My friend Leah is working on a campaign to help make some real differences in the lives of families on SNAP (AKA "Food Stamps") by asking the USDA to make food stamps capable of purchasing food online.
- 74% (or more) of people below the poverty line (read: the people on food stamps) have access to the internet - but only 30% of them have access to a car.
- 23.5 MILLION people live in a "Food Desert" - they might live hours from a SNAP approved grocery store.
- If you are on food stamps, don't have a car and live in a "food desert" your options for using your SNAP benefits (food stamps) include convenience stores and fast food restaurants even if you actually want to buy healthy food.
Accepting food stamps online would change that!
Have you ever complained about seeing someone on food stamps spend their money on Mountain Dew and beef jerky?
Here's the truth: Sometimes that is all they have access to.
Why this matters
Since this campaign started two days ago, Leah has received a lot of notes asking why she wants to help stupid, lazy people.
Here is the truth: Almost all of of us are just one serious illness or one lay off away for needing this support ourselves.
I know people with masters degrees who have been on food stamps who got there because they had a sudden emergency illness - that even with health insurance - crippled them financially and destroyed their ability to work.
I know people who have been on food stamps who were making a very good, middle class salary and then were suddenly laid off. They had been living paycheck to paycheck (like SO MANY of us are) and suddenly their income disappeared. They got unemployment but it wasn't enough. Food Stamps helped them feed their family until Dad got a new job and they got back on their feet.
Question: What happens when you have access to Food Stamps, but don't own a car and live in a "food desert"?
Answer: You most likely buy food at convenience stores and gas stations. Because even if you want to eat healthy food, you don't have access to it.
Confession: Living in a food desert didn't make a lot of sense to me until recently. I lived one mile from a grocery store that I could walk to. I owned a car.
Then I moved to a food desert.
The options for food in my town are: McDonald's, Subway, a run down Mexican food restaurant, a small cafe, a convenience store and two gas stations. The closest grocery store to my house is 6.4 miles away.
Which doesn't sound like a big deal unless you don't have a car. I live in an area without access to public transit. If I didn't have a car, I would need to walk at least four miles to get to an area where I could get on a bus.
Now, I am not on food stamps. But I can only imagine how difficult it would be to be a single mother on food stamps in my town - and all of the towns like it across America. How would I get to the grocery store with my kid? If I couldn't get to the grocery store with my kid, what would I do? Use all our food stamps on junk food at the gas station two blocks away? I'd like to hope not.
Buying food online levels the playing field
If you could use food stamps online, you would have access to healthy food at competitive prices. Having the food delivered straight to your house would mean you wouldn't have to rent a car, beg a friend for a ride or walk for a mile or more to get to an area where you could ride a bus.
It would mean you wouldn't have to settle for convenience store foods.
It would mean that you could feed your family healthy food that would support their health.
It's 2016. You can do EVERYTHING online. Except use your food stamps to buy healthy food.
About the Author:
Carissa is a green lifestyle expert and mom of two boys. The owner and lead writer for Creative Green Living, she is also the author of two e-books including the best-selling beverage cookbook, Infused: Recipes for Herb & Fruit Infused Water, Tea and More. You can also find her recipes featured in The Non-GMO Cookbook as well as in periodicals like Urban Farm Magazine. Her goal is to empower families to make healthier choices that are easy, taste great and are fun!
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