California Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card
California Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card
EBT cards (the acronym for "Electronic Benefit Transfer") are the way people enrolled in one or more government assistance programs, like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) access their benefits.

Though food benefits are still referred to as "food stamps", no longer do recipients have to stand in the check-out line at a grocery or supermarket line and pull out coupons to pay for food for themselves or family members. The system is more efficient, and reduces social stigma, which tmservo discussed back in September.  

For most of its history, the Food Stamp Program used paper denominated stamps or coupons worth US$1 (brown), $5 (blue), and $10 (green). In the late 1990s, the food-stamp program was revamped, and stamps were phased out in favor of a specialized debit-card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) provided by private contractors. Many states merged the use of the EBT card for public-assistance welfare programs as well. The 2008 farm bill renamed the Food Stamp Program as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (as of October 2008), and replaced all references to "stamp" or "coupon" in federal law to "card" or "EBT."
Food stamps were initially a vital way of distributing farm surplus to those who needed it.
First food stamp. Washington, D.C., April 20. The first of the new surplus food stamps came of the presses at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing today. Latest of the administration's plans to reduce the farm surplus, the stamps, of yellow and blue, will be issued to persons on relief who in turn can trade each $1.00 stamp for food worth $1.50. Rochester, New York, will be one of the first half dozen cities to try the new stamp plan  [19]39 April 20.
First food stamps. April 20, 1939. Library of Congress

The Library of Congress description for this photo is "The first of the new surplus food stamps came of the presses at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing today. Latest of the administration's plans to reduce the farm surplus, the stamps, of yellow and blue, will be issued to persons on relief who in turn can trade each $1.00 stamp for food worth $1.50. Rochester, New York, will be one of the first half dozen cities to try the new stamp plan."

As the number of hungry people, and food insecurity has increased, government programs have expanded, and today close to 1 in 6 Americans receive some type of food assistance or supplement.

Rather than addressing the real reasons for this, in the wealthiest nation in the world, the right wing noise machine daily fuels anti-food stamp/EBT bigotry, aided and abetted by individuals who spew a continuing stream of hate and misinformation in online comments, on their facebook pages, on youtube, and in their family and social networks.

Piling on top of the racist memes of "welfare queens", and "lazy parasitical illegals" the myths, lies and distortions continue to spread, culminating in our current head of state being labelled as the "food stamp president" and bullshit stories of rampant fraud abound.

We need to increase our efforts to dispel the myths, and fight back against the lies.

One of the things each of you can do to help push back, is to arm yourselves with facts, and pass them on.  

A good starting point is recent piece by Dave Johnson, a Fellow with Campaign for America's Future and a Senior Fellow with Renew California, published to alternet, "6 Absurd Right-Wing Lies About Food Stamps:The right-wing echo chamber has vilified food stamp users with a variety of absurd lies and myths. As a result, people will go hungry. It was republished to Bill Moyer's site, with a different headline. "Six Myths About Food Stamps." Please read the piece, and arm yourselves with facts.

Myth #1: Food stamps are “growing exponentially” because of waste and fraud.

Myth #2: Cutting food stamps will make people get jobs because able-bodied people are getting food stamps instead of working.

Myth #3: Food stamps make people “dependent.”

Myth #4: Food stamps are about politicians “buying votes” with other people’s money.

Myth #5: Food stamp recipients take drugs.

Myth #6: People use food stamps to buy cigarettes and alcohol.

I'm listing the myths, without the explanations, not wanting to violate copyright restrictions, but I will print his conclusions:
So here we are in the worst economy in many decades. It’s more than difficult to find a job. Wages are actually falling for 95 percent of us. We have the highest income and wealth inequality since just before the depression.

Meanwhile, according to the National Priorities Project the government is handing over $1 trillion a year to the wealthiest and corporations in the form of “tax expenditures.” Then there is that $450 billion a year that the IRS just fails to collect. The corporate foreign-income tax “deferral” has corporations holding as much as $2 trillion of taxable income outside the country. And hedge-fund managers making into the billions each year still get their Romney-style tax breaks.

Yet Republicans are picking on the poorest citizens, lying and smearing them as lazy druggies and blaming them for the high unemployment by saying that $133 a month is keeping them from bothering to look for a job. Why do we put up with this?

Simon Maloy, at Media Matters debunked  the viral and virulant Fox News special "The Great Food Stamp Binge", in "Fox News 'Reports" on SNAP: Binging, Losers, And "Too Much Food'"
Roughly 45 minutes into Fox News' "special" investigation into the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or "food stamps," per the outdated parlance), host Bret Baier posed a question that gets right to the heart of what Fox News specifically, and conservatives generally, are trying to accomplish with regard to public attitudes toward social welfare programs. "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" Baier asked, referring to people who accept SNAP benefits. Baier's just-asking-questions lament about the lack of stigmatization was all part of Fox News' slipshod and flagrant piece of agitprop intended to shame the needy and promote public resentment of the government safety net.

Everything about Baier's special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" -- from the title to its absurd focus on a thoroughly unlikable miscreant named Jason Greenslate who proudly abuses SNAP benefits -- was designed to provoke hostility to the idea of nutritional assistance programs.

He points out that the slimy intent of the Faux special was to increase stigma, not lessen it.
What emerged was a twisted version of the American welfare state based on cherry-picked data points and, frankly, insulting stereotypes of the poor and disadvantaged. And the reason Fox News and other conservatives have to so badly distort programs like SNAP is because SNAP is actually quite an effective program. Conservatives bemoan that there's not enough of a "stigma" attached to seeking help from the feds, but it seems to me that the stigma is already ingrained into our perception -- just think about John Roberts waxing nostalgic about the time we all sneered at the "losers" on "food stamps."
Chris Hayes did a report on this "The Food Stamp Lie", that should get more eyes:

A prior piece, also by Hayes, depicts the lies and bigotry as an "“anti-food stamp jihad”

I received food stamps in the past. I found myself homeless and in a battered women's shelter. I needed help getting back on my feet, and got it, and later went back to school and pulled my life together. My husband and I were talking about this, yesterday. He grew up the foster care system, and remembers "government cheese, powdered eggs and milk, and big cans of peanut butter" with fondness. Children don't care where the food comes from, the most important thing is that a hungry belly is filled.

Interestingly, even today, when I am online at local supermarkets, the checkers ask me for my EBT card, though I no longer need one. I guess my skin color brands me, which is kind of ironic, since I live in a depressed part of Ulster County NY, where all the EBT users I see on the check-out line are white.

For those of you who are writing about this, Matt Trivisonno has compiled a useful collection of Food Stamp Charts on his blog.

No one in this country should go hungry. No one should be stigmatized for feeding themselves or their children.  

Thank you Spirit Sis Aji, and all the organizers of this blogathon from Hunger in America.

Fight the bigotry.  Spread the word.



mourning cloak butterflyButterfly Woman
leaf border

Butterfly Woman: A Blogathon for Food Justice

On October 23-24, we're focusing our blogging specifically on underserved populations, including those in communities of color, and on local community programs designed to help provide nutritious food raised in sustainable ways.

Our effort this year is named in honor of Aji's late sister:
The causes that mattered to her were the essential things, even if they were not the things that garnered headlines: causes like making sure that no child goes hungry.
leaf border

The organizations we're helping are:
leaf border
For more detail and guest biographies, see Aji's opening diary.  To stream all blogathon diaries, follow the Hunger in America group. Your diary recs, republishes, and social media shares help us, whether you have cash to spare or not! Twitter hashtags: #foodjustice and #hunger.

Schedule (all times Pacific)

Wednesday, October 23rd:
8 am: Will Allen (Growing Power) of Growing Power, Inc.
11 am: Phaedra Ellis-Lampkins of Green For All
1 pm: Nikki Henderson of People's Grocery
3 pm: Mrs. side pocket
5 pm: Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse

Thursday, October 24th:
9 am: Rep. Barbara Lee (rescheduled for Thursday afternoon)
11 am: Denise Oliver Velez
1 pm: Aji (rescheduled for Friday)
5 pm: rb137
7 pm: Avila

leaf border
build community

Originally posted to Hunger in America on Thu Oct 24, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, J Town, Invisible People, Barriers and Bridges, Black Kos community, and LatinoKos.

Your Email has been sent.