For several decades, if not longer, America has a history of stigmatizing citizens who collect SNAP benefits, a.k.a. food stamps. The stereotype of the freeloading government-assistance recipient perhaps took its nastiest turn with Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” in the 1970s. However, current politicians, like Missouri’s Rick Brattin, have held onto that flawed view. In 2015, Brattin even proposed limitations to assistance in his state because he “saw people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards.”


A recent report from National Geographic‘s The Plate breaks down why Brattin’s stereotype is fundamentally flawed. From the story:

On average, households poor enough to qualify for SNAP spend about $25 a month on beef and seafood, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey for 2014, which tracks grocery spending in households by income. That’s out of a monthly grocery budget of $244, which means beef and seafood make up about 10 percent of a poor households’ grocery bill. Fresh fruits and vegetables, by the way, together average about $30 a month. (For the record, SNAP recipients can’t use their benefits to buy alcohol, tobacco, pet food, soap, vitamins, or hot food.)


For a person whose benefits average $126 per month, it doesn’t seem like buying food items that cost upwards of the cited monthly beef expenditures would factor into purchasing habits.

On a fundamental level, some scholars argue that SNAP-benefit recipients should be integrating more seafood and steak into their diets. Washington University professor Mark Rank, who’s written a book on welfare, told the Washington Post last year about Brattin’s proposal, “It just seems really repressive. I don’t see how it makes any sense to ban some of these foods. Fish is something that should really be in your diet. And steak, what does that mean in this context?”


Of course, even without relying on the stereotype, SNAP benefits are being gutted this year. Between 500,000 and 1 million recipients will lose their access, as states re-implement work time-limits that were waived following the recession.

[via The Plate]