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Food Stamps: Are They Helping American families?

By Kevin Johnson
Food Pyramid -

Food stamp facts

As of February 2011, the government estimates that nearly 15% of the American population is utilizing food stamps to feed themselves and their families. 15% of the American population totals well into the millions of individuals; adults and children alike. Well into 2012, it’s hard to tell whether those numbers will ever drastically drop. Although the economy is reflecting a modicum of upswing, there is no insurance that it will be sufficient enough to aggressively address these somewhat surprising numbers. Either way, the wide-spread use of food stamps says something about the state of our nation.

The food stamp program is a hunger-relief effort that was started by the government in 1964. At that time, the United States Department of Agriculture set out to feed Americans who lived at or below the poverty level.

Today, the same goal is set in place. Food stamps work as vouchers in grocery stores for those who need them. Families or individuals who qualify for the program can shop within the dollar value for which the voucher is valid. These vouchers are normally received and can be used on a monthly basis.

When the government hands out free money to needy families, the question that many Americans ask is, is this really helping anyone or perpetuating a growing problem?

Both sides of the food stamp coin

In order to understand the benefits or drawbacks to any charity, it is necessary to look at both sides of the argument. While food stamps provide for a basic human need when individuals can’t sustain themselves, the program also runs the risk of developing a large population of dependents. With any relief-based program, there is always a fear that the aid will foster individuals who have trouble moving out of the system in the long-run.

Value in the voucher

The economic crisis in the United States didn’t just affect those already living at or below the poverty line. What it did do is increase the number who joined those ranks. Unemployment in America has been on the rise since 2008 and many middle-class and upper class citizens have found themselves in the daunting position of being out of jobs they had planned on retiring in. When you suddenly find yourself without work and a family to support, what do you do?

In cases like these, the food stamp program has been a lifesaver for many Americans. The peace of mind that comes from knowing you will be able to feed your family while you search for work can be the difference between a hopeless future and one filled with opportunity. Money saved by using these vouchers may also allow for a financial cushion in hard times that wouldn’t otherwise be available.

Profits and Pricing

There is something to be said about the overall benefit for the general public that food stamps can account for. A basic business formula tells us that when more people spend, the general cost of products being sold can be reduced significantly. Food stamps provide a larger percentage of the population an opportunity to participate in commerce. When more people have the resources to shop in grocery stores, than the overall cost of food will decrease for everyone. Economically speaking, food stamps ideally work in favor of the needy and eventually benefit the population as a whole.

Resources for refugees

An estimated 37,000 people who fell under refugee status were admitted into the United States in 2010. While numbers are not yet available for 2011, the government set the cap for the year at 80,000; anticipating numbers to swell in the wake of on-going wars in the Middle east and conflicts in Asia.

Refugees arrive in the U.S. with a large task ahead of them. Not only must they establish a life in a new country quickly, they must do so without the resources available to many Americans. Refugee status implies an individual is seeking safety from dangers abroad. These individuals have faced unthinkable hurdles in order to find a safe haven in America for what it usually assumed to be a temporary amount of time.

In cases such as theirs, food stamps offer a helping hand towards building a better life and easing an otherwise difficult transition. The food stamp program is open to those who carry both refugee and asylum-seeking status in the United States. In this way, the program makes a positive impact on the lives of those trying to find a better, safer path in the world. No matter what brings a person to the country, it’s hard to deny that a system that provides for peaceful, sufficient living conditions will be better for the entire population in general.

The downside of vouchers

While the intentions of the Food Stamp program are innately good, this doesn’t stop some people from abusing the system. When unfortunate circumstances arise out of relief-charities, it raises questions about the overall effectiveness. One of the most common arguments surrounding the Food Stamp program is the stigma of laziness. There are many that believe those who use food stamps are simply hitching a free-ride on the government hand-out train with no intention of getting off.

Because food stamps are available to those who meet certain low-income requirements, the program may be encouraging participants from seeking higher paying jobs. After all, why would someone go looking for work to feed their family when they could remain at their current income level and the government will feed them instead?

Additionally, there have been many instances of black market fraud within the program. There have been documented cases of participants re-selling their vouchers in order to use the cash to purchase program-prohibited products like alcohol, cigarettes and even drugs.

Where do we go from here?

The number of citizens claiming the need for food stamps is undoubtedly on the rise as the economy struggles to recover. When faced with a substantial need, do you think food stamps are a good answer to the problem in the U.S. despite the potential drawbacks?

 

 

 

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