“I eat whatever I want, Junk food included.” –Vanessa Marcil
Yeah, you can eat what you want, but not if the government is paying for it. That is my opinion though and I am entitled to have it. I don’t believe people who are receiving SNAP benefits should be able to buy junk food or soda. This includes those in the fleet and on shore. Now before someone gets a fire ant in their pants about this, hear me out.
When a person joins the military, they are given a specific set of guidelines on how to dress, groom, walk and talk among other training. We are taught how to dress a certain way to exude a level of professionalism that is respectable and approachable. We are taught how to groom ourselves and maintain our hair in uniform. We are taught how to walk with our head’s up, shoulders back and project confidence, even if we don’t have any confidence. Fake it until you make it, my friends. We were also taught how to talk a certain way befitting our branch of preference. We were given a place to live and food to eat, whether we like the food being served or not. All of this is to make several individuals form a united, uniform fighting force to be used when Uncle Sam calls for it. Be it a 7 month deployment to the world’s oceans or a deployment to the middle of a desert.
When I signed up to join the Navy, I knew that I would be sacrificing the ability to not have certain freedoms to do things. I feel the same can be said with SNAP benefits. People are already told what they can and cannot purchase, but I feel the list of things you cannot purchase should include junk food. Junk food in case you are wondering is “food” with poor nutritional value. Foods with high fat, sugar and sodium content are considered junk food. Basically anything that is easy to grab and go; such as potato chips, popcorn, candy and soda.
The government cannot tell someone how many children they can have, nor can they tell you whom you can or cannot marry. (That is a topic I will not discuss further, separation of church and state.) However, the government can tell you what food you can cook with, while utilizing its facilities if they are providing the food and the facility. Each item ordered for a galley to be utilized for preparing food is designated off of a menu. The government can tell you what you can and cannot purchase with the money you are receiving from them in the form of SNAP benefits. In fact, according to the USDA Food and Nutrition website, you can currently purchase breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, seafood, steak and baked goods. The government tells you by way of SNAP benefit guidelines, you cannot buy nonfood items like pet food, soap, paper products, household supplies, vitamins, medicines, tobacco and alcohol; as well as food to be eaten in the store or hot foods such as a rotisserie chicken. Basically anything that you do not prepare at home aka JUNK food. So why can’t the government tell you, you cannot purchase junk food?
Junk food is the fuel of many sailors on deployment, that is no secret and it seems it is fuel for many who receive SNAP benefits too. While most people would assume that ships have no junk food on board, you would be sorely mistaken. From energy drinks and potato chips to Yakisoba and candy, we had it on the ship. Personally, I don’t feel the food was that bad on the ship, but I was a culinary specialist so I could make pretty much anything I wanted with the food available. The key to surviving deployment was to watch what the cooks did or did not eat. Chances were high that if the cooks were not eating something, it’s because they know who prepared it and knew it was prepared by someone they did not want preparing their own food or the food was just plain disgusting. Chicken Cordon Bleu for a week straight will turn anyone off of it. At times the salads were not safe either as one person found a live frog in the lettuce, after the lettuce was cut, washed and put out on the salad bar island. That too is another story for another day. But I’m not here to talk about the supply, demand and distribution of food, junk or otherwise on the ship but more so what happens on shore in our stores.
Now, I have several friends who are currently receiving or whom have received benefits for food because they just don’t have the income to support their families. Both in the military and outside in the civilian world. I don’t qualify for government assistance of any kind be it SNAP or TANF. I make too much money as a disabled veteran working a full time job and I only have one child. But if I popped out another child, I’d qualify for all sorts of government assistance. People pop children out like they are work free paychecks abusing the system in the process because they do not want to earn what they receive. But as Kermit would say “That’s none of my business.”
While some of my friends will spend their benefits wisely on healthy food options for their families, others have not. I have seen case upon case of soda, bags of chips, cases of cookies, candy’s, precooked meals and even holiday treats go in the carts of those receiving assistance. I was told by one person that their kid’s wouldn’t get stocking fillers if it weren’t for SNAP benefits and the ability to buy candy with it. Does that suck? Sure, but I always got a new tooth brush, toothpaste and fruit in my stocking as a kid, so I like to do the same for my daughter when I can. But I digress, I am generally not one to nitpick a person’s choice on how they feed their family as that’s not the person I am. If you are not making enough money to support your family, for whatever reason, it’s okay to ask for help. What is not okay, is to expect Uncle Sam to purchase food items that are high in fat, sugar and sodium content to feed your family when there are healthier options available. When you are receiving and using government assistance to feed your family, I feel Uncle Sam has every right to tell you what you can and cannot purchase
It pains me to see people buying $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco products with cash right after they spend $150 on junk food, steak and lobster using their SNAP card. If you can buy $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco every week then I feel you can buy groceries for your own family without asking Uncle Sam to pay for it.
It costs no more than a little bit of time to make or prepare your own food at home. You can provide healthy snacks at home for your children without buying the variety bags of potato chips or that 24 pack of Pepsi. There are plenty of other options for grab and go healthy foods too. You have a variety of vegetables and fruits that are fairly cheap, even cheaper in the summer if you can grow your own. It only takes about 5 minutes or so to cut up a fresh cantaloupe. Even less time to cut up an apple into wedges and get a scoop of peanut butter and plop it on a plate. Feed the kids a quick healthy snack while you are cooking dinner.
Now, let’s think about this from the health perspective too. If you are receiving government assistance for food you are most likely getting government assistance for health care coverage. When you are purchasing junk food for your family, you are putting your family at risk of health complications such as cavities, diabetes and many other health issues stemming from poor nutrition. While there is no surefire way of proving or preventing certain health issues, you can take one step to help combat any potential health risks by eating healthy food and stop wasting money on health care, when not eating junk could have prevented the issue and saved some money for the government. By eliminating the option to purchase junk food items with government funds, it would save the government money on health care coverage. Sorry not sorry Big Pharma, I’m not a fan of you or your incessant need to financially rape the average American tax payer.
I feel that one of the ways the government can rectify spending on junk food is to not have carry over balances. If a person is only spending X amount a month on food and they are carrying over a balance of more than $100, the government should downgrade their amount for the next month by what they are not spending. Another way to combat the abuse of the system is to go back to food distribution centers, such as what they used when my mother was a child. When my grandparents took my mom, the 6th out of seven children to a food distribution center, they would get cheese, potatoes, apples, and flour etc., all foods identified as agricultural surplus. This was to feed their family of nine, and while baking bread is time consuming it is actually quite rewarding as there is nothing better than fresh homemade bread. This was also a way for farmers to sell their surplus foods for a reasonable profit. The farmers would receive a fair price for the food from the government, the government would then take the food off the farmers hands, leaving less waste in the fields and would distribute the food to those in need. The only reason this method was done away with is because someone out there thought it was humiliating or undignified for poor folks to have to stand in line to receive the food. But if you think about it, it is humiliating to have to stand in line at Walmart anyways, so what is the difference?
Bring back the food distribution centers and do away with SNAP cards, which would solve the problem of people using government assistance to purchase junk food, cutting the overall abuse of the nutrition assistance program and save on health care.