Thursday, June 07, 2007

Food stamp follies

On this morning's 'The Big Show' (WJIM AM - Lansing), Michael Patrick Shiels interviewed State Rep. Andy Coulouris, D-Saginaw (I am not entirely certain of the identity, since I only caught part of the interview, but it was a Democrat from Saginaw). Rep. Coulouris is apparently participating in a publicity stunt to protest the amount of money given to the poor via food stamps. He's going to eat for 5 days on $5 a day, an amount to which he intimates poor people are limited. You will probably not be surprised to find that this is not exactly the case.

If you examine the USDA website, near the bottom of the page you'll find this:

The amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household's allotment. This is because food stamp households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food.
Emphasis mine. Clearly, food stamps are not expected to fund the entire gocery bill. It might be a job, or welfare, providing most of the grocery money.

At the above link, you will also find a table showing the standard monthly rates for food stamps. The weekly amount of this supplemental assistance for a single person, before means testing, is $155 per month or $35.67 per week (divide by 4.345 - average weeks per month). $5 per day then, is about what food stamps are worth to a single person. However, $5 per day is definitely NOT what “the state’s average food stamp recipient spends on groceries.”

Food stamps are supplemental, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

It is also worth looking at what the USDA publishes as a guide to the cost of a healthy diet for a frugal consumer. A single male, 20-50 years old, for example, can live on as little as $187.50 per month for food. In other words, food stamps might cover 83% of his basic need. Data here.

H/T Bizzyblog for the USDA links. Bizzyblog also reports on similar chicanery in other states.

2 comments:

BizzyBlog said...

Actually, Mr. Coulouris has it right, and is the first one I've seen to get it right.

The maximum benefit really IS $5 per person per day if you look at the table at the BizzyBlog link. If person has resources, the benefit the government provides goes down, but the fundamental assumption that $35 per person per week (for a single person) is enough to buy a week's worth of food remains.

The sham artists in the past couple of months have made a show of trying to get by on $3 a day ($21 a week), which is the average net government benefit after taking other resources into consideration.

I'm all for a debate as to whether $35 is enough. The sham was that everyone until Mr. Coulouiris has been trying to pretend frame the debate within a bogus $21.

BizzyBlog said...

OTOH, I don't know why he picked $5 for five days and not seven. Perhaps he's not sure whether he'll make it.