March 26, 2008

More Food Stamp Follies, This Time from the Columbus Dispatch

Here we go again.

A March 22 Columbus Dispatch report by Catherine Candisky on increased Food Stamp usage in Ohio repeats the tired “$1 per meal for food” canard:

“Food stamps provide only about $1 per person, per meal. Who in the world is buying groceries with that?” asked Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food Bank.

On average, food stamps are now providing less than two weeks of groceries.

“There’s the presumption that folks have the cash to make up the rest. Well, they don’t” …..

Sigh. As noted time, and time, and time, and time again, the benefits (called “Maximum Allotments” by the government) for families with no other resources are higher (graphic link is to related page at the USDA web site):


That’s more than $1 per person per meal — 34%-78% more, depending on family size.

Any reduction in the benefit amount is arrived at, not based on a “presumption,” but after taking into account resources that beneficiaries are expected to spend on food out of their own income and assets, and is based on an analysis of each person’s or family’s situation. The USDA web site link describes the process in more detail.

Astute observers who go back to previous links will notice that the gross benefit levels above are higher than those at previous posts by 4.4%-5.0%. That’s because Food Stamp benefits, like many other federal program benefits, are indexed for inflation, as are the income eligibility levels. The answer to this FAQ question (#8; “How is each household’s food stamp allotment determined?”) indicates that annual adjustments are based on changes in food costs, and not general inflation.

As to Lisa Hamler-Fugitt’s “Who in the world is buying groceries with that?” — Though there are surely other examples, the most visible answer to her question is Colorado couple Ari and Jennifer Armstrong. Read how they did it, Lisa, and take notes if necessary. They did nothing that the average person would consider heroic or extraordinary, and got through a 31-day month spending $159.04 — roughly 86 cents per person per meal. That’s 14% less than the net benefit, and a whopping 44% less than the gross benefit for a family size of two was at the time.

Those who have a problem with benefit levels need to tell us what, if anything, is wrong with the formulas, and work with federal legislators to change them. But instead of doing that constructive work, politicians and advocates have spent almost a year taking part in media-grandstanding “Food Stamp Challenges” and other silly exercises, all based on the bogus assumption, without providing any proof, that the net benefit is all that participants have for food. By insisting on (excuse the expression) feeding us this garbage, they’ve squandered their credibility. If they really believe that Food Stamp recipients are being shortchanged, they have, by posturing on a false premise, helped to perpetuate that situation, and have done nothing to alleviate it.

It’s also interesting to note that in all of the reporting I’ve seen on this issue in almost a year, I recall no mention of the fact that gross benefits go up automatically every year. But I shouldn’t be surprised; a fact like that gets in the way of an agenda-driven story.

Cross-posted at


ADDENDUM: Memo to the Dispatch — The unemployment rate in Ohio at the end of January, the latest info available, was really 5.5%, not the 5.3% your paper reported (not excerpted above).


1 Comment

  1. The probably would have listed at at 5.7 if the governor was a Republican.

    Comment by Ben Keeler — March 26, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

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