Posts Tagged ‘food stamps’

“Poor People Can’t Cook,” and Other Myths

July 22, 2014

In 2013, over 47 million Americans depended on food stamps to buy their groceries. Those food stamps turn out to be worth about $5 or $6 per day, per person.

Not a lot to live on—but better than nothing?

Canada does not have a food stamp program. Canada does not have a national school breakfast or lunch (or supper or brunch or snack) program. We are one of the few “First World” countries without a formal, national nutrition assistance program. Non-governmental strategic policy papers exist, but as such papers typically do, they promote particular interests and agendas.

Why not food stamps?

The view from Canada is that we don’t need specific nutritional programs because our social assistance programs are good enough. Instead of funding food stamps, or school lunches, we give families money–through Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)—and let them make their own food and other choices. This could be a more dignified, less paternalistic way to support individuals real freedom—and opportunities—to choose how they want to live.

Now, if our social assistance programs were empowering, i.e. established some equality of opportunity, we wouldn’t see poor health outcomes clustering around particular demographics. It’s true that we start with different abilities and inclinations, and so even in a system of equal opportunities we wouldn’t see equal outcomes. But when certain groups consistently and predictably fall below average on basic measures like health, or food security, or educational attainment, we can and should conclude that those groups face additional obstacles, or less-than-equal opportunities.

And we should do something about it. (more…)