Sunday, May 22, 2011

Close, but......

Latoya Peterson at Racialicious has a pretty good post about If You Haven’t Been On Food Stamps, Stop Trying to Influence Government Policy and what follows is going to be a bit of minor quibbling because I think she's on the right track.

Food stamps, per the law that created them, are supposed to provide an EMERGENCY food budget only. Think of the food stamp allotment as similar to minimum wage. It is by no means enough for you to live on healthily for an extended period of time. It is just enough to keep you from the most severe effects of malnutrition and hunger, like minimum wage is just enough to keep you above the poverty level but not enough to provide the basics for an extended period of time. Both of these assume that individuals will only be at that level for a short period of time before improving. We all know that there are lots of people who never advance from minimum wage jobs or who qualify for and require food stamps for extended (years, decades) periods.

Not having enough money to eat healthily while on food stamps is then an institutional problem and not a problem with individual choice. It can only be fixed by the institution. Even if you once knew a person who ate nothing but organic locally sourced fresh veg and meat and whole grains while feeding a family of 10 on foodstamps and cullings from her personal garden. That would be an exceptional INDIVIDUAL case and not a viable solution to the INSTITUTIONAL problem of emergency food assistance not being enough to eat healthily over the long haul.

And Peterson seems to get that, mostly. But then the end of the post includes a bunch of links about how to eat healthy on food stamps. It changes to focus back to bootstrapping individualism instead of social justice institutionalism. While those links may be mildly helpful for a few food stamp participants, they water down the message of institutional change.

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