Gourmet Eating With Food Stamps

NPP Pressroom

Decline of the Empire


Every month the BLS announces the latest the unemployment number. Every quarter, the BEA tells us what GDP was in the previous quarter. These are the headline numbers, the ones you're most likely to hear about. A statistic you're not likely to see on the Front Page is the number of Americans receiving food stamps participating in the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). Reuters, May 11 — Food stamps are the primary federal anti-hunger program, helping poor people buy food. Enrollment is highest during times of economic distress. The jobless rate was 9.9 percent, the government said on Friday. The Agriculture Department said 39.68 million people, or 1 in 8 Americans, were enrolled for food stamps during February, an increase of 260,000 from January. USDA updated its figures on Wednesday. "This is the highest share of the U.S. population on SNAP/food stamps," said the anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center, using the new name for food stamps, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). "Research suggests that one in three eligible people are not receiving ... benefits." Enrollment has set a record each month since reaching 31.78 million in December 2008. USDA estimates enrollment will average 40.5 million people this fiscal year, which ends Sept 30, at a cost of up to $59 billion. For fiscal 2011, average enrollment is forecast for 43.3 million people. Another month, another record number of Americans receiving assistance. As far as I could see, President Obama had nothing to say about the new record. Nobody in his Council of Economic Advisors found the time to make a comment, or perhaps they didn't feel the need to comment. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had nothing to say either, undoubtedly because his sole mandate is to transfer crisp, newly printed dollars to Too-Big-To-Fail banks. (OK, I admit it, that was a cheap shot.) Reuters notes that research suggests that one in three eligible people are not receiving benefits. That's actually old news. This graphic is based on a 2004 study. Overall, 50.2 percent of the nation's qualified poor received food stamps in 2004, according to the study by the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research group that examines the local impact of federal budget policies. "We've got over 35 million people in this country struggling to get enough food to eat, and 50 percent of all low-income people are not receiving the benefit that is intended to alleviate this food insecurity," said Greg Speeter, the project's executive director. "While the food-stamp program provides a vital service, clearly too many people are still going without. About 40 million people are enrolled in SNAP, but one in three Americans eligible for food stamps are not receiving assistance. This implies that an additional 20 million people could be added to the rolls. That's about 60 million altogether, but according to the National Priorities Project, there were only 35 million eligible people in 2004. Americans don't produce nearly as much stuff as we once did, but we're producing poor people like crazy! How well can a family of four eat on just $68.88 a week? For more than 38 39.7 million Americans, it's more than a matter of conjecture... At the end of last year, roughly 1 in 8 Americans received food stamps, the highest rate ever, according to Lisa Pino, the program's deputy administrator. During the past two years alone, another nearly 12 million people enrolled in the program. How much a family gets per month is determined by a number of factors, but typically ranges from less than $100 to more than $500. The national average for a family of four at the end of 2009 was $275.53 a month, or about $68.88 a week... To find out how well you can eat on food stamps, the Associated Press asked a chef and a magazine food editor to plan out seven days of meals for a family of four using that budget: $68.88... Anna Last, editor of Everyday Food Magazine, met the AP's challenge. Where the money went: Last spent a total of $68.49, giving her 39 cents to spare. Nearly $22 of that was spent on about 14 pounds of meat, mostly chicken, ground beef and a bit of bacon. About another $22 was spent on produce, with the remaining money split between dry goods and dairy, including milk, eggs and cheese. RED BEANS WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE SERVINGS: 4 TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active) 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1-pound bag dried, small red beans, soaked overnight and drained 4 1 / 2 cups water 1 pound andouille sausage Coarse salt and ground pepper In a large saucepan over medium, heat oil. Add onion and garlic to pan. Saute until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add beans and water, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook until beans are tender, 1 to 11/2 hours, adding more water if necessary. When beans are nearly done, heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Cook sausage until they have prominent grill marks and are heated through, about 4 minutes per side. Season beans with salt and pepper, then spoon into 4 serving bowls. Top each serving with a sausage. Per serving: 666 cal. (192 cal. from fat), 21 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats), 63 mg choles., 72 g carbo., 46 g pro., 29 g fiber and 1,146 mg sodium. Gourmet eating for the impoverished money challenged! Who said America isn't a Great Country?