Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Food Stamp Challenge

Today Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker begin his so-called "Food Stamp Challenge."

Booker and several of his followers on Twitter plan to live for a week on the monetary equivalent of food stamps. 

(These days the program comes through EBT cards, not "stamps.")

I have not bothered to spend much time in an internet search of stories to learn how the Mayor calculated the  amount of money he plans to spend. I suspect it will differ from the amount most of the food stamp customers who shop where I work. 

Most of my food stamp customers do not overtly display signs of economic hardship. I have observed quite a few customers pass through our check out lines purchasing large quantities of shrimp and crab from our fresh seafood department.  The only restriction is that the food cannot be cooked. That regulation does not stop a few customers from trying. Knowing the law, many make their purchase first, and THEN return to the seafood department to have it steamed with some Old Bay seasoning.

At least one of our seafood lovers occasionally provides a nice shrimp luncheon for her friends. One day a customer arrived to return some shrimp for a refund because it was not as fresh as that to which she was accustomed. Demonstrating her experience at working the system, she also demanded a full refund for the trouble of having to go out of her way to return the product. Of course, she punctuated her demand with a threat to call the corporate office on us if we failed to comply. When she produced her receipt, we saw it was for an  EBT purchase. She explained that  she was returning it on behalf of her best friend who actually made the initial purchase. Hmmmm, I thought, now the taxpayers are funding shrimp luncheons for the economically oppressed. 

One of the more interesting  dynamics of EBT is the impact their use on business trends. In our particular region, our business analysts have noticed a correlation between EBT clientele and the sale of pre-made decorated cakes in our bakery departments. And it is easy to understand how this developed. 

Why spend only two dollars on a box of Betty Crocker Cake Mix and another two dollars on frosting and actually have to WORK by mixing it and baking it, when the taxpayers will purchase a $50 or more fully prepared, fully decorated cake from the bakery.

Cory Booker: 
Having your cake and eating it, too?

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