Government Watch

Fraudulent Food Stamp Nation

by Dan Holler – Town Hall –

A 30-something graduate from the University of Chicago turned part-time blogger boldly declared, “I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing.” He’d just finished “roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes.” His friend, a 30-year old art school graduate acknowledged, “I’m eating better than I ever have before.”

The accounts come from the left-leaning Salon, which published the friends’ food journey under the provocative headline: Hipsters on food stamps.

That was in March 2010, when 44.5 million people were part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Now, more than 47.7 million are receiving food stamps.

Recently, Ohio was targeted for participation in a new federal program to curb abuse in the food stamp program. Last year, according to The Courier (Findlay, Ohio), the state auditor “became aware of scams involving electronic benefit cards and people selling them, then seeking another one by claiming it was lost.” In 2011, 17,000 food stamp recipients in Ohio received 10 or more reissued cards. The fear, of course, is that those cards were not lost, but rather sold.

A November 2012 article from The Evening Times (Little Falls, New York) reveals just how quickly the cost of food stamp fraud accumulates. The local Welfare Fraud Task Force Team arrested nine individuals for amassing $107,512.04 in “unentitled benefits.” Two of the individuals, a husband and wife, “failed to report income on their applications” and “received $13,465 in food stamp benefits” during “the time period of March 2009 to April 2012.”

It is not just individuals gaming the system though. Three days after Barack Obama was reelected as president, The Enterprise (Brockton, Massachusetts) reported five local stores were accused of making illegal food stamp transactions. The stores were operating a cash-for-food stamps exchange. The Enterprise explained, if a food stamp recipient “wanted $50 cash, the store owner would swipe the card for $100, which would be credited to the store, and then give the customer the cash in exchange.”

If it sounds like small ball, it’s not. Last April, Eunice News (Louisiana) reported on brothers who own a pair of convenience stores and “defrauded the food stamp program out of $2.7 million and allowed customers to exchange their food stamps for alcohol, tobacco products, and cash.” While that may not seem like a lot by Washington standards, it would take a family of three at the current poverty level nearly 140 years to earn that much money.

Despite the alarming frequency of news reports, the United States Department of Agriculture insists fraud accounts for only 1% of the total cost of the food stamp program. Since the program costs nearly $80 billion, that is nearly $800 million a year in fraud. That’s enough to buy nearly 4,500 single family homes.

Of course, none of this accounts for the hipsters, who were heaping “Thai yellow curry with coconut milk and lemongrass, Chinese gourd sautéed in hot chile sauce and sweet clementine juice” onto their plates, “all of it courtesy of government assistance.”

It is difficult, if not impossible, to calculate the exact degree of abuse. A Bush-era document says more than one-quarter of all benefits go toward food items not considered “basic.” It’s unclear if coconut milk and lemongrass would be considered basic, but if that ratio holds true today, the abuse far outweighs the fraud. That’s $20 billion in taxpayer money going for things like chips and soda, and maybe sweet clementine juice.

Now, don’t expect to see news coverage of the Food Stamp Bill. When such waste, fraud and abuse is embedded into the program, it should come as no surprise many lawmakers who vote to reauthorize the food stamp program won’t be calling it the Food Stamp Reauthorization Act of 2013. Instead, lawmakers and the media will simply call it a farm bill.

George Orwell, call your office.

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9 years ago

This can be stopped by going back to the gov issued cheese, rice, butter, flour and other food. All sent to the local churches handled by volunteers. Let them stand in line for hours and have to show a receipt of what they did to help their community.

I remember volunteering at my local fire dept to check off items they received each month. But that was when people was truthful and had respect. The only people that took the food was the elderly and they were embarrassed for coming.

There are some using their cards for money while running from church to church for food. They seem to think they can live like the Obama’s on taxpayers dollars.

Taxpayers are being stuck while some of these so called poor have gold hanging around their necks, tattoos, driving fairly new cars, suvs, trucks, latest cell phones, big screen TV and the list goes on and on while the taxpayer has to live within their means. This is BS why are we even paying taxes.

9 years ago
Reply to  kjerijay


9 years ago

The article is a great example of the gradual transformation going on across the country. Twenty years ago, if you were on food stamps it was something to be ashamed of. It meant you failed at being able to take care of yourself and had to rely on public assistance to get by. Fast forward to today and more and more of our society not only thinks there’s nothing wrong with being on food stamps, but that it’s “a right” and something to be proud of.

Deborah smith
9 years ago

It thanks to obamaie poeple lost there homes and jobs . I am homeless sleeping in ford ranger and getting food stamps . Why ?

Kathleen burgess
9 years ago

Why not eliminate WIC if your trying to save money? Treat people like the adults they are and add it onto their SNAP balance? How many WIC offices and personnel would be gone freeing up a whole lot of money. Then make $40 of their food budget cash so people can afford toilet paper, diapers, gasoline, etc.

9 years ago

Mary Powers, I hope that you are never on food stamps. Begging? Did you know that in many cases members of our military qualify for food stamps? Try living on social security that just covers your rent and utilities. You must be rather well to do and sound like a snob. Hopefully that is not the way you really are but just ignorant of what some people have to go thru in life to eat. And in some places there is only one store so where does that leave an EBT store. Sort of like a soup line for the poor? Is that what you really are suggesting?

Mary Powers
9 years ago

Simple. There should be an EBT store where only EBT is accepted and will not be accepted at other grocery stores. After all being on food stamps means you are begging and if you are begging, then you don’t have the right to be so choosy about the brands you buy or what you eat as long as you eat.

9 years ago

Well, Barbara – there is nothing wrong with eating healthy, but healthy doesn’t require gourmet, and the food stamp program is designed for those who are out of work and need a helping hand, not for the college student looking for getting through college on the cheap. I remember being in college – I paid for my own food, and it consisted of one peanut butter sandwich per day (no jelly – too expensive), and that sandwich was eaten when I got too hungry to study. Milk? Not hardly. Oh, and as the week went on, the bread would get moldy, but you just brushed that off because I couldn’t afford another loaf til that one was gone. And now I have passed those college years – and because I work for it, I can eat gourmet meals if I choose.

9 years ago

I don’t see anything wrong with trying to eat healthy. Better than buying a bunch of junk food. As long as they are deservedly able to use FS why not?

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