Nanny State of the Week: Feds Marketing Food Stamps with Bingo Games, TV Ads

SNAPfrom – Watchdog.org – by Eric Boehm

Maybe you don’t want to depend on food stamps to feed your family.

Maybe the federal government can convince you otherwise.

For seven years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been using food stamp funds to run a recruitment program that attempts to convince more American to sign up for the welfare program.

The so-called “SNAP Outreach Plans” (SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the technical name for the food stamp program) have included taxpayer-funded advertising on radio and television, bingo games intended to lure seniors into signing up for the program and even “food stamp parties” organized by state level SNAP officials.

The efforts have apparently paid off, as the number of Americans signed up for food stamps has skyrocketed in recent years.

In 2000, 17 million Americans were getting food stamps. Last year the number rose to 46 million, down a tick from the peak of 47 million in 2012.

That’s not to say that food stamps are a part of the nanny state, though some might feel that way. Providing food to those who are truly needy is a sensible part of a basic government safety net.

But recruiting people into that program – persuading Americans to accept welfare that they may not want, or need – that’s a Nanny State policy by any definition of the term.

A few years back, the Washington Post took a look at those recruiting efforts. Alabama hands out fliers that read: “Be a patriot. Bring your food stamp money home,” the paper reported.

The piece centered on Dillie Nerios, a USDA food stamp recruiter in Florida.

“Help is available,” she tells hundreds of seniors each week, the Post wrote. “You deserve it. So, yes or no?”

It’s subtle, but the language being used there is straight out of the Nanny State playbook. “Bring your money home.” “You deserve it.” You’re paying for those government benefits that others are receiving, so why not get a piece of the action for yourself. It’s a message that appeals simultaneously to the altruistic and selfish parts of human nature, without causing the two to contradict each other.

And don’t blame President Barack Obama – or at least don’t blame only Obama. The USDA started running radio ads encouraging Americans to sign up for food stamps back in 2004. During the George W. Bush administration, food stamp enrollment climbed by 63 percent, a good portion of that total coming before the Great Recession.

But this is one nanny state problem that might be getting a solution.

A proposed new rule would prevent the USDA from using those recruiting tools to persuade Americans to sign up for SNAP.

“Persuasive practices constitute coercing or pressuring an individual to apply, or providing incentives to fill out an application,” the rule says. That means no more food stamp bingo nights, no more high-pressure advertising on radio and TV.

The new rule is the result of the 2014 farm bill, which instructed the USDA to change its policy and stop government agents from coercing people into joining the food stamp brigade. It may not do much to reduce the number of people on the rolls, but it will at least do away with the disturbing paternalistic sign-up efforts.

The lesson in all this: Government should measure the success of its welfare programs by how many people are lifted out of poverty.

A nanny state measures success by how many people it can get enrolled into government programs, outcomes be damned.

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Sign Up Today

Leave a Reply

11 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Peter Koteas

There is a significant difference between “a hand up” and “a hand out”. Progressives, liberals and Socialists prefer the latter because it creates over time a direct reliance on government and a reduction in personal responsibility. I was raised in the 40’s – 50’s by a single working legal immigrant Mother that earned little as a manual laborer in a factory who would NEVER accept a hand out under any circumstance and was taught to be personally responsible for myself and as I grew older, my families well being. She was grateful to her death for the opportunity available to her in the USA. Today we have many, many USA citizens on their 5th or 6th generation of welfare caring not that they have become part of a lifestyle that is demeaning to most decent people. Sad state of affairs. The best thing about both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz… Read more »


“The lesson in all this: Government should measure the success of its welfare programs by how many people are lifted out of poverty.”

No, the government’s success (if there even IS such a thing) should be measured by the DECREASE in welfare recipients, which currently we do not see.


It is your patriotic duty to help finish off the USA by adding to the National Debt – keep it up and you or your children will get to live just like the people in the Congo or Zimbabwe. Isn’t that what the Left’s New World Order is all about??

Ivan Berry

The more who are dependant upon government, the more the government functionaries gain in power to eventually destroy what’s left of our nation. And lest we forget, those who can supply all can, should they so desire, take all.

Mike Hazlwood

I can NOT imagine WHY, our government is ‘RECRUITING” people onto Food Stamps, who obviously DON’T “NEED” the help! Our Fed’s -WASTE-, SO MUCH Money, already! Having worked a few government sponsored jobs (including Military), I’ve SEEN the “WASTE”. Years ago, I was in a “pinch” and received both Food Stamps AND an AFDC check. When I DID get a job and notified them, they just KEPT sending me checks and food stamps. I kept calling and writing and SAVING them. After 6 months, I took the checks and food stamps to the local DHHR Office to turn them in. They would NOT accept them and told me to “USE THEM”. So, I Did! Many moths later, I received a letter, “asking” me top PAY BACK the benefits, voluntarily! I’m sure you can imagine just “WHAT” I told them. I was barely making a ‘living wage”, NOT a fortune! A… Read more »

maria rose

As a person who has been turned down for SNAP,etc.for “earning” too much. I feel the system has been abused too much. I applied twice, once when my children were young and I was the only income to support the household for everything and I could have used the food stamps to have money for food. Instead, I was told I earned too much by $100 over the cut off income,so I had to get a part time job and worked 60-80 hours a week for 15 years to cover household expense with on handouts from government. The second time was when I turned 62, I put in application and again got told I earn too much even when I start social security to get any help. I have seen too many able-bodied people on welfare who barely work 20 hours a week and also barely do job and get… Read more »


“Basic government safety?” What happened to families, churches, charities and communities caring for the needy? There is too much abuse. The system should be re-done to reduce fraud.

ragcoat dad

Everyone needs to write or call their congressman and tell them: If someone truly needs help with SNAP, then lets help them but please stop the abuse in public assistance. Stop all payments and make everyone reapply. SNAP should be for potatoes – NOT potato chips. For milk – NOT ice cream. For meats to cook – NOT deli sliced meat or unbaked pizza. For flour not prebaked sweets, and many more examples. Most likely many of those receiving SNAP buy the ice cream, potato chips, and frozen pizza at the grocery store and then go to the food banks to get bread, milk, and canned vegetables. One day I did the grocery shopping and was behind someone who had food assistance. Among the groceries were 5 large bags of chips costing about $5 each. I can’t afford to treat my family with expensive chips on my $15 / hr.… Read more »

Wayne Peterkin

There is a very good reason for this. Our Liberal/Progressive/Socialist (mostly Democrat) elements in government require as many people as possible to be dependent on them and therefore secure the dependent’s gratitude and votes. Besides the enormous welfare state they have created, some 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So who do you think they all vote for? The greatest thing the Democrats fear are personally responsible, strong, independent citizens, because those citizens don’t need the government controlling them.


Must be cocktail hour…?


Who cares?