Food Stamps

Shopkeeper Stories at Lexington Market in Baltimore USA

Lunch hour at the Lexington Market in Baltimore (USA)

Many stalls at Lexington Market (Baltimore, USA) display bright signs declaring that they accept “Food Stamps” (or the “Independence Card” — visible in the earlier post with the butcher.)

Misconceptions about social welfare float loosely in public conversations: who receives welfare, why they receive welfare, should they receive it, and how much.

About 1 in 7 Americans receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). More than half the recipients are children and the elderly and, amongst the participants, 43% are white, 33% are African-American, and 19% are Hispanic. The eligibility is based on household income.

In 1993, Maryland was the first state to replace food coupons with electronic debit cards. These debit cards lend more dignity to beneficiaries since it resembles a regular debit card rather than using bright paper chits, while also making it easier for the government to monitor how the card is used. 

In 2013, people in the food stamp program received on average of $133 a month (about $4 a day) with celebrities getting into the ‘game’ of trying to survive on the food stamp budget– and failing miserably.

The food welfare system is riddled with controversy and condescension. Just recently, the news exploded when a Republican in Missouri proposed to ban people from buying steak and seafood with their food stamps because he considers it to be a luxury that the poor should not be entitled to afford.

Proposals of this sort reveal a stunning oblivion to the ground. With a tight budget to stretch between basic necessities such as rent, food, healthcare, daycare, educational supplies, transportation, and spending time at their work shifts (most families in the United States cannot survive on welfare alone), one wonders whether we should be stressed about whether the poor should be allowed to eat steak.

You can also connect with Shopkeeper Stories on Facebook and Instagram @ShopkeeperStories to see vibrant photographs of shopkeepers with their trades from all around the world.

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