Replacing Food Stamps With Cash Is A Terrible Idea

Proper food safety and protection against illness begins at the grocery store, experts say.

The USDA recommends placing these types of foods in plastic bags and also placing these purchases in separate shopping bags at checkout. Storage Packaging meat products in leak-proof containers would also help cut cross-contamination. New Zealand, for instance, saw a significant reduction in foodborne illness after mandating leak-proof packaging, Tauxe said. When you get home, storing raw meats in a plastic bag or container to prevent any juices from dripping on other foods is also important. Listeria monocytogenes , another type of illness-causing bacteria, can grow in foods in the refrigerator, according to the CDC. Use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature inside the fridge; it should be 40 degrees or lower, and the freezer should be 0 degrees or lower. Food preparation Start with clean hands . Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice) before and after handling food — and after other activities, such as changing diapers or using the bathroom. Ideally, use separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and raw meat to avoid cross-contamination. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water. Scrubbing melons and cucumbers with a clean brush is recommended ; using soap to clean them is not. Some home cooks wash their meat under running water before cooking, but, experts say, that can spread contaminated juices in places that may not be visible. Use hot, soapy water to clean utensils and cutting boards after preparing foods; use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean towels to clean work surfaces.

So Yglesias says that since Republicans have reneged on their side of that longstanding deal, Democrats should do the same by demanding that the poor and hungry receive cash rather than vouchers. Cash support, he says, would also be “simpler, easier, cheaper.” Many economists, including Harvard ‘s Edward Glaeser and Princeton ‘s Uwe Reinhardt have made similar arguments over the years. It’s a tempting idea, but ultimately a foolish one. Yglesias rightly notes the administrative chores that retailers must go through in order to accept food stamps. In contrast, no store needs training on how to deal with cash. Another criticism of the program is that food stamps lead to more spending on food than otherwise would be the case. They can’t be used to purchase other products, so the incentive is to buy until the benefits are exhausted. By some estimates, food stamps lead to over-purchases of food equal to about 15 percent of total benefits. If so, the $75 billion annual food-stamp program generates more than $11 billion in extra food spending. This was a huge reason legislators from farm states — most of them Republicans — were once such ardent proponents of food stamps: It was a hefty goodie for their agriculture constituents on top of the roughly $25 billion in explicit annual government handouts for agriculture. If food stamps were converted to a cash benefit it’s likely that the overspending — and thus a big piece of ag-industry pork — would diminish or disappear.

Ramen noodles again? For millions on U.S. food stamps, ‘This is not the way I envisioned my life’

An example of lunch items bought with Silva's food stamps.

SNAPs critics say that when families like the Warricks buy groceries, that assistance doesnt stimulate the economy because, as the conservative Heritage Foundation argues , $100 of tax-subsidized food stamps pulls money from a private sector that would have better spent those hundred bucks. Other concerns are myriad: Food stamps should be stop-gap assistance, not long-term entitlements. The country is already $17 trillion in debt, so why spend more ? And then theres fraud, notably millionaires on the dole . Supporters rebuttals include: Food purchases provide direct kicks to the economy because the poor spend and dont save. There are even more hungry Americans than the 1 in 7 on SNAP. And, last year, more than 18 percent in this country said there were days they couldnt afford the food they needed . Warrick, one of several food-stamp recipients who shared stories with Yahoo News this week, knows how pricey that food is. Her budget for her family of three is stretched. Have you noticed food prices lately? she asks rhetorically. I mean, really noticed? She says preparing a fresh, healthy dinner for her family of three costs $20, four times more than a pizza. So they live on macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, spaghetti and canned vegetables cheaper but less healthy meals that run about $2 to $3 each.