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Restricting Food Stamps Use at Farmers’ Markets Is One More Way To Hurt the Poor

| July 22, 2018

farmers markets food stamps

Not for the poor. (© FlaglerLive)

Bu Jill Richardson

This week, I thought I would write about food stamps and farmers markets.


People on food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), receive their benefits on a card that can be read like a credit card. Crucial to allowing recipients to use food stamps at farmers markets are card readers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture just canceled its contract with the company that makes the card readers. As a result, food stamp recipients will likely lose the ability to use food stamps at farmers markets.

I was all set to write about this terrible mix-up. But then I realized it’s not the part I really care about.

Of course, food stamp recipients should be able to shop at farmers markets. But it’s a tiny part of a much bigger issue.

The diets of food stamp recipients lie at the intersection of two issues: our food system and economic inequality.

On one hand, you have a system of food that uses industrial methods to produce a cheap and abundant but often unhealthy food supply. Healthier foods tend to cost more, whereas junk food is cheap. And low-income neighborhoods often lack outlets that sell healthy food in the first place.

The answer to this isn’t to pay farmers less. Farmers are struggling — and if anything, higher prices paid to farmers for food and fiber would benefit rural communities in much needed ways.

other-wordsThe other way to help the diets of low-income people is to reduce poverty and inequality. Ideally, this will require large scale social change.

For example, schools in Detroit are so bad that students are suing the state because they weren’t taught to read. How is a kid who graduates from a school like that, even the smartest and most motivated kid, able to keep up with one who graduated from school that actually teaches its students?

In my perfect world, we’d find a way to ensure all Americans have an excellent education, affordable health care (including mental health care), affordable housing, and safe cities in which they don’t have to fear that calling the police will result in their own victimization. Workers will be able to organize to defend their rights as well.

In that world, fewer people would live in poverty, and more could afford good food.

One quick and efficient way to help reduce poverty is to raise the minimum wage. The 1968 minimum wage would be equivalent to $10.90 in 2015 dollars. The national minimum wage is only $7.25. Workers have lost ground over the last 50 years.

Meanwhile, since the early 1970s, as workers’ wages stagnated or grew slowly, productivity more than doubled.

Workers today do more than they did five decades ago but they make less money. The profits for the increased productivity go to the top 1 percent.

Accepting food stamps at a farmers market is nice. No doubt it’s more than nice for those on food stamps who shop at farmers markets. That contracting snafu should be fixed.

But to really help all Americans access fresh, healthy food, we need to either fix the food system or address economic inequality. Or, better yet, both.

jill richardson other words flaglerlive Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org. 

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22 Responses for “Restricting Food Stamps Use at Farmers’ Markets Is One More Way To Hurt the Poor”

  1. Richard says:

    Here we go once again! Jill’s liberal push for socialism and economic equality. Just like Robin Hood, steal from the wealthy and give to the poor. Once the poor find out that they don’t have to work for their food or anything else for that matter as it will now be handed to them on a Golden Platter, they will be cheering all the way to the bank! I’d sure like to hear how she plans to accomplish her wishes. All talk and little action. She be better served by proof reading her commentary for spelling errors or use a spellchecker.

  2. Lou says:

    The trumptrolls will call you names to publish this.
    Keep up the good work Pierre.
    By a “commonsense progressive”

  3. Really says:

    So geez maybe we should deliver it, prepare the food, and then clean up after for them. Then put together a menu smh

  4. Kathy says:

    Go ahead, take away their healthy options. That’s really sad.

  5. woodchuck says:

    If there wasn’t blatant abuse in the past,it may not be a problem now.ALL welfare recipients should be drug tested.

  6. Sherry says:

    An excellent article, Jill.

    However, you neglected to point out that cheap “junk food” often leads to obesity and terrible diseases such as Diabetes. There is an important economic impact of unhealthy diets. Such unhealthy eating creates unhealthy people, and unhealthy people place an “avoidable” burden on tax payers in the form of higher health costs, poorer educational achievement, and less work place productivity.

    Instead of restricting access to fresh fruits and vegetables, our government should do everything in its power to encourage “healthy” nutrition for “ALL” citizens!

  7. Dave says:

    You should only be allowed to buy healthy food with food stamps, no chips and cookies and crackers, no sugar cereals, no processed food at all, no soda ,or sugar juice, no candy, only organic meats, fresh produce, if people need assistance, they should be blessed with only healthy foods. Not unhealthy food that sends people into the doctors.

  8. Lou says:

    Could someone smart tell me the difference between a “hard earned $” and the $ I found on the ground and I spend it with a farmer. Is the hard earned $ means more to the farmer than the found $?

  9. Percy's mother says:

    Sherry, one can go into ANY grocery store and find “healthy options” in the way of fresh fruit and produce.

    By the way, if you walk through ANY grocery store where healthy options are readily available for ALL, 98% of the people pushing their carts look ILL, unhealthy and plod along in zombie-like fashion.

    CHOICE is the main determinate of health.

    Most of the population CHOOSE to eat unhealthy and therefore become unhealthy with a myriad of degenerative diseases which they think they have no control over.

  10. Bob says:

    Sure can. A hard earned dollar is earned by providing human capital to produce goods or services that people consume. A dollar found on the ground was not earned by producing anything to benefit anyone but the person who found it.

  11. Lou says:

    Bob, the difference between the two dollars is your “feeling” about the earned $.
    The farmer can’t see any difference between the two.
    You can test it. Give your hard earned dollar to the farmer and see if he returns more merchandise to you than when you give him a “found” $.
    Let us know the result of your experience.

  12. Robin says:

    So buy fresh fruits and vegetables with food stamps at the grocery store. Simple.

  13. Sherry says:

    Oh. . . and, BTW. . . it is quite cynical and untrue to say that most people “choose” to eat unhealthy food. It’s more a matter of the combination of several factors. . . for example:

    1. Costs- Unhealthy food is often cheaper
    2. Marketing and Advertising- Compare frequency of ads for processed/fast foods compared to fresh
    3. Education- Even our schools do not do enough to train people to “cook” and eat healthy
    4. Convenience- Prepared “FAST” foods are much more convenient when the adults are holding down 2 jobs to make ends meet.

  14. Really says:

    But Lou remember” no such thing as a free anything” and the ole present value of $$ principle a dollar in your pocket today is worth more than one tomorrow so spend it….

  15. Mmsparkcity says:

    I manage to find all kinds of healthy foods at the grocery store when paying for my groceries. I have also been behind food stamp users and many times the carts are full of junk while their kids are talking on cell phones. Place rules restrictions on what can be purchased.

  16. Nancy N. says:

    Y’all can’t have it both ways, people. You can’t say that you want food stamp recipients to use their dollars wisely and eat healthy…and then ask “what’s the big deal” when a program that helps them do that is shut down.

    Farmer’s market produce is usually cheaper and better quality than you’ll find in your local grocery store. Purchases made there support local growers. What’s not to like about a program like that? It’s a win for everyone.

  17. Dave says:

    Farmers markets are really cool and I love them ,but usually the vegetables and fruit found there is being sold cheap because it either is going bad soon ,or it’s the produce that couldn’t pass inspection to get into stores like for example it’s too small or not the right color

  18. RP says:

    I will say one thing, those food stamps are all that keeps the rest of us safe. Take away their food stamps and they will hit the streets in mass taking stuff because they are hungry. Believe me when theres no food no money and the child says mommy I’m hungry, it will be the mansions door being kicked in for the food to be had.

    Im not a welfare recipient and can’t stand when i see someone pull out a snap card and pay for a whole cart of groceries, when I am standing here with my little basket only half full as thats what i can afford to eat. Meanwhile theres a stack of t-bones and all kinds of goodies in that big cart. Must be nice to eat like that for free. Then again if i did i reckon i would be 300lbs like her. hahaha

    at any rate the point is if you don’t give it to them they will take it before they work for it. And then we have to pay to catch them and incarcerate them. I think the food stamps are probably a lot cheaper ?

  19. Bob says:

    i agree that the farmer does not care how he is paid as long as it is cash. He has no Idea how you earned that dollar in the first place. It compensates him for his work and he has no right to question how it was “earned”. That is up to the government to decide whether you earned it or not and they have every right to determine how you spend it.

  20. Lou says:

    Doing community service for the foodstamp would be one solution. If the program is a success, the same people who complained would want to PRIVATIZE the program. Union members would also oppose such a program.
    Feel good about yourself and leave others alone in peace.

  21. Agkistrodon says:

    @RP, Same can be said for most anything. But it is simply NOT true. Kinda like saying “well, we should just stop enforcing the law and jailing people” because , “When they get out, they’ll be really mad”. That is a fool’s statement. When one has to choose between getting of their duff and working, or getting “free” stuff, Some will take the “Free stuff” every day of the week and twice on Sunday. BTW that stuff is FAR from Free. Why should people who work, give up theirs, for those who do not want to work. That should be the question you ask.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The “Farmer’s Market” is a Farmer’s Market in name only. 99% of these vendors buy wholesale from state farmers markets and sell retail to citizens, almost none of the produce comes from local growers fresh off the farm. It is Summer right now here in Flagler County, no commercial farms are growing any vegetables right now. It is too hot and to many insects to contend with. Most of the produce you are buying now is coming from northern states like Michigan, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, etc.. The produce is generally the same produce trucked in to supply the supermarkets. In the winter the farmers in Florida supply the northern states and truck their produce right back north. If you use Food Stamps to buy vegetables at the Supermarket, you should be able to buy vegetables at the so called “Farmers Markets” as well. What’s the difference? This sounds like the big supermarket chain stores are behind this move to try and get rid of some competition in the selling of produce.

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