7News Features Food-Stamp Debate
by Ari Armstrong, October 24, 2007
Denver's 7News featured a substantive if brief debate over food stamps in a story that aired October 14. My wife and I took the position that food-stamp subsidies should not be increased and that voluntary charity is a better alternative to food stamps. The station also interviewed a woman who takes food stamps and who argues that the payments are not enough. The story presented both basic points of view fairly.
During the month of August, my wife and I ate for $2.57 per day each, considerably less than the amount currently offered in food stamps to the poor. I've written much more about the issue in a Speakout for the Rocky Mountain News and in a Liberty Food Challenge Log, a document that also links to other articles on the matter.
I told 7News, "I do think we should look at alternatives to food stamps, which basically is forcing some people to pay for the food of others. I like the idea of voluntary charities a lot more, like food banks."
Anne Trujillo stated, "Ari Armstrong and his wife Jennifer are cooking at home to prove they can eat with just $180 a month, much less than a traditional food-stamp allowance for a two-person family." 7News quoted me giving the final figure: $159.04 for the two of us for the month. Trujillo added, "Dramatically less than the $284 a family of two typically receives." As I've pointed out, $284 is the maximum available for a two-person household. People who get less than that are assumed to have their own resources to buy some food. I explained at length the difference between the "average" food-stamp allotment and the budget available, but 7News didn't have time to include the full explanation.
Patricia Gutierrez, a food-stamp recipient, told 7News, "It's not enough. $356 cash for two kids, it's really nothing." Unfortunately, 7News did not explain the significance of that figure. According to the USDA, a four-person household can receive $518 in food stamps per month. (A fourth person was shown with Gutierrez in the video. The maximum allotment for a three-person household is $408.) A four-person household that receives less than $518 also has independent resources to buy food, as evaluated by overseers of the program. That's a rather significant detail.
In addition, the person who introduced the story said that food-stamp recipients get "about $3.50 a day" in food stamps, which again is the average food-stamp allotment and not the total budget available for food.
I would like to add a personal note to this story. Patricia Gutierrez has a daughter and a granddaughter, whom other people currently feed. The main reason that my wife and I have put off consideration of children (and denied my mother the possibility of additional grandchildren) is that we cannot afford them. And the main reason that we cannot afford them is that we are forced to pay considerably over $10,000 per year in federal taxes, most of which goes to subsidize other people. So, while we're sitting with a negative net worth, slowly and painfully paying our way out of debt, pinching pennies for our own food budget, we are forced to pay for other people's children, while we are prevented from responsibly having children of our own. So, yes, when Gutierrez whines that a $356 monthly subsidy "is really nothing," that irks me. It sure means something to me.