Teaching food stamp recipients how to shop economically

The inspiration for this post came from an article discussing the plight of those on food stamps, in light of the increased cost of groceries. The poster child for not making it on food stamps? A woman with a 4-month-old baby getting $280 a month in food stamps.

I had to do a double take when I saw that. $280 a month for one adult and a baby, and that's not enough? The story gets even better. Mom gets free lunch at her job. At $280 a month, we're talking over $9 a day for food, compliments of the taxpayers. And she doesn't even need to feed herself lunch on that! But woe is her.... By the end of the month she must eat (gasp) canned ravioli and peanut butter and jelly to get by! That's considered a hardship?

Another woman is single, and gets $135 a month in food stamps. That lasts her only two weeks, which averages out to almost $10 a day for food. I look at these numbers and wonder what they're buying. I am not a budget-conscious grocery shopper. But I still spend far less than $9 or $10 a day on my groceries. And if I was down on my luck and on food stamps? You better believe I'd find a way to stretch that money as far as possible.What's to blame for an adult not being able to feed herself on this money? Probably lots of prepackaged foods, which aren't all that nutritious anyway. So here's what needs to happen. If you're on food stamps, you need to be educated about how to best spend your food stamp money. You need to learn about shopping wisely, looking for sales and bargains, clipping coupons, and making your dollar go further.

I realize that food stamps aren't necessarily a choice, and that there are many families who rely on this assistance to feed their children. But why aren't we educating food stamp recipients so they can do more with their money and provide better nutrition to their families?

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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