’s true that freedom also requires that we let others make bad choices or at least choices we wouldn’t make ourselves.

A lot of people on food stamps probably don’t really know a lot about nutrition and the right kinds of foods to buy. Sure, I would know how to take dry beans and make a cheap meal, but not everyone does.

I think the steak/lobster thing is completely exaggerated as well. I cashiered for about three years in high school and I do not remember the food stamp customers buying such things. Yes, they did seem to buy more junk food than I thought was proper, but hell, what did I know at age 16? What do any of us know about the lives of other people?

Personally, I think it would be great if they taught more nutrition classes starting in elementary school and continuing on up. And that goes for “Home Ec” or whatever they’re calling it now as well. Boys and girls should be taught the basics of cooking–how to take that bag of dry lentils and turn it into a stew by adding a few simple ingredients.

For the poor kids it’s going to come in very handy, and for the soon-to-be starving college kids it’s going to benefit them as well. And obviously, when they are full-fledged adults, if they find themselves on the dole, they’ll know better what to use the stamps for.

I had to look it up because I am dumb :slight_smile:

As I am not giving false appearance, I do not pretend, I am not deceiving, I am not fabricating what happens nor imagining it. I suppose there is another meaning I missed in my 101 course?

So are we going to have nutrition and cooking classes for food stampers?
Are we going to outfit them with a kitchen?
When I shop for food I take into account;

What I want to eat.

What I can afford to buy.

What I can cook.

What I can cook in my tiny kitchen with my limited equipment.
Bacically it is a damn shame that people with food stamps don’t eat better. But taking away the food stamps is not a solution.