“I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing,” he said, fondly remembering a recent meal he’d prepared of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes. “I used to think that you could only get processed food and government cheese on food stamps, but it’s great that you can get anything.”
Think of it as the effect of a grinding recession crossed with the epicurean tastes of young people as obsessed with food as previous generations were with music and sex. Faced with lingering unemployment, 20- and 30-somethings with college degrees and foodie standards are shaking off old taboos about who should get government assistance and discovering that government benefits can indeed be used for just about anything edible, including wild-caught fish, organic asparagus and triple-crème cheese.
Hmm. You can look at this in a couple of ways. You could think, if you hipsters can afford to buy groceries at Whole Foods, you have no business on food stamps. Or you could see it as a good thing that people poor enough to qualify for food stamps are using that money not to buy junk food, but to eat healthy things.
I confess I did flinch at the idea of these people spending their taxpayer-provided food dollars at Whole Paycheck. And that made me realize that I have this unrecognized prejudice that the poor — meaning those who qualify for food stamps — must be condemned to eat cheap, bad food as the price of receiving state charity. That’s not right, is it? I mean, why wouldn’t I care if Joe Bob bought a box of Velveeta with his food stamps, but spending that money on a wedge of triple creme Brie rankles?