Recently my senior English students completed an argumentative research assignment. The assignment was to find something in the community they felt needed to change, research it and present an argument for or against it. A group of students addressed the issue of food stamps, which is now one of the many federal programs threatened with substantial cuts. Their research led them to four fairly simple suggestions that would cut costs, yet not substantially increase the manpower needed to run the program. They are: require applicants to do applications face to face rather than online because reading body language is essential to determine if someone is lying or not; do not allow someone to automatically qualify because he/she says he is homeless; do not allow food stamps to be used for non-food items and non-nutritious items, and only accept food stamps at "real" grocery stores, not convenience stores where the prices are much higher.
When these students did comparative costs between convenience store prices and grocery stores, they found that in most cases, food stamps would go four-times further in a grocery store. They also suggested people receiving food stamps be given nutritional advice so that their purchases were for nutritionally dense foods, rather than soda, chips and non-nutritious foods. When the money was spent on foods using the nutritional guidelines( My Plate), a family could feed themselves with less money.
Their work was prompted from personal experience. Working at a convenience store, one young lady was riled by the amount of food stamps spent on non-food items. Another knew of many cases where people lied on their applications and then sold their foods stamps. Another was prompted to pursue this topic because she knew people who abused the program, but she also knew people who really needed assistance and were denied.
There is not an easy answer to the use and abuse of food stamps; however, as these students' research indicated, there are some immediate, cost effective measures that could be taken to reduce some of the costs and abuse.