Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Food Stamps Are Not For Starbucks!

A sign in the window of a Starbucks in Oregon.
Normally I don't listen to to Fox News but a recent story on Oregon's food stamp policy caught my attention. In a nutshell, people who have been issued Oregon's equivalent to food stamps – the Oregon Trail Card – can use their card to buy coffee and snacks at Starbucks counters inside Safeway grocery stores in the state. When questioned, a spokesperson for Safeway told Fox News the store made the change as 'an added convenience to customers'.

With this announcement, I'm thinking that Starbucks needs to be reminded that the food stamp program was created to help low-income families buy staples such as bread and milk and other healthy items. It was not – I repeat not – intended for specialty coffees and gourmet cakes.

Today, the average family on food stamps is allotted $133 per month per person, or a little more than $4 per day. Blow that on a frappuccino and that's one less day's worth of food.  Of course we all need to occasionally treat ourselves but if someone on food stamps wants a luxury item, they should do like the rest of us and save their money and buy it or do without - not abuse the system.

A treat for those on food stamps. $5.25 for paying customers.
If you think I'm being judgmental, that's because I am.  As a tax payer I reserve my right to be judgmental.  I totally support the food stamp program. I'm all for assisting low-income families, helping people get back on their feet and giving to the needy. Any one of us could fall on hard times and need help. Knowing that food stamps are an available option is comforting. 

What I find appalling is the large number of people (and corporations) who familiarize themselves with the loopholes and abuse the system. 

Consider this:
  • Currently in the United States 1 in 7 people are on food stamps. 
  • Since 2007, food stamp fraud has cost taxpayers over $100 million.
  • In Kansas City alone, food-stamp fraud was found to be costing taxpayers as much as $22 million per year. 
  • Several multimillion dollar lottery winners are receiving food stamps because lottery winnings are considered an asset, not income.
  • A store in Detroit was recently accused of selling the exotic drug khat in exchange for food-stamp benefits.
    Stories like these call to mind the welfare queens of the 1980s, people who regularly collected excessive welfare payments through fraud or manipulation. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.  The people who abuse the system take money away from those who are entitled and make the ones who really need the assistance (and use it properly) look bad.

    And I have to ask: Where are the conveniences for the middle class? The people who pay higher prices for everything. The ones who work two or more jobs to feed their families and pay their taxes. The ones who struggle to keep their homes and suffer the effects of corporate greed. We'd like some free coffee too!

    It seems that the rules don't apply to corporations and the wealthy, the money regularly flows to the poor and the middle class is expected be bear the costs while being denied benefits...or the conveniences.

    And that's just not right.

    What are your thoughts on using food stamps at Starbucks? Friend me on Facebook, find me on Twitter or email me at 


    1. I think it's a matter of perspective. I've been on food stamps for a few years. I'm a disabled vet and can not hold a job. I'm also in my 60's. No one would hire me if I could work.
      Now to my point-- I cook. I cook darn well. I do not buy 'prepared' food and rarely buy frozen 'heat and eat' stuff. I bake and cook everything I want to eat. Because of this, I rarely "run out" of my food stamps. I save a tremendous amout of money by careful shopping and menu planning. Sure, it takes me a lot of time to cook as I have physical issues while I cook, especially standing. But I have the time. If it takes me twice as long to get 'er done, who cares ? I'm saving money like crazy.

      So.... yeah, I celebrate. Positive mental health is something I cherish. My ability to feel good about myself and ENJOY the fact that I'm alive is sometimes bolstered with a purchase of a coffee or a donut. Maybe once a month I'll get a cook-at-home pizza. WTF !? I enjoy a day off from cooking.
      Even though I'm poor, by any standards, I still have feelings and try to keep up a sense of self-worth. Like normal folks, I do NEED treats. We all do. We all like feeling good about something ! For those out there that have never missed a meal, I just have to say that my perspective is different.. that's all. To me, having the ability to feed myself IS a big deal. I missed so many meals in the last 10 years that I am very focused on food.
      I understand that your blog probably isn't targetting me. I am well aware of food stamp abuse and fraud. I watch folks (who use food stamps) buy pure junk. Cases of soda pop and candy. It's disgusting. WTF are these people thinking ?
      Anyway.. I just wanted to say that there are a few folks, on food stamps, that are responsible and truly are grateful that, because of this blessing, can eat a decent diet,
      Please don't begrudge me a cup of coffee. To me, I earned it.

    2. Anonymous - Thank you for your comment. You are correct, I am not targeting you or any people who use food stamps as they were intended. The blog was directed towards people who abuse food stamps and the large corporations which allow this practice.

    3. Danielle, I agree that there is a lot of food stamp abuse out there, but I don't consider a person's food choices abuse. I don't really think it's anyone's business. My mother recently started getting food stamps. The truth is she has probably qualified for them for most of her life, but her pride would not let her go there. I filled some kind of paperwork out for her and the county got wind of her meager income. They started sending her letters saying that she qualified for food stamps. It took her six months to drop her pride and accept them. She only did it because I do her grocery shopping. Believe me, she would be too ashamed to use them if she had to do her own shopping. She loves ice cream, and I get it for her with her food stamps. I also supplement her food bill with my own money. I say let's not begrudge poor people who really need the help a Starbucks coffee now and then. Now, it's another thing altogether if people who don't need food stamps are receiving them. That's who we should be focusing on.

    4. The whole food stamp program just bothers me as an ex-grocery store employee. I would see people driving cars newer than mine, with fresh weaves, professionally done acrylics, brand name clothes, and cell phones pulling out their food stamp cards. I've seen people come in with $2100 worth of food stamps, people coming in to buy $40 bags of scampies, or $300 worth of chips and cookies and soda. Or just come in and sell their benefits for cash. Things like that have made me generally distrustful of food stamps in general, especially when I see an elderly woman who truly seems to need the food buying old bread and dented cans because she only gets $10 a month.

    5. I think instead of foodstamps they should give out boxes of food!