A Box of Food Idea for SNAP

The gist of it is here.

RAndom thoughts in no particular order- right now it’s an idea only barely beyond brain-storming, from what I can tell.

The idea at this stage is that it will only be a replacement for part of their SNAP allotment. There will still be the SNAP debit card, just in smaller amounts, for purchasing other food.

No, the stuff in the box isn’t what I’d call healthy at this point. However, you’re naive if you imagine that the majority of what people purchase with their SNAP allotment is healthy. My husband worked for several years in the grocery industry, and people useing SNAP cards almost never were using them for fresh food and produce. They went for cokes, frozen pizzas, candy, chips, convenience foods and other junk. Yes, there are exceptions. If you’re reading here you are probably one of them because I’ve been told more than once people come here for the recipes as much as anything else (sorry I haven’t been posting those so much). I don’t know if somebody else has done the research, but if not, they should- before we argue about the quality of the food and nutrition in the proposed SNAP boxes, we should have a clear idea of where the money goes now.  I am positive it’s not really being used for nutritious food the vast majority of the time and I have considerable exposure to the use of food stamps in several counties, not just my own purchasing habits when I had to rely on government assistance.

I don’t know if this boxed food idea is a workable, useful idea or not, but I do know reforms are needed. I also know they aren’t going to happen without some major strong arming. This is because businesses and politics are too firmly intertwined. The companies who make cokes and easter baskets and frozen pizzas are not going to stand for being shut off from the government SNAP faucet, and the grocery stores won’t accept that, either.

I don’t think the government keeps track of these numbers but when my husband was managing a chain of groceries he checked, and food stamps/SNAP/EBT (different names for the same thing) accounted for half of the business of several of the grocery stores- more in one community, quite a bit less in another community, but about half by average. One week it might be 53%, another week 33%. They are not going to be happy to see that income reduced. They are now dependent on it. So of course, as it says in the article, grocery store owners are objecting to this plan. IT’s in their own personal best interest to object, and that has nothing to do with whether or not it’s good for the rest of us or the people actually on SNAP benefits.

I really don’t care if the food in the box is not to somebody’s personal taste. I know I’m hard nosed about this, but I am saying this as somebody who has used WIC and food stamps and has had family members use them as well, and it’s tough if you don’t like it, it’s not your money. It’s really not. It’s the money your neighbors and friends and and people you don’t even know in other states have worked hard for and had taken from them by the government to give to you. It’s grace. Be grateful and make the best of it instead of having an ugly sense of entitlement. You paid taxes so you deserve it?  Yeah, not really.   It’s highly unlikely you have actually paid out in taxes what you’re getting back (one of many reasons the gov’t is in debt).  Add up what you’ve gotten in governtment money and compare it to the federal taxes you’ve paid.  Be honest.  You need to be counting up what you’ve received not just through programs like SNAP, but also through child tax credits given to people who didn’t even pay federal income taxes, school lunch programs, college grants, and various other subsidies. If you’ have connections to the farm community, count farm subsidies, too.

Whenever this topic comes out somebody trots out the very tired and baseless assumption, “You can’t judge somebody on food stamps based on standing behind them in line for 30 seconds.” Mostly (not always, but mostly) true, and that’s not what I’m doing. I’m basing this on years of my husband and a couple other family members being at the cash register at the grocery store and watching what hundreds of customers buy and how they pay and hearing what they say when they do.

I’m basing this on some up close and personal and very first hand experience of spending time, lots of time, trying to help people living in subsidized apartments and hearing their complaints.

I have workd personally and quite closely with more than a few people on food stamps who not only do not feel grateful for them, they would feel astonished at the notion that anybody should feel feel grateful for something they think we all should be entitled to.
Rather than gratitude, there is more often grumbling, complaining, and resentment that the government isn’t doing *more.* I have watched a mother spend her food stamps on candy and junk food (including toys with candy in them- they qualify for food stamp purchases), eat out at McDonalds (NOT on the dollar menu), buy herself gourmet coffees and fifty dollar shoes, and then on the same day grumble loudly about having to pay a 3.00 co-pay for her child’s prescription, rudely demanding of the poor clerk, “Where is this supposed to come from? I guess it’s just coming out of my baby’s Pampers.”

I have listened to complaints from women living in government housing, where most of their rent and utlities are paid for courtesy of taxpayers, angry that when they let their boyfriends who are NOT on assisstance move in with them, the government expects the boyfriend to pitch in for the rent. They don’t think that’s fair. Their neighbors don’t think that’s fair. So they conspire to hide their boyfriends in their government subsidized apartments at taxpayer expense.  Incidentally, I’ve also been there when they throw away fod they purchased with taxpayer funds because, for a real example, they used their foodstamps to stock up on boxed and bottled comodities like salad dressing and now the dressing is one day past its expiration date- never mind that the ‘expiration’ date is a sell by date and not an ‘eat this one day later and you die’ date.

I have listened to resentful, indignant, complaints that their free housing requires that they pay a pet deposit out of their own pockets if they want a cat. They don’t think that’s fair.  They think taxpayers should cover that. Are there exceptions?  Of course there are.  The point is, I have seen pretty much an entire apartment complex of the ungrateful complainers, and the appreciative, still frugal with other people’s money are the people who try hard to get off the welfare train, and the ungrateful are those who are living in generational dependency and there are a lot more of them.

So, you see, I am not assuming that there are many people on government assistance who feel that it is their birthright, not something they should or do feel grateful for, I know this first hand. I witnessed it regularly.

Somebody else who worked as a manager for such an apartment told me her experience was the same:
“after being a apartment manager for government subsidized housing for many years. They often had the best and newest furniture, electronics (my favorite was the one with the almost wall sized flat screen who needed extra food vouchers every week), and newer cars, but then would come and want a payment arrangement because their rent was going to be late. One person even asked to pay their rent late because they “needed” to buy a bouncer for their kid’s birthday party. It’s sad.”

It’s sad, and it’s just part of a long laundry list of things wrong with us as a nation and I say us because I am not really immune, either. Oh, I may be immune to that specific example. But I’m sure there are others where I fail.  But other failings are not our topic today.  We’re talking about SNAP and possible reforms and solutions- I believe reforms are still desperately needed and people need to be rather firmly weaned from generational dependency.

So, anyway,  The SNAP box. I don’t think it’s a great idea, but I do think it’s an idea worth considering and most of the objections I’ve heard either are irrelevant or require more data before being considered relevant or not, or it’s just plain whining and a sense of entitlement.  The current system has a lot of problems that need fixing.  No solution will be perfect, but something should be changed.


I’ll add one more observation.  I was recently talking with a half Filipina half American teenager who spends about 2/3 of her time here in the PHilippines and a third in the U.S.  She’s told me one of the things she hates about going back to the U.S. is what whiny complainers Americans are.  They “complain about the food and not getting what they want, and they complain about how poor they are,  and they care more about animals than people,” she said, “But I  live in a third world country. It’s my real home.  And I see children picking garbage out of trash cans to eat all the time, and I just don’t have any patience with the whining.”

There are kids here who don’t get to go to school because they don’t have money for uniforms or supplies as basic as paper and a pencil.  Sometimes at night on my way home from church I see families with several young children rummaging through garbage bins.  I have been confronted by a family of beggars when I had no cash, but I did have a few pieces of fruit in my bag and when I gave them that, they immediately gathered on the corner of the road and sat down to share the slices of fruit together.  I’ve seen scorched rice brought to a potluck because that’s all somebody had to bring.  And I am never one who thinks we need to feel guilty about being American. I think it’s appropriate to feel blessed and thankful for that, not guilty.  But when I read objections to the SNAP box suggestion that go something as follows-  ‘… that stuff is gross. I don’t consider that food. We should be able to get whatever we want…’  my sympathy monitor flatlines.  Get whatever you want with your own money, not taxpayer dollars.   Send me your boxes and I can share them with people who actually know what real hunger is.  That sense of entitlement is disgusting.

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Food Hunger in America

Food Hunger
In a twitter debate on whether North Korea is really worse than American (seriously), somebody kept throwing around the claim that 1 in 6 Americans is going hungry.

Here’s what that means. It means that in a subjective survey on feelings, one in six, or one in eight, depending on reporting (and even that number is questionable), sometimes can’t buy the food they would rather have because of budget issues. Not actual hunger, but having a couple episodes a year where they buy a different set of groceries than normal because of the budget.

I live in a country where I’ve seen people picking food out of the garbage on a regular basis. Having to eat hamburger instead of steak, or even ramen instead of meat, is not food hunger. It’s not disgraceful.

And obviously, we are not worse than North Korea or you wouldn’t be here saying so because you wouldn’t have access to the internet and you wouldn’t be allowed to leave the gulag if you got caught saying stuff like that. You’d be eating grass and being beaten on a daily basis.

Sheesh, people.

MoveOn.org: Starved for Facts


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The Obama Portraits

The portraits are here: http://www.businessinsider.com/michelle-barack-obama-portrait-2018-2

I’ve read one story saying Michelle Obama chose the artists herself, several saying the Obama’s chose them together, and one or two saying he chose his, she chose hers. I don’t know which is right. But it seems clear they didn’t choose without knowing the styles of the artists they chose, and the results are likely representative of what they wanted. So it might be an interesting discussion to ask your scholars at home why they think they chose these specific black artists. They did want black artists specifically, but they could have chosen others, why these?

Here are four pieces by Amy Sherald, the artist who did Michelle Obama (the four include Michelle’s painting): https://twitter.com/IjeomaOluo/status/963231661721755650

My thoughts on her choice. I like it, personally. I agree with much of the criticism that the face doesn’t really look much like her, but I feel like the coolness, the iconic yet everywoman aura is possibly what she was going for. It’s a portrait of a historical moment bigger than an indidividual woman. I could be wrong, that’s just what I think. You don’t have to share this with your kids, you want their own views, not mine. I’m just offering it as an example of one opinion. I do think Sherald’s work would have been better received had it not been unveiled side by side with the more colourful and familiar style of Wiley’s work. Again, just my opinion.

WEll, golly. AFter I wrote the above, I found this:
“I paint American people, and I tell American stories through the paintings I create,” Sherald said. “Once my paintings are complete, the models no longer live in the paintings as themselves. I see something bigger in them, something more symbolic, an archetype. I paint things I want to see. I paint as a way of looking for myself in the world.”

Here’s a short story with some information on Michelle’s dress in the portrait, and a couple chuckles about Obama trying to negotiate the number of gray hairs down (those are ‘preacher stories,’ okay? He didn’t really do that): http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-behind-the-obama-portraits-20180212-story,amp.html

Kehinde Wiley did the former President’s portrait.
Kehinde Wiley usually has botanical backgrounds in his work. IN this case, he chose “chrysanthemums referencing the official flower of Chicago, jasmine evoking his native Hawaii and African blue lilies in memory of his late father.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-obama-portrait-20180212-story.html

You might see if you recognize any other flowers or the leaves. People are calling it ivy, but on a FB plant ID group I’m on, one of the most authoritative members said they are rose leaves. I don’t know if that’s what Wiley intended or not (maybe have a student write the artist with questions), but I think it’s kind of cool if it is, referencing the Rose Garden at the White House.

Wiley has done some previously controversial work, depicting black women holding decapitated heads of white women. That sounds… unpleasant. Maybe yes. But ther is a bit more to it than that- he does recreations, representations of older work by the masters. One of those paintings, which despite it’s grotesque subject matter I find incredibly well done and beautiful, is a recreation of an older rendition of the Apocrphyal story of Judith beheading the General Holofernes.

I’m curious about his idea behind changing the very masculine general to a woman.


As you know, I am no fan of Obama’s presidency. But this is a discussion about art, and I think it’s important to let these two pieces speak for themselves. POlitics is also part of the context, but that can be another discussion. Just try to look at these paintings distanced from the politics for a while and see what you think, especially if you’re going to look at these with your kids. Give them access to information and ideas. Let them reach their own conclusions.

You may hate them. That’s okay. Not everybody loves Caravaggio, Mondrian, Picasso, or Raphael, either.

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Media’s Asian coverage at the Olympics

Let me just say straight up that it’s an embarrassment. It’s cringe worthy. It’s ignorant. Here are some examples-

On twitter this was posted by a reporter and described as the Asians being ‘an unruly mob of counterparts. This is an interesting exercise in cross-cultural…. something. What do you see happening here?


Now possibly there’s a backstory that wasn’t clear here. But I don’t seen an unruly mob of Asians. I see belligerent American security over-reacting and acting like jerks and American press being entitled snobs. I see a typical Asian press, with polite bows and civility on the Asian side met with barking belligerence on the American side. In the comments to the post Americans double down, and one of them says something about how obviously back up means get back, reverse, and if people ignore clearly stated directions what can you do?

I really do not even know where to begin. IN which order do I take the obnoxious, tin earred, ill informed ignorance? That they are not in America, but on somebody else’s home ground as guests, and on that home-ground, English is not the norm? That ‘back up’ is not an obvious term to figure otu if you are not a native speaker, it’s one of those baffling ‘phrasal verbs’ that you just pick up by repeated exposure, not because it’s actually obvious. That the American bubble of personal space encompasses enough space to hold at least five Asians comfortably in their own bubble of personal space and this is a cultural difference that may be uncomfortable for American, but they are not in America? Which of these is most offensive and embarrassing? I don’t know.

That wasn’t even the worse, though. There was this:

NBC has had to apologize for announcing that “every Korean will tell you that Japan is a cultural, technological and economic example that has been so important to their own transformation.”

I want to know what on earth his basis was for saying that in the first place? What made him think he could speak authoritatively on what ‘every’ Korean would say, particarly when it turns out he’s saying something pretty much NO Korean would even think, let alone say? Where did he get this idea? https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/winter-olympics/nbc-apologizes-to-korean-people-after-correspondents-ignorant-insensitive-comment/ar-BBIXGgh?ocid=st

If I can pause to bask in proud parent complacency for a moment, 3 of my adult daughters who were watching this in real time commented on FB that they were just sure they heard him wrong because it was so dumb.

Note that the guy who said it is allegedly NBC’s “Asia correspondent.” He’s worked in China and did commentary for the Chinese games. He clearly knows worse than nothing about Korea. The problem is not just ignorance here. Thsi is important- the problem is that he thinks he knows things, and those things are not just the opposite of true, the things he thinks he knows and purports to teach the rest of us are actively wrong and extremely offensive to Koreans.

He’s been relieved of his duties with Olympic commentating. But the English Korean story where I read that notes significantly that while NBC apologized, he has not. As somebody who is purported to be knowledgable about *any* Asian culture knows, that’s a big deal. He has to know how offensive that is, even if he really was ignorant about Korean feelings about Japan. Although I still don’t understand filling in his ignorance with abjectly ignorant claims.

NBC is not exactly crowning itself with glory here-
” The U.S. television network NBC identified PyeongChang as being in North Korea in a subtitle during its broadcast of the Olympic opening ceremony. A capture of the footage went viral.

The subtitle stated, “Opening Ceremony Tonight” in a big font at the bottom of the screen, underneath which read, “PyeongChang, North Korea.” ”

The author notes: “The main broadcaster for U.S. Olympic coverage neither explained the obvious mistake nor apologized for it.”

That’s not even the worst of it. Our media is falling over themselves to propagate NOrth Korean propaganda and slaver at the feet of one of the most bloody, brutal regimes in human history.
CNN: Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics http://cnn.it/2nW0eKA

CNN also just loves the North Korean cheerleaders without a thought for the reality that these women are probably not there by choice, are probably beaten if they don’t do well, and threatened by dire things likely to happen to any families they have back home if they don’t perform perfectly and stay in line. They can’t even speak to the media. This is the same media outraged and horrified by Trump asking for a military parade. I don’t care about the parade, either, but you cannot, really, you cannot express outrage at the latter while slobbering over the perky by force, uniformed slaves of a regime that runs gulags and shoots people trying to leave the country.

A WaPo columnist ordered Bethany Mandel to apologize for calling NOrth Korea the most brutal regime in human history. AS she pointed out, one might argue with her on the merits of the order of brutal regimes. Her reason for calling N.K. the worst has to do with the length of time its gulags full of political prisoners have stood, the number of gulags, and the percentage of deaths. One might argue that Pol Pot’s was less long lasting but more brutal- but calling for an *apology* is goose-stepping bootlicking.

Keep in mind the WaPo compares Kim Jo Yong to Ivanka Trump (they prefer Jo yong). Stacey Lennox explains what’s wrong with this picture:
“Guys, after coming out of the shadows following the death of her father this little bucket of joy has held two government jobs. She was Vice Director of the Worker’s Party Propaganda and Agitation Department. This department’s job is to ensure everyone appropriately idolizes Dear Leader. Now she is in the Organization and Guidance Department in charge of state security and the military. I would be absolutely shocked to learn she has ordered the deaths of various North Koreans (sarcasm) but by all means let’s compare her to Ivanka Trump because you hate the President.”

Read it all. You must.

Their anti-Trump hatred drives everything. It’s the only tool they have and it has rendered the into pliable, willing tools of murderous dictators.

More: Weekly standard on media’s celebrity treatment of the dictator’s sister and right hand woman in the propaganda department.

Brit Hume is right, it’s nauseating. It’s like going ga-ga over Nero’s musical talents.


If the media wants to say Trump is worse they can, but that’s why objectively, Trump is not worse. North Korea sent home a comatose American college kid they arrested, tortured, and put in a prison camp and beat him more- for stealing a poster. North Korea runs multigenerational prison camps, forces children to dig their own graves, inform on their parents, and eat grass to survive. If you think that Trump is worse than that, you have the moral compass of an orc. And yet, it seems,t hat’s exactly what we have in the media.

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Culture: Direct vs Subtle

I’ve talked about this one before, and will probably do so again because it is endlessly fascinating to me. ONe of the big differences between the west (especially the U.S.) and the east is the difference in attitudes tangled around in the web of tact vs being direct, being straight-forward vs ‘beating around the bush,’ being a shame based and thus face saving culture vs a ‘we do not shame people’ culture, etc. To westerners it really does often look like just dishonesty when they can’t get what they feel is a direct (that is, helpful) answer from easterners, and to eastern people, it looks like unspeakable rudeness when we basically refuse to take no for an answer.

It’s not actually that we refused to take no for an answer, it’s more that we didn’t understand that there was a ‘no,’ because to us, no means no, I don’t know means I don’t know.

Things that do not mean ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know’ to us: That will be difficult, it’s on aisle 4, yes, okay, maybe later, later, and not answering the question at all. Often these responses or similar ones are accompanied by facial expressions or gestures or body language that does enhance the meaning of ‘no,’or ‘I can’t help with that,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ But those facial expressions and gestures are generally missed by Westerners, because we’re not that subtle and we don’t really do hints. Our version of hints looks like being hit in the face with a boxing glove to easterners. Their version of hints doesn’t look like much of anything to us, because it slides right by us.

A few nights ago we had some dinner guests, and after dinner we played some silly parlour games, guessing games, the kind of games where there’s a trick, just one or two people know the trick and they have to figure it out. Our guests included one American lady around my age, she’s lived her a long time, and three young Asian males in their 20s, one Korean and 2 Filipinos.

One thing I noticed is that this crowd caught on to the ‘tells’ much more quickly than the groups of Americans we’ve played with typically do. That may not be a fair comparison since one of them is a third culture kid grown up, and having lived in and out of at least 3 different divergent cultures in his life, he’s always going to be more observant than is typical. And both the other two are really smart cookies who work with westerners so they have an edge, too, but still. WE ran through about half a dozen of these kinds of games in just a couple hours, and often when we play with a group of Americans there’s only time for one or two and we’re giving giving incredibly broad hints by the end so nobody feels left out. But maybe their unique situations had more to do with that.

However, there was one game where it turned out one of the Filipinos already knew it. IT’s the Johnny Oops game- it’s easier to show than explain, so here’s a youtube video:
Just start at around 30 seconds and watch about 10 or 15 seconds for the gist of it. Exactly how you do the fingers and the ‘Johnny Oops’ is irrelevant. It’s the arm crossing at the end that is the thing you have to notice.
At least, that’s the case in the American version.

In the Filipino version, you ever so slightly and quite naturally sort of brush the side of your nose with one finger at the end. It’s so subtle that my husband and I, even knowing exactly how the game works, were only about 75% sure that was the tell. The Filipino friend thought the arm-crossing was ridiculously obvious and overblown and nobody could fail to catch it.

He and I both share a love for and fascination with the little cultural differences that come up, so for us, this little revelation was as much fun as the games themselves.

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