Lent is the time to talk about eating more seafood, especially on Fridays and well, being Catholic. As we've learned from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, some Fox 'News' pundits don't want that seafood paid for by food stamps receipients.
The Fox pundits are correct about one thing: you can buy seafood on food stamps. Let's see what else you can buy with food stamps:
Foods for the household to eat, such as:
breads and cereals;
fruits and vegetables;
meats, fish and poultry; and dairy products.
Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
While you can't buy hot foods, "in some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals."
Otherwise, you can buy seafood but you have to cook it yourself.
Seafood is higher in Omega 3s and other nutrients compared to traditional grown beef. Buffalo, elk, grass-fed beef are also higher in Omega 3s and as expensive as some forms of seafood, but perhaps the Fox pundits are less aware of those options.
People on food stamps have to deal with a ridiculously small budget, even if food stamps are only part of their food budget. So the seafood that food stamps receipients are buying more likely says "Chicken of the Sea" on the side.
If you get $31 a week to spend on food, you could buy a pound of scallops at $10.99 plus tax, but that would be beyond foolish. But it wouldn't be illegal.
The excerpts that Stewart played on the show illuminate a conservative approach that in "giving money to poor people," their decisions need to be scrutinized.
"Why are they getting [seafood, steak, etc.] and I'm eating hamburger and I'm not on food stamps?"
If you are fortunate enough to not be on food stamps, you would manage your food budget in a way that correlates with your income. You can decide that cable or payments on a car are more important than food. You could spend as little on food as you saw fit because you would make sound choices based on your priorities.
Those on food stamps, whatever their ideal priorities, are making two adjustments. They are deciding that food has a higher priority in their lives at the sacrifice of cable and car payments, and they are much better at stretching food dollars than you are.
All of these people who experiment with eating on $31/week do it for a week and find that they struggle. It's never easy to eat on $31/week, but those on food stamps have developed strategies to try and cope. So these people are better at managing help from the government than people are managing their own budgets.
A lot of these stories that you hear from conservatives are the same stories that I heard growing up. Where I grew up, the stories were more racial, not accounting for the fact that the majority of those on food stamps, then and now, were the same pale hue as we all were. Perhaps we have made progress in that the stories are less racial; even if that isn't true, I hope it is somehow.
The problem is that we are making official government policy that affects millions of people based on racism and class warfare, and not on the facts.
Even if Congress passed a law to ban food stamps receipients from buying seafood, conservatives would still hate food stamps. Even if Congress passed a law requiring food stamps receipients to eat lentils, beans, and gruel, conservatives would still hate food stamps.
People who have enough to eat make jokes about being on a seafood diet: they see food and they eat it. It's a funny joke. But if you don't have easy access to food, it's harder to see food, much less eat food.
This latest collection of conservative food stamps bashing has led to a new challenge. Instead of eating for $31/week, conservatives could buy a 1-lb. lobster and then eat for a week for $31/week minus the cost of the lobster. Sure that lobster would taste good, but they would discover that by Thursday, the lobster would be an unnecessary purchase and impossible in reality.
Conservatives and skeptics: we invite you to jump in and take on the food stamps challenge. If you do, you'll find yourself eating your own words … because you need the calories.