The Farm Bill – full of deep, deep cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – failed in the House this week, largely because Republicans felt the cuts to SNAP should be even deeper than the $2 billion they want, which would throw about 2 million Americans off this essential food assistance plan.
Rep. Louie Gohmert swears that people eat King Crab legs while on SNAP. Another not too tightly wrapped Republican Rep., Steve Stockman, “debunked” the difficulty of eating on SNAP by displaying a shopping list from the local dollar store full of Honey Comb cereal, rice and beans, root beer, popsicles and cookies – a menu that’s not exactly designed to nutritiously fuel men, women and children on a daily basis – and bragging he had money left over. In fact, based on his thrifty shopping, Stockman said, “Based on my personal experience with SNAP benefit limits we have room to cut about 12 percent more . . . .”
King Crab legs? Maybe – if someone is willing to spend nearly a week’s worth of the budget on crab. Frankly, it really isn’t anyone’s business what type of food people purchase with SNAP benefits – but Republicans are determined that the poor eat like prisoners, or worse, on the government dime. If it’s tasty, if it’s remotely “gourmet,” it shouldn’t be allowed. In fact, if it were up to Republicans, poor children would be eating thin gruel three times a day in the “please sir, may I have some more” tradition.
My husband and I took the SNAP challenge last December, for an entire week. We took our coffee from home on our commute. We bought nothing at work. We ate what we had. And, unlike Stockman, we didn’t shop at the dollar store; we tried, as best we could, to put together semi-nutritious meals on a very limited budget. Neither of us are gourmets, and we’re not huge eaters, but even so, the choices were limited and limiting. Much of the food was chock full of carbs and sodium. And the menu become pretty tiresome after a week.
A bagel sandwich with eggs, cream cheese and veggies is about 750 calories, with 18g of protein, 16g of fat, 72g of carbs, and 470mg of sodium. A turkey sandwich (processed turkey) with mustard and lettuce is a little under 300 calories, with 11g of protein and little fat, but it’s loaded with 500mg of sodium. A quick meal of frozen chicken and rice burritos is 420 calories, 18g of protein, 10g of fat, 64g of carbs and a whopping 700mg of sodium. The best meal I found – bang for the buck with low fat and lower sodium and carbs – was yogurt with Cheerios mixed in: 250 calories, 6g of protein, 0.7g of fat, 22g of carbs and 140mg of sodium.
Republicans ponder the mystery of why obesity is prevalent among low income people, people who rely on food assistance programs. Gohmert (like Rick Santorum and many other Republicans do) scoffed at the notion of food insecurity when many poor people are obese. ”From the amount of obesity in this country,” said Gohmert, “by people we’re told do not have enough to eat, it does seem like we can have a debate about this issue without allegations about wanting to slap down or starve children.”
Not only is the SNAP allotment – as it stands now, without cuts – barely sufficient to subsist on, it’d be hard not to become obese, with low-cost menu choices packed with high carbs, salt and fat. And then, of course, there’s the flip side of the coin: When America’s children become obese, Republicans also like to mock Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign as being some liberal plot to dictate how parents raise their kids.
People do the best they can with the resources they have and, as someone who’s sampled the SNAP fare, the pickings on a SNAP budget are slim indeed.