At Gene Expression I recently put up a series of posts relating to food stamps. For example, the correlates of food stamp utilization by county. I’m really skeptical of the ubiquity of food stamp usage. There are vast swaths of the United States where the majority of children benefit from food stamps. Some statistical analysis suggests that 90% of blacks at age 20 will have benefited from food stamps, while 50% of the general population will have (most of these are transient beneficiaries). But the same groups which tend to use food stamps are also subject to an “epidemic of obesity.” My data analysis shows that it’s clear on the geographical level. Where people use food stamps, there is obesity and type 2 diabetes. Regardless of what people say about “food insecurity” I think these characteristics, copious adipose tissue, and diseases of modernity which emerge due to obesity and overconsumption of sugars, strongly suggest that images of the famished simply doesn’t make sense.
But over the past month or so that I’ve investigated this topic, here’s a typical comment:
To be hungry sometimes is uncomfortable, I know this personally, I am hungry sometimes. Though for me it has to do with the fact that I don’t think that the immediate response to hunger always has to be food to satiate the pangs (I don’t like to eat past a certain hour).
What a way to trivialize other people’s hunger by insinuating that they can’t distinguish between physical hunger and psychological hunger. It’s even more important to distinguish between voluntary hunger and involuntary hunger. Those who don’t have enough to eat may not have the privilege of experiencing psychological hunger.
The italicized are my comments. The general thrust of the response is emotive, dismissive and “how dare you!” Food stamp programs are not a fiscal crisis in this country, but if the targets of this food aid have a tendency toward obesity or diabetes, we need to reassess our presuppositions. Instead of helping those in need, by and large the food stamp program may simply be an adjunct to the interests of a small number of non-profit careerists.
P.S. When I was in college I knew many students who engaged in food stamp fraud. The reality was that they didn’t need food stamps, but they knew that it was very easy to get on the program.