Press "Enter" to skip to content

SNAP Provides Basic Benefits on Tight Budget

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack took to the press last week to criticize the House Republican plan to turn the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in block grants, which history shows is really just a way for Republicans to deny services to poor Americans under the guise of state-level innovation.

Secretary Vilsack reminds us that “SNAP fraud and error rates are at or near historic lows, while every dollar invested in SNAP regenerates $1.74 in economic activity, according to a 2010 study by Moody’s Analytics.” The commenters on his WSJ go ape, shouting the usual tropes of fraud and abuse without any counter-evidence.

Food and farm columnist Alan Guebert hits the Easter paper with this reminder of how well SNAP meets the not exclusively Christian mission of feeding the poor:

The average per person monthly SNAP benefit is $125, about $4.15 per day or $1.39 per meal.

In 2014, 92 percent of the $76 billion spent on SNAP was spent on food, five percent (or $3.8 billion) went to the states to administer the program, and three percent was spent on block grants to fund local programs like food banks.

Historically, SNAP benefits have equaled about 0.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. During the 2008-2011 economic crisis, however, that figure rose to 0.5 percent. In 2014, it fell to 0.45 percent, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sees it returning to its historic 0.3 percent by 2020 [Alan Guebert, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,” Lincoln Journal-Star, 2015.04.03].

$4.15 a day—that’s a dozen eggs, loaf of bread, and maybe a pint of milk. While these folks go without fish to fry, Rep. Noem, maybe you and your colleagues should look for bigger legislative fish to fry.


  1. grudznick 2015-04-05

    Since they probably can’t use EBT cards to buy those fancy phones or SUVs unless they sold them and they’d have to sell very very many of them, I don’t see a problem there Mr. Mike from Iowa. Steak seems like a reasonable food for anybody and so does a couple of fish fillets or even a tin of sardines for some healthy snacking.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-04-05

    That is the point,Grudz. Fake Noize and wingnuts continually disseminate distorted dogma because they know their target audience will fall for the distortions and stay blissfully ignorant of facts. Uneducated voters are easy to control. Just whip them into a fury about the black Potus or any liberal and they’d vote to cut off their own noses to spite their faces.

  3. grudznick 2015-04-05

    That is why initiated measures are so dangers, Mr. Mike.

  4. jerry 2015-04-05

    Their target audience is one week of disability with an accident or sickness from needing the SNAP program but they are too ignorant to figure it out. Here are the requirements When you are a bully, like the republican, the only targets you have are the weak and infirm. They do not have the resources to fight you in court so the only thing they can do is fall deeper into poverty that feeds mental illness and other issues. Of course, the bread we steal from the mouths of children and the poor can be converted into penny’s and then dollars to feed the military industrial complex so we can give it to Israel for their failed state.

  5. larry kurtz 2015-04-05

    Does the moocher red state of South Dakota control SNAP disbursements for the rez?

  6. Donald Pay 2015-04-05

    Jesus didn’t really provide fish to the multitudes. Jesus, after all, was a Republican, and wouldn’t want to waste seafood on the poor.

  7. Cranky Old Dude 2015-04-05

    Of course there is waste and abuse in this program. There is waste and abuse in all government programs. The real question is does the majority of the funding accomplish or help to accomplish the goals or is it just dribbled away to no good end?

    I find one of the more distressing things about the EBT program is its overwhelming support by the convenience store lobby. Why do I have a feeling people are not buying basic foodstuffs or anything that resembles fresh produce at these establishments? This is where the real profit structure is for these businesses, in overpriced salt, grease, sugar and caffeine (the four food groups of the Great Plains).

  8. rwb 2015-04-05

    Cranky, the manufacturers of Slim Jims, Twinkies and Coca Cola are just as entitled to those trickle-up profits as any other conglomeration.

    After all, the food stamp program benefits growers, manufacturers wholesalers and retailers just as much as it does the people who eat the food.

    Imagine what would happen to the sugar/salt/packaging complex if you took away half of the demand for its products? It would be chaos, I tell you. Chaos.

  9. bearcreekbat 2015-04-05

    Jerry, I hadn’t thought of it that before, but you are right – this is bullying of the weakest and most defenseless among us!

    Cranky – When you say, “There is waste and abuse in all government programs,” why does the word government need to be in there? Perhaps there is waste and abuse in all programs, whether public and private – such as businesses, corporations, companies, churches, synagogues, mosques, charities, and anywhere else that involves human behavior, don’t you think? Adding the term “government” does nothing but denigrate the US Constitution and our way of life, since, after all, our “government” was created by the US Constitution. Do you have something against the US Constitution?

  10. jerry 2015-04-05

    Cranky, the republican even made pizza part of the nutritious meals for schoolchildren. Stores must handle vegetables, fruits and meats to be able to take SNAP. Congress made the list for what is eligible under the SNAP program. Call NOem and ask her why these items are listed as food items.
    As you can see, all of these items benefit agriculture, that would be ranchers and farmers here in South Dakota. Do you really want to see an end to helping the working poor and disabled by gutting this program and do you really want to see yet another loss of income for farmers and ranchers? That slim jim may piss you off, but it is meat. Last I looked, meat comes from products that ranchers produce.

  11. owen 2015-04-05

    Noem and the other conservatives keep bringing up SNAP to fire up their base and distract them from anything else. The base believes that people on SNAP are lazy bums. While some are that way most of them are hard working people trying to provide for their families.
    The right does the same thing with Obamacare.

    Sure there’s waste in the SNAP program. There is waste in the defense budget and farm programs. Where is the outrage there?

  12. bearcreekbat 2015-04-05

    Here are the stats to back up Owen’s statement:

    “According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP—and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP. The rates are even higher for families with children—more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.”

  13. bearcreekbat 2015-04-05

    Cranky, in answer to your query about “does the majority of the funding accomplish or help to accomplish the goals or is it just dribbled away to no good end,” here are the stats:

    “SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. SNAP fraud has actually been cut by three-quarters over the past 15 years, and the program’s error rate is at an all-time low of less than 3 percent. The introduction of EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards has dramatically reduced consumer fraud. According to the USDA, the small amount of fraud that continues is usually on the part of retailers, not consumers.”

  14. larry kurtz 2015-04-05

    SNAP is a wedge the earth haters use to raise campaign donations while diverting attention from their ALEC and Koch-based subsidies to defense, oil, industrial ag and banking: it’s just that simple.

  15. jerry 2015-04-05

    There is even waste in church budgets! Show me a budget that has no waste and I will show you a corrupt one. There are not bums on SNAP, there are only human beings as there are no bums on Social Security Disability. You must work and pay taxes to get disability and it must be current. You cannot go on Social Security disability if you have not paid in to the Social Security. In short, if you do not pay taxes, you do not qualify for disability.

  16. Roger Cornelius 2015-04-05

    While I agree that there is a republican war on the poor, their war on SNAP only feeds the republican base, as Owen points out. If we could only breakdown how many republicans are on food stamps, it wouldn’t surprise if it outnumbered Democrats in red welfare state South Dakota.

    Who controls SNAP? Roll out the lobbyist. Do you really believe that Walmart and other big box stores that thrive on the EBT program are going to let government dictate what can and can’t be bought with food stamps. Lobbyist pay congress to keep things running their way and to continue the round robin game of making political contributions via the food stamp program. It is similar to Daugaard’s business grant program and than the recipients use those state dollars to donate back to the governor.
    The SNAP program is about financial profits for the mom and pop businesses on main street all the way to Walmart.
    Do republicans truly want this cycle to end or are they merely paying lip service to an ignorant base?

  17. Lynn 2015-04-05

    Interesting! The people I’ve seen using their SNAP/EBT cards in the grocery store line were purchasing staples like beans, rice, vegetables and fruit being items that were inexpensive, healthy and could be stretched a long way on a very tight budget.

    Rather than work to solve REAL issues we have these chicken hawk legislators focus on as others have mentioned wedge issues to distract and rile up people. SNAP, LGBT, Gun rights and a few others are the perennial favorite targets. Targets like these are made to be sensational and dramatic rather than working hard to solve the REAL issues that are considered boring.

  18. grudznick 2015-04-05

    Mr. C, that’s a really interesting question. I think that one of the libbie legislatures should bring a bill or maybe get one that’s not so libbie to bring it so it will live. Or, this could be another target for an initiated measure.

    Be it initiated by the people of South Dakota that all SNAP recipients shall be matched against voter registration cards and those results be made public and place into a web blog that the Social Services will keep up to date annually.

    Heck, I wonder if the powers that be haven’t already thought about this and have matched those SNAP people with voting people.

  19. Douglas Wiken 2015-04-05

    Seems to me that Republicans also decided that Ketchup was a vegetable.

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-05

    Parts of every large city are described as food deserts because there is no green grocery store within 3-4 miles. If you’re afoot carrying bags of groceries, that is a very long way. The majority of people in pooor neighborhoods don’t have cars and the nearest grocery store may not have a bus stop beside the driveway.

    So those folks walk 4 blocks to the convenience store or the little corner grocery where they buy milk, apples and bananas, and cans of spaghetti-os.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-04-06

    I like BCB’s response that government is not unique in waste and fraud. People take staplers from work. They inflate their travel budgets. They take advantage of company cars. And nobody, public or private, can get away from overhead.

  22. jerry 2015-04-06

    Besides, what about Denny’s cut of the pie? It only stands to reason that Denny would be issuing the cards for South Dakota, what is his cut? Let’s ask NOem. she should know.

  23. mike from iowa 2015-04-06

    Grudz-do you wingnuts really want to get into a game of shaming people because of gubmint programs? Hypocrisy thrives on your side of the equation. I see wingnuts managed to get the names of their ag subsidy payment recipient to disappear so the public can’t shame Noem and others for accepting monies while stealing from the poor.

  24. Joan Brown 2015-04-06

    What really annoys me when I hear people complaining about seeing SNAP recipients wasting their allotment on expensive meats, sweets, pop, and junk food in general, is the fact that SNAP is meant to supplement their regular monthly food budget, which means that it is expected that they will have to use cash for part of their monthly food regardless of what they buy in that line. I don’t understand why so many nosy people are so concerned with what SNAP recipients buy for food products and what time of the month they purchase it. So what if they use cash to buy expensive food items and junk food and then use food stamps later in the month or vice versa. Also if you are standing close enough in back of the person in front of you at the check out to see what type of card they are using, you are in their personal space and deserve be kicked in the shin, preferably with a stiletto heel. I have a hunch a lot of these people don’t realize that the SNAP cards look just like debit and credit cards, and that things like child support, unemployment benefits, retirement Social Security, disability, etc are all put on the same type of card. There are just plain too many nosy people that think they know everything.

  25. grudznick 2015-04-06

    Ms. Brown, let us hope that welfare people get enough of the good foods for their whole family and don’t waste that cash on stiletto heels.

  26. grudznick 2015-04-06

    Mr. Mike, who is from Iowa, in Iowa would I be considered a wingnut? Here, in our state South Dakota, I am a Conservative with Common Sense. The wingnuts don’t like me and frown upon my ilk.

  27. Jana 2015-04-06

    Grud, you might want to find a different self identifying term than “common sense.” Too many politicians in your party have co-opted that line when they obviously have none.

  28. Jana 2015-04-06

    Stilletto heels Grud?…Is that like a welfare farmer on subsidies getting a Cadillac Escalade to do their chores and run to the local co-op?

    Just seems kind of funny that a “common sense” gravy and taters guy would have stiletto heels spring to mind. Calling Dr. Freud…calling Dr. Freud.

  29. grudznick 2015-04-06

    Ms. Jana, did you read young Ms. Joan Brown’s blogging? I did. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Get your mind out of the gutter.

  30. Jana 2015-04-06

    OK…got it…I was worried about you for a minute and wondered what the waitresses were wearing where they served you your taters and gravy. Those would be horrible for a server.

    Now, about that Escalade?

  31. grudznick 2015-04-06

    Also, I am the real true one with common sense. All the others just say they are. I’m not just saying this to sound like that Mr. Nelson fellow, either. Only I, and those who I say are the real Conservatives with Common Sense. Har har.

  32. grudznick 2015-04-06

    Real ranchers drive F-150’s, Ms. Jana.

  33. Jana 2015-04-06

    Answer the question Grud! Those F-150’s are the new soccer mom vehicle you know. HEck, they cost more than a BMW or Mercedes and it’s all for looks. Good used truck with a little rust makes more “Common Sense” for a farmer getting a handout from the gubmint. Heck, we should make all farmers who get a subsidy sport a special license plate that identifies them as a welfare recipient.

    By the way, do they get a check or one of those nifty cards like the hard working SNAP families?

  34. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-06

    Jana, you are on a roll sister! Go get ’em!

  35. grudznick 2015-04-06

    What’s the question, Ms. Jana? I thought we settled that real ranchers don’t wear stiletto heels, that I didn’t bring up stiletto heels, and it’s the fancy ostrich skin cowboy boots that piss me off when a welfare farmer wears them. Did you know that some of those rich wheat farmers are multi-millionaires but they write everything off after they buy new Escalades for their daughters-in-law?

  36. Jana 2015-04-06

    Oh Deb, Grud loves goading us trying to get our goat…I figure its always good to give a little back.

    Although, I hate to give him more heartburn than he gets from his taters and gravy. Part of that heartburn must certainly come from knowing full well that his deliberate hardening of the arteries is going to cost tax payers money down the road.

    But alack and alas…Grud is one of those “I got mine…go get your own dammit…and get off my lawn you damn kids” conservatives.

  37. Jana 2015-04-06

    Now Grud…about that Escalade and whether or not farmers and rancher get those nifty cards or do they get to keep their dignity when they get help?

  38. Jana 2015-04-06

    Don’t deflect with the whole daughter in law dodge…I want to know what you think of welfare ag types that buy the Caddies!

    Say, if only Saint Ronald Reagan would have known about these folks who feed of the government teat…what did he call them? Well, maybe he would have called them something if he wasn’t busy granting amnesty to immigrants, raising taxes and passing gun laws that infringed on the 2nd amendment rights of welfare farmers and gang members.

  39. grudznick 2015-04-06

    I don’t like them, Ms. Jana. But there are actually rich wheat farmers who think they are more conservative than most that buy fancy cars for their daughter-in-laws. RIGHT HERE ON THIS BLOG!

  40. Jana 2015-04-06

    Grud…you do know that gravy has its origins from those darn French surrender monkeys…shouldn’t we rename it Freedom Grease?

    Maybe ask Kristi Noem after she cashes her ag welfare check and in between her looking to slash the safety net of so many hard working Americans.

  41. Jana 2015-04-06

    OK Grud…I’ll quit.

    But you should really try some of that French gravy on your favorite sacred cow filets…oops…more heartburn…sorry.

  42. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-04-06

    “Sacred cow filets”. Hahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!

    That is hilarious!!!!!

    Past my bedtime. G’night.

  43. mike from iowa 2015-04-07

    And the daily allotment for SD pols is $123 or thereabouts.

  44. bearcreekbat 2015-04-07

    mfi – Members of Congress – with the very group, including Kristi Noem, John Thune, and Mike Rounds, that think SNAP benefits should be cut – each apparently get a $174,000 base salary, plus benefits. The federal per diem rate for Washington, D.C, varies by season and averages about $198 for lodging and $71 for meals per day.

    So it takes $71 a day to feed Noem, $71 to feed Thune and $71 to feed Rounds for one day, but it takes only $4.15 to feed a hungry poor child for a day. On top of that benefits paid to Noem, Thune and Rounds, are not limited based on either resources or income, but the poor child’s benefits are lost entirely unless the family has very limited resources, and the family’s net income is at or below 100% of the federal poverty guidelines meets.

    $174,000 per year vs federal poverty guidelines

    Unlimited resources vs. $2,250 in countable resources

    $71 per day vs. $4.15 per day

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  45. mike from iowa 2015-04-07

    bcb-all I can say is those congresscritters brave or foolish enough to take the foodstamp challenge know firsthand how nearly impossible it is to survive on so little. Most welfare recipients that I know are ecstatic to get what little they do get. At the other end of the food chain,greed begets more greed. Enough doesn’t seem to be a word they are associated with. I’ve given up any hope that the teachings of their fictitious god will ever get through to these fauxknee kristians. I’m off to see the heart doctor. Maybe he has a spare or two for these people.

Comments are closed.