Food Stamps Become Lucrative Biz
SEPTEMBER 06, 2011
A government entitlement program heavily promoted by the Obama Administration to eradicate “food insecure households” is doling out so much money that a growing number of private businesses are competing for a piece of the lucrative pie.At stake are nearly $65 billion distributed annually to food-stamp recipients by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The number has skyrocketed in the last few years (from $28.5 billion in 2005 to $64.7 billion in 2010) in part because the Obama Administration has spent millions of dollars to recruit more participants and reduce the “stigma” associated with food stamps, even as the number surged without taxpayer-funded publicity campaigns.Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, claims that increasing the number of food-stamp recipients actually helps the economy, strengthens communities and creates jobs. The USDA has cited some unknown “research” that shows every $5 in new food-stamp benefits actually generates as much as $9 in economic activity. The source of the research has never been revealed by the agency.Now so many people get food stamps in the U.S. that a growing number of businesses—including gas stations, dollar discount stores and pharmacies—are accepting them, according to a national newspaper report. Even restaurants, which don’t participate in the program, are fighting for a piece of the action, according to federal lobbying records cited in the story.With few exceptions, federal rules prohibit food stamps from being cashed in for prepared foods, but the pot has gotten large enough to attract many eateries, especially fast-food chains. A handful of states let food stamps purchase prepared meals to accommodate the homeless, elderly and disabled and many want the practice to be widespread.For instance, California has a special “Restaurant Meals Program” that lets food stamps buy prepared foods. Ironically, virtually all of the participating eateries sell the sort of unhealthy cuisine that Michelle Obama has declared war against. The First Lady believes that fast-food chains are largely to blame for an obesity epidemic in America’s inner cities.In an interesting twist, Michelle Obama’s $4.5 billion measure to revolutionize the inner-city diet by countering fast-food eateries is being carried out by the USDA. Under the First Lady’s brilliant plan taxpayers are providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in so-called “food deserts” infested with fast-food chains.
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