Should people who use food stamps be forced to buy generic?

United States
January 4, 2007 12:03pm CST
Since food stamps are government funded, should folks who use them be forced to buy generic products when possible? Wouldn't this stretch the dollar further to be able to help more people?
8 people like this
26 responses
@armywifey (883)
• United States
28 Jan 07
I myself have received food stamps before when I was unable to work due to medical problems. I had 3 kids to feed and I thought it to be a blessing. I never took advantage of the system and I always shopped at Aldi and Sav-a-lot because I had to stretch that money as far as I could because it wasn't a lot for a family of 4. I don't understand how people could be buying all these expensive foods and still feeding a family for a month on what they receive in just food stamps. I was struggling to get mine to last a whole month and I was being very frugal. I guess if this is a problem in your area they should teach people how to shop and how to make their stamps last. I don't think it would be fair to limit people to getting only generics because that is saying that people don't deserve the right to choose what they eat. I can understand if people are buying 20.00 a pound lobster or T-bones and Filet Mingon. It is sad that there are people abusing the system when so many people out there are struggling to get by. I did hear that they are talking about removing carbonated beverages form being purchased with food stamps. I don't think it has happened yet but it is something they have been discussing.
6 people like this
@sweetdesign (5151)
• United States
25 Jan 07
hhhhmmmmmmm so what you are saying is that poor people do not deserve to have the same food choices as you or other non poor people? That poor people should have to eat a lesser quality (not all generics are lesser quality but many are) food than you or non poor people? Listen to what you are saying and think about how you would feel if you were in the position of needing government assistance and someone said that to you. How would you feel if you were a struggling single parent and had to tell your kid "no honey you can't have that kind of cereal it is not for people like us. That is only for other kids". Just how wrong is that. I am so offended by your discussion as I am a single mom who has had to have assistance in the form of food stamps from time to time because though I worked full time and went to school full time and raised my daughter full time there were times when my ex wasn't paying support and it was a choice of the light bill or eating. Grow up and get some compassion.
5 people like this
• United States
25 Jan 07
Oh and by the way when I was recieving help the only help I recieved was food stamps and I did not own a car as I couldn't afford one and still can't and don't have one. I also stretched my stamps as far as I could with coupons and buying things that were on sale. Not everyone on food stamps is frivolous with them. I also made sure that if I got some food for very low cost or free with coupons that I gave it to charity. I was able to help others while receiving help myself. Do not lump all the people recieving government assistance into one catagory of freeloaders.
5 people like this
• United States
26 Jan 07
Woah. Hold on. There is no need to attack. To tell me to grow up and get some compassion is quite immature. This is a discussion board and there will be differences of opinons on a discussion board. No, I did not say that poor people should have less quality. I actually did not say anything, I asked for opinions. My point for discussion (which means to discuss the pros and cons of an issue) was to ask if perhaps having food stamp recipients buy generics would enable the government to help MORE people, as the government money could be stretched to MORE people. I don't see a reason, if there is a box of name brand cheerios on the shelf, and a generic brand of them beside it, that it makes a difference which box a hungry mouth eats. Now, should a generic not be available, then the recipient could buy the name brand, the wouldn't have to tell their child that "it is not for people like us." I have nothing againest people who get food stamps. I actually assist with the office in my town. I simply was asking if there was a way to help more with the money allocated. By the way, I admire you for your dedication in going to school and being a single parent. I did the same for a long while before meeting my second husband. It is not an easy task.
2 people like this
• United States
27 Jan 07
I was not trying to attack you I just honestly get a little peeved that everyone on gov. assistance gets grouped all together in an unflattering light. Yes there are those who abuse the system I have known some. I feel that shopping for items is very personal. We all have our differences in this area. I personally am a strategic shopper. I use coupons I buy items on sale. I manage my money very well. I have to I am a single mom and I own my own business (I have a website where I sell my ceramics and polymer peices and other crafts) and I work as a seasonal tax preparer. I think a better sollution would be to offer a class that people who recieve food stamps could attend that teaches them how to use coupons how to shop strategically. How to get the most bang for your buck. Make it a fun class so they want to attend and learn. Then they can save money which will empower them to achieve even greater things. Getting people off of gov. assistance is all about empowering them with the tools to manage their lives and make it easier to manage without being subsidized by the government. These people are told every day what they can't do, what they can't have we need to be showing them what they can do. Take them by the hand and help them through those baby steps so they can walk with pride and know that they can do it, they can have thier dreams.
5 people like this
@JoyfulOne (6243)
• United States
4 Jan 07
I have thought about this subject often. There have been times when I have been in the checkout line at the supermarket and the person in front of me is paying with food stamps. More times than I can count I see their cart filled with tons of junk food and the more expensive brand name items. I'm on low income (and do not recieve food stamps) and I often think they're eating wayyyyyy better than me. I go for nutritional value, and purchase very few brand names of anything I buy. One friend I used to have would pay with food stamps and have such things as crab legs, steak (not the cheap kind), Pepsi, sweets & treats from the bakery, Sara Lee, Haagan Daz ice cream, and all sorts of things that I only wished I could buy sometimes (but I don't.) Although she recieves assistance because of chronic health problems, I still don't see why she should be allowed to eat like a queen when the public is paying for it. It just doesn't seem right, does it? I've often felt that the gov't agencies issuing the food stamps should require them to turn in the receipts for the food that they purchased with them. In this way it could be supervised more realistically and there probably wouldn't be as much abuse of the system. Look at WIC, now there's a program that has rules about what can, and cannot, be purchased when you're on it. I have no problems with those who really need the help, but I do think there are those that abuse the privilege they get from receiving the food stamps.
• United States
4 Jan 07
well said. You put into words exactly what I was trying to say!! As you said, I don't have a problem with the idea of food stamps and helping those in need, but for goodness sakes, they shouldn't be eating better than those who are funding the program! (taxpayers)
4 people like this
@Trace86 (5043)
• United States
24 Jan 07
This is an amazing response! It hits all the issues and says it all. If I could, I would give it 2+!
1 person likes this
@Foxxee (3654)
• United States
3 Jun 07
I have to disagree. Foodstamps is here to helep people out with food. There is no rule on what kind of food to buy, it's all about personal choice. It does NOT matter if the person is on foodstamps or not, nobody has a right to tell anyone what they can or can't eat. Just because someone is on foodstamps doesn't make them any less of a person. If they want to buy junk food, then so be it. If they want crab then that is their choice. Not everyone likes the same things and this isn't about whats cheaper or not. I buy a little of everything. I buy name brand and I buy generic. I have also noticed that name brand stuff can be cheaper then the generic stuff. SOme stuff is cheaper in generic, and then some isn't so cheap. The welfare goes by income and if the family can stretch their food for the whole month even if they buy generic or name brand things, then there is nothing wrong. And WIC is totally different then foodstamps, so that isn't even the case here. If you can't afford to buy the things you want, then why don't you get on foodstamps instead of thinking that people that buy name brand food with foodstamps are eating like queens and kings!
1 person likes this
@kelly60 (4550)
• United States
28 Jan 07
Sure there are some people who abuse the system. There always have been, and there always will be. Forcing people to use generic products is not the answer though. I use many generic products in my kitchen and many of them are great... but many of them are not. Some are a much lower quality. Also, when shopping with coupons, how many coupons do you see for generic products. I can often get name brand products for the same price or sometimes even less than generic products. Should people be forced to give up the less expensive, higher quality name brand products in favor of the generic products? As for cutting the dollar amount, how would you like to suddenly have your grocery budget cut to nothing. I have seen too many people foolishly spend them all when they first come in at the first come in at the beginning of the month and have nothing left for food at the end. Others may have a bit extra left at the end of the month. There are some though, who have barely enough to eat as it is. Education is definitely the answer. People need to be taught how to use what they have better. If you can teach them to shop for the best deals, they can stretch their budget further, but I know too many people who barely get by. I don't know about all states but in Michigan they have gone to a debit card. The government can now track all purchases so if they wish to, they can find out who uses their food stamps inappropriately and who does not.
• United States
29 Jan 07
I believe that all states have gone to the EBT cards for all benenfits not just food stamps but your disability and welfare checks also are put on the card. When I was on food stamps some months I shopped so well I had money roll over to the next month. I tried to do this as often as possible so that when a holiday month (ie birthday, thanksgiving, christmas) came around I would have extra for the niceties of the holiday. I agree with you education is the key.
4 people like this
@micheller (1366)
• United States
24 Jan 07
I don't think it would make a difference because when you get food stamps, the amount of money you get in food stamps goes by your income and how many people you have on them. If a person chooses to buy all the name brand things it's on them because once you sepnd how much you get in a month you don't get anymore until the next month.
4 people like this
• United States
24 Jan 07
Hi micheller. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion. My idea was that rather than have the food stamp holder attempt to stretch the dollars, reduce how much we give them and advise them to buy generic. Then, what we save by reducing their amount could go to help an additional family. But, to reduce their amount might be very cruel. I don't know what a good answer would be. Perhaps making it mandatory to take a little class in how generics are cheaper or ways to stretch the dollars...
2 people like this
@Foxxee (3654)
• United States
3 Jun 07
Very well said micheller! You are so correct. A family is set on an income. SO it doesn't really matter. Either way they are getting that money. So it should be their choice on what to buy.
1 person likes this
• United States
24 Jan 07
I agree, that would be a great idea. I think it would help more people. But, what the government needs to really do, is get most of the people abusing the system off. Then there will be more to help the real needy ones temporarily. Too many people live on the system. It was set up only to help for awhile.
4 people like this
• United States
29 Jan 07
I would have to say i agree with this. There are too many people who are on the system that really should not be. When my mother was on it she was forced to get a job and support our family. (she was a stay at home mom, she had 5 kids. she needed to be) So she got a job, then found a higher paying one and was kicked off the system, only because she quit her old job. The system is screwed up, it is not set up to help people get off of it. My mom still qulified for assistance, but was not given it because she quit. I guess what I'm trying to say is they need to change it so that if your on assistance they help you find work and then give you a few months to get on your feet, then take you off.
2 people like this
@finlander60 (1776)
• United States
29 Jan 07
I have known people who used these. Many of them do buy generic, when possible. Personally, when I can't tell the difference, I will buy generic first. I just don't see much difference in, for example, toilet paper. What are you using it for, anyway? You're just going to use it once and flush it down the toilet. So, what's the big deal, anyway. What you are suggesting sounds like dictating, and I have been used to thinking that this is a democratic country. Everyone is supposed to have free choice.
• United States
29 Jan 07
Yeah, fin, I should have chosen my verb a bit better! What I actually meant was more like, shouldn't we suggest/teach/encourage those using foodstamps to use generics so that their money would go further, and we'd be able to serve more families! It came out all wrong! Many have been able to say it more eloquently than myself in their responses! At least the point got made, if not by me, than by someone! ROFL at the toilet paper example! Yes, that is a great place to begin using a generic!
1 person likes this
• United States
26 Feb 07
Crazynurse, It would be a good idea to teach us these things, but we already know. We are all doing the best we can, cutting corners when we can.
• United States
3 Jun 07
iam on food stamps and my family buy generic unless there out then we dont buy it
@Foxxee (3654)
• United States
3 Jun 07
Everyone has a different taste in things. Some like generic and some don't. I know that we usually buy a little of everything. Name brand or generic. Some generic is good and some taste like crap, but that goes the same with name brand stuff as well. Another thing is, if you pay close attention to prices, sometimes name brand can actually be cheaper then the generic stuff. Anyway, on to other things, the government has no way of really inforcing this. So I doubt it will ever happen or do I think it should happen. Just because they are on foodstamps doesn't mean we or anyone should tell them what to buy or eat. That just isn't fair to treat them like that just because they are a low income family.
• United States
29 Jan 07
Some people do go over board with what they buy. Everyone is so oh you mean poor people shouldn't have good food too. But what about the rest of us who have fallen on hard times? If we have hard times in my house, we don't have food stamps to fall back on. I can't say well I can reduce my grocery bill by 100.00 because I have food stamps. I have to take out all the extras that those with food stamps don't have to cut out. I'm not talking about soda and junk food because there are times we don't buy those even when I know I have a lot of money. My husband has a good job and there are tons of us out there who have fallen on hard times and we don't have the system to fall back on because they tend to look at our overall earnings. And as far as I knew food stamps weren't to supply you with your food for the whole month but to supplement what you already have in your grocery bill. Yes, there are certain things that need to be removed from the food stamp list. Soda is a big one and I'm glad to see that someone said that is being considered. It could be more helpful if the gov't handed out vouchers like WIC does or did. You had select things from each voucher you could get and yes it could be namebrand if that is what you wanted. I can't think of too much they can do. People are going to buy what they want. But I'm tired of hearing how why shouldn't we have what we want....just remember when the rest of us who can't use welfare fall on hard times, we cut out the junk food, extras and often times things we need because we can't afford them and there is no one there to help us. I know this may have came out snotty and that was NOT my intention. It is hard because I can't share my tone with you all...
3 people like this
• United States
30 Jan 07
Wow I don't know what state you live in but in the states I have been in on WIC you cannot get name brand anything unless there is absolutely no generic available. Vouchers would not work for food stamp recipients as they need to buy thier meat, produce, canned goods, and staples on them. Some people on food stamps are on restricted diets due to diabetes, heart conditions, and other conditions. Some people do not eat certain foods because of religious beliefs. You have to consider the wide variety of people who recieve assistance. That is why there are guidelines about what cannot be bought with food stamps ie. hot food, already prepared food, paper products non edible items, dog food, pet food, restuarant food just to name a few. I know I for one would save as much on my food stamps as I could and make sure that I had a rollover each month so that on the holidays I could afford the extra nicities like stuff for my daughters easter basket (candy), stuff for her christmas stocking, birthday cake for her birthday and "junk" food for her party (mainly just soda which we generally didn't buy and frozen pizzas and chips). I was still able to feed us on my alloted food stamps and because I saved and used coupons and sales I was also able to help other families. It is all in learning how to shop smarter whether you use cash or food stamps. I am no longer on food stamps but I am still on a tight budget because my ex just stopped paying support again and I am a seasonal tax preparer and I own my own website where I sell my art. Money is tight but because I shop wisely I manage.
3 people like this
@inked4life (4228)
• United States
24 Jan 07
generic foods - Generic or no-name juice
What a great idea. I honestly would never have thought of that. We buy generic foods quite often and can't really taste that much of a difference between them and the name brands.
3 people like this
• United States
24 Jan 07
Oh yes, 3/4 of the food in my kitchen is generic. Generics are often the same food, packaged in the same plant, with a different box or bag! By using generics, the money could be stretched further to help more people! (of course, weeding out the cheaters would be of great help too1)
2 people like this
• United States
8 Feb 07
I don't think they should be FORCED to use generic products, but it would be smarter for them to. I don't have an issue with people buying healthy food with their food stamps, even if it is name brand. I do have a problem when I'm behind someone in line at the grocery store and they are buy tons of junk food, candy, sodas, etc. and then they pay with food stamps. If they are using food stamps for these items I doubt that they are buying the quality healthy food with their own money. I really hate this when I see kids with them who are clearly obese and could really benefit from a healthier diet.
3 people like this
@Trace86 (5043)
• United States
24 Jan 07
I have to agree with both who posted above me. The government should restructure the program to weed out the abusers and players and also put some restrictions on what can be purchased with the food stamps. It isn't fair that I can't afford to buy all that stuff mentioned in the first post, yet my tax money purchases it for someone on the dole. I don't begrudge those who truly need help. Just try to make good choices and get the most bang for the buck.
@lauriefnp (5113)
• United States
30 Jan 07
I think that this might be a great idea. Most of us but generic in order to stretch our own dollars, whether or not we receive food stamps. Part of the social services program for receiving food stamp benefits should include a mandatory course on grocery shopping and stretching the budget. Maybe a lot of these people do not understand how much more they could actually get for their money by making a few smart changes in their buying habits. Where I used to work, there was a grant-funded grocery program where qualified patients received $100 gift cards every month to use for food at one of the local grocery stores. They were required to turn in receipts for all purchases, and the receipts were scrutinized for appropriate purchases. They had certain foods and items that were not allowed, such as junk foods, pizzas and "prepared meals" from the deli, etc. If those things showed up on the receipts, the person's account was cancelled and the grant was re-distributed to someone who would follow the rules. The purpose was that $100 would go a lot further if you bought grocery staples and necessities rather than a pizza and wings for your football party.
2 people like this
• United States
31 Jan 07
OK. I've decided that we need to send 'sweetdesign' to Washington to help the feds revamp the foodstamp program!! Awesome, awesome ideas! I am seriously taking notes sweetdesign, and plan on trying to do some of this at the local level in my county!
• United States
30 Jan 07
Oh wow, what an awesome program! I think after listening to everyones responses that we all agree some education should be mandatory when one receives foodstamps. Sweetdesign had a great idea that the recipients could be taught to use coupons (although, even with a coupon, it is sometimes cheaper to buy generic. Also, I would imagine that a person needing foodstamps may not get a newspaper to have access to coupons) and to look at unit pricing and the importance of preparing food from scratch etc. Now, lets convince the feds, and let them hire you and me and sweetdesign!!!
• United States
31 Jan 07
While some may not subscribe to a paper you could still get a sunday paper at the stand. Also DHS offices could start a county program where people could donate the coupons they are not using (some people get a paper on sunday and don't keep and use the coupons I am shuddering just thinking of it how horrible) that way they could use the coupons in the class to teach with and give them to families that need them. There is so much that could be done by volunteers and part time workers that in the long run would benefit the programs but nobody is doing it.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Jan 07
I have been on food stamps and I didn't get much, about 150 and only because I was a student and didn't make enough at my job. I have no problem buying generic brands, but I know some people who have to buy certin items because they have allergys. I do know that there are many people who get way too much for food stamps. I worked as a cashier for a while and I remember one day a guy, his wife and there 2 kids came through my line. They bought $500 worth of food, then paid with food stamps.. I thought that was alot to have, but didn't say anything, but when I went to show them what they had left it showed a balance of $1200 now personaly i think that is way to much! no one needs that much money per month for food. Then I thought maybe they had some left from the last month, it happens, but they came back in a few weeks later with $1400. That is something that needs to be fixed, no one needs to spend that much on food. my mother fed 8 people for one month on $450, with a little out of pocket. The other thing that needs to be fixed is that they need to limit how much pop and sweets you can buy, since they have the cards now they could easily program them so that you only get so much tward pop, chips and candy. I lived with a family for a while where the parents used the foodstamps to buy pop for themselfs and I ended up buying food for the kids and me.
2 people like this
• United States
29 Jan 07
Yes, I feel it needs to be more like the WIC program. They even limit to certain brands of juice, as they are the only ones sugar free! I mean, if the idea of the program is that people should not have to be hungry and need adequate nutrition, then for goodness sakes, teach healthy nutrition! Especially since there are usually children involved! As for the soda issue, I feel it should be removed. Non-food items are not allowed (toilet paper, etc) and to me, soda is a non-food! It has no nutritional value! Why call it food?!
• United States
26 Feb 07
I think that, if you had asked, you may have learned a few things: * They probably had more than two kids, who were not with them during the shopping trip because they needed the room for the food. * They may have had quite a few more kids, for all you knew, and may have just fallen on hard times. Maybe the father lost his job due to downsizing or something. * In which case, he had probably had to hire one of those free lawyers to get back paid for foodstamps, which happens more often than you think. * If he had lost his job a few months ago, and had a number of children, then he was owed that money. * Maybe becuase he is dealing with an illness, or has been looking for work but hasn't found it yet. Did you think to ask? A few weeks later, it would have been time for his foodstamps to come in again. If he had a $12,000 balance, and then a few weeks later he had a $14,000 dollar balance, then that means that he only gets $200.00 a month, which is not much even if it is just 4 people. That would also mean that he had fallen on hard times, oh, 8 1/2 months earlier than the first time he had been in. He probably was dealing with an injury or an illness, in such a case. Look at the whole picture and you will realize that all is not necessarily how it seems. Also, I like that my cashier is not so nosy as to check my balance when she gives me my receipt. That way she does not have to know how little food money that I actually have.
• United States
26 Feb 07
People on foodstamps already do this. By choice, not because they are forced to. Oh, excuse me...not necessarily by choice, but out of necessity. I get foodstamps and buy most of my food as cheaply as possible. However, there are just some generic/store brand items that are just plain nasty. No one should be "forced" to purchase a particular way.
2 people like this
@villageanne (8579)
• United States
24 Jan 07
I think they should all be forced to spend them at ALDI's. We would no longer have to give them as many food stamps to live on. Just ask me how to make the government run better! I have so many ideas.
1 person likes this
• United States
25 Jan 07
Oh yeah, me too village. Perhaps we should both run for office! Or, you run and I'll be your campaign manager!
1 person likes this
• United States
25 Jan 07
Some people have a grand idea of how much food stamps people get. When I was struggling through school and working and taking care of my daughter when she turned twelve my food stamps dropped from $100 a month (you try to feed yourself and your kid on a 100 bucks a month) to 12 bucks a month. I had a friend who had 3 kids and was a working single mom and she only recieved 250 bucks a month. They are not handing out thousands of dollars a month to people. I knew a family of 11 that was only recieving 400 bucks a month to feed 11 mouths.
2 people like this
• United States
25 Jan 07
OH and here is a little clue you cannot use them to buy hot food like in the deli or in a restuarant. You cannot use them to buy anything non edible as in soap,toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, clothes for your kids only food and only food that is not hot ready to eat.
1 person likes this
• United States
31 Jan 07
I think this is a great idea!! I'll never forget the time I was in the checkout line and the lady in front of me had about 20 frozen breakfasts, and a lot of fruit punch. I thought nothing of it, (except that there was no variety!) until she used her food stamps to pay for it all. That's all that was in her cart too. It just seemed she could have gotten so many different, nutritious things instead of frozen breakfasts and fruit punch. :-)
@lpetges (3037)
• United States
30 Jan 07
i see no problem with that. i buy generic as much as i can, and i'm not on welfare. the prices of food go up so much, its a blessing that there are generic items.
1 person likes this
@gurl976 (48)
• United States
26 Feb 07
yes they should! If you are using government money to purchase products, you should want to strech that a far as possible, and buying generic brands is the way to do that. I know people who arent on government assisted programs that buy generic products b/c it makes sense. For someone on govt assistant to not buy generic products is an abuse of the Food stamp program
@Foxxee (3654)
• United States
3 Jun 07
It's not abuse of the foodstamp program because it's allowed. Foodstamps is for them to buy food of their choice. Generic or brand name. Nobody has a right to tell anyone what to eat or what to buy. Foodstamps are for all kinds of food of choice.