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    Who Really Receives Food Stamps?

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    As with other groups, there is a stereotype of food stamp, or SNAP benefit, recipients. Many people believe that most food stamp recipients resemble President Ronald Reagan’s infamous “welfare queen”; women of color who would rather collect money from the government than go to work, poor families who have more kids than they can afford, or some combination of the two. However, the actual demographics of SNAP benefit users are quite different from this stereotype.

    Perhaps the most important demographical fact about food stamp recipients is that around 40% are white. However, many politicians continue reinforce the idea that welfare programs are used almost exclusively by minority populations. For example, in 2012, former Senator Rick Santorum said, “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money, I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

    Data from the USDA released in 2013 showed the breakdown of SNAP recipients: 40.2 percent are white, 25.7 percent are Black, 10.3 percent of recipients are Hispanic, 2.1 percent are Asian, and 1.2 percent of SNAP recipients are Native American. Read more

    This kind of rhetoric is problematic for several reasons. First, it perpetuates the incorrect stereotype of minority populations especially with African-American’s being portrayed as the only group on any kind of social benefit programs. Additionally, it explicitly implies that people who receive benefits are doing so to avoid working, and if they were willing to look for and accept work, they would no longer need the benefits. Finally, it perpetuates the negative stigma associated with being on a social assistance program, which could make people less likely to seek assistance if needed.

    If food stamp beneficiaries are not able-bodied, black, and unwilling to work, who are they? Around 80% of SNAP benefit users either have children (40%), are disabled (20%), or are over the age of sixty-five (17%). While there are able-bodied, young, single people who receive food stamps, they are by no means the majority. Additionally, many states are in the process of purging the program of these individuals with approximately half a million users set to lose their benefits in the next year. This means that it will be even less common for young, healthy, single individuals to receive SNAP which will overwhelming affect foster children who age of the system with no to low support systems.

    Many food stamp users belong to a demographic known as the working poor. These are individuals and families who are working, but they are in jobs that do not offer enough hours or enough money to truly remove them from poverty. Approximately 30% of food stamp recipients are working in some capacity. However, due to their income and/or family size, they still qualify for food stamps and other means-tested programs such as Medicaid.

    Unfortunately, despite evidence to the contrary, the negative stereotype of the food stamp user persists. One way to combat negative stereotypes is to speak up about the reality, However, it is understandable that many benefit recipients are hesitant to do so. It is imperative for social workers and other service providers to help combat this stigma by speaking out on behalf of our clients.

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    Elizabeth W. Crew is an MSW student at Simmons College. When she's not reading or writing about social work, social justice, and food, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with friends, snuggling her pup, and watching crime dramas.

    Food

    Food Delivery Businesses Showing Up For People Right Now

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    At difficult times like these, Fred Rogers followed his mother’s sage advice:

    “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

    That’s certainly been one of the few bright spots amidst the coronavirus pandemic—people and businesses of all sorts stepping up to help. Many of us have been reminded, in dramatic fashion, just how important our nurses, grocery store workers, and restaurant workers truly are.

    Sure, there are still scammers out there, looking to make a buck in a tough situation for many. The food delivery industry has its fair share of heroes and opportunists, just like any sector.

    To help you sort through your options, here’s a handy list of food delivery companies that have stepped up their game during the COVID-19 crisis and a bit about how they’ve done so.

    These Food Delivery Companies Have Stepped Up Their Support During The Crisis

    Doesn’t food just taste better when someone else has lovingly made it for you?

    While practicing social distancing, getting delicious food delivered to your door can be one of those simple pleasures. Ordering out safely and ethically can be tricky though.

    Here are some delivery services and restaurants that are changing the way they do business amidst the crisis to better support workers and customers alike:

    DoorDash

    To protect their “Dashers,” the company is shipping 1 million sets of hand sanitizer and gloves as well as offering guidance for contactless delivery (now the company’s default) to help them stay safe. DoorDash has also offered an additional $100 million of targeted commission relief to help small restaurants with five or fewer locations.

    Instacart

    If an Instacart worker is placed under mandatory quarantine or diagnosed with COVID-19, the company offers up to two weeks’ pay. The policy was initially only valid through mid-March but the company has now extended the offer through early May. Instacart is also allowing their in-store shoppers to accrue sick leave as well. 

    The company continues to be in negotiations with its workers about the best ways to support them during the crisis.

    Postmates

    They’re doing no-contact delivery and they’ve set up a relief fund to assist employees with medical costs related to COVID-19. The company is providing two weeks of paid sick leave should an employee test positive for the virus.

    Starbucks

    The good news is that Starbucks baristas already have sick leave. The even better news is that the company is expanding its “catastrophe pay” program to employees affected by COVID-19. 

    For any employee diagnosed with the virus, Starbucks is offering an additional two weeks of paid leave. The same benefit also applies to employees who have had prolonged contact with someone who has been diagnosed or those at heightened risk of contracting it.

    UberEats

    The speedy delivery service currently provides its drivers and delivery people (those infected or exposed to the virus) with financial assistance for up to 14 days. UberEats has also stated that they are exploring compensation options for drivers that have been quarantined or diagnosed with the virus. This could take the form of a fund or even a partnership with other companies.

    Restaurants offering forms of free delivery

    These companies are giving customers a break when it comes to those delivery fees. Here’s the rundown:

    Why Our Food Delivery Services and Restaurants Remain Essential

    The word “essential” is being thrown around a lot lately.

    Whether it’s to discuss workers that keep our economy running or businesses that literally sustain lives, those companies and people that prepare and deliver our food are crucial.

    During these difficult days, per the good advice from Mrs. Rogers, it’s important to keep an eye out for the helpers among them and to support them with our dollars.

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    Food

    An Overabundance of Fast Food: Food Swamps Are the New Food Deserts

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    Sponsored by Malone University Online

    New York, Broadway at night. Take away fast food kiosks selling hot dog

    A homemade salad isn’t a realistic option when you have to walk more than a mile to buy ingredients. For millions of people living in low-income communities, it’s more likely they’ll just order a fast-food burger. They live in areas known as “food swamps,” and it’s a growing threat to health throughout the United States.

    Compared with the better-known “food desert” phenomenon of areas lacking fresh, healthy options, food swamps are places where unhealthy foods are more accessible than anything else. Unhealthy options outnumber healthy alternatives by as much as four to one in these areas, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

    Together, the problems that both food swamps and food deserts create require creativity to overcome, and social workers and nonprofit agencies across the nation are focused on untangling these issues.

    A Closer Look at Food Swamps 

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) stipulates that food deserts are areas with poverty levels of at least 20% where a minimum of either 500 people or 33% of the population lives over a mile from the nearest supermarket. 

    While food swamps can occasionally overlap with food deserts, they are usually separate. Food swamps, according to the USDA’s definition, are communities where fast food and junk food are overwhelmingly more available than healthy alternatives. This is most frequently caused by chain restaurants and corner stores that stock unhealthy, processed foods.

    The spread of food swamps in recent decades has been staggering. A national study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that 60% of the calories Americans buy are from highly processed foods. An article in The Guardian reported that, in many places, drug stores are selling more food than grocery stores are, and that food is typically pre-packaged and lacks nutrients. 

    To understand the power of food swamps, it’s necessary to study the daily meal choices made by their residents. In 2011, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a 15-year study showing that the presence of supermarkets doesn’t make residents more likely to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. This was especially true for men, who tended to choose quick, processed meals. 

    The reasons for these unhealthy choices were varied; advertising, cultural norms, and affordability were all factors. While the study focused on food deserts, the findings underscore the concerns with food swamps. There may be healthier options, but most would choose unhealthy options when the unhealthy options are more plentiful. 

    Food swamps are even more of a problem in neighborhoods where there is greater socio-economic disparity. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health said that “low-income and racial-ethnic minorities are more likely . . . to live near unhealthy food retailers, which has been associated with poor diet.” Those retailers often pack the shelves with processed snack foods, and the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy found that the amount of shelf space stores reserve for snack foods is associated with higher BMI scores in the neighborhoods those stores serve.  

    In the larger picture of food swamps and deserts, food swamps have been found to be more directly connected with obesity and other health concerns than food deserts, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Poor food choices impact more than just the waist line, though. Heavily processed foods rich in fats and sugars can lead to chronic inflammation and unbalanced gut microbiome, which early research has indicated may have a negative impact on brain chemistry. This negative impact can result in mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and an inability to regulate mood.

    Moreover, poor diets can result in other health concerns, such as diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. Heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes-related problems cost patients millions in medical bills every year. For residents in low-income communities, this perpetuates the cycle of poverty through increased debt and financial stress.

    Policies Designed to End Food Swamps

    The complex problem of food swamps isn’t easy to solve, but groups have been implementing different initiatives. Often, collaboration among public, private, and nonprofit agencies has been necessary to effect this much-needed change. For example, a group called Healthy Retail SF has partnered with 1,150 mom and pop stores in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District to add more healthy and affordable food options to its food swamp.

    In Baltimore, new programs have moved farmers’ markets to the city center. These programs have also implemented new measures that allow food vouchers to be used at these markets to encourage the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income seniors. 

    Meanwhile, The Food Trust has been working in a food swamp in Philadelphia to provide education in schools and communities about cooking healthy meals. They’re also advocating for initiatives that let SNAP recipients get more for their money when they make healthier food purchases. 

    In the food swamps of Washington, D.C., a group called D.C. Central Kitchen is stocking shelves of corner stores with fresh-cut fruit and ready-made meals with healthier ingredients. Another collective, called D.C. Urban Gardeners Network, has been making a push for more agricultural gardens throughout the city. 

    Food swamps are a pervasive and complicated issue in neighborhoods throughout the United States, and social workers are continuing to study their causes and explore new remedies. If you’re interested in helping resolve food swamps, food deserts, and more consider earning an online bachelor of social work from Malone University Online. Our program provides field instruction, giving you the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience. Working alongside our exceptional faculty, you’ll gain the mentorship and guidance you need from seasoned professionals with years of real-world experience.

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    Food

    8 Common Food Myths Debunked

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    There are hundreds of common myths and misconceptions about food which may influence your diet choices. However, some foods commonly believed to be unhealthy are actually just fine and some popular “healthy” foods are actually harmful. Here are eight common food myths debunked:

    1. Low-fat Foods are Always Healthier.

    Some types of fat are unhealthy, but others are an important part of a healthy diet. When foods are made low fat, the fat content is usually replaced with sugar or sodium to improve the taste. This definitely does not make it healthier, but many people associate fat with weight gain and heart attacks. Therefore, they choose “low-fat” foods even though the foods have an unhealthy amount of sugar or sodium.

    2. You Need to Eat Dairy for Healthy Bones.

    People tend to confuse dairy with calcium, so it’s a common myth you need dairy for strong bones. It’s true that dairy has lots of calcium, but plenty of other foods do as well. You can eat greens, broccoli, oranges, beans, and nuts to get enough calcium to keep your bones healthy.

    3. Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol Levels.

    Your cholesterol levels are mostly influenced by saturated and trans fats, and eggs contain very little of both. Eggs contain lots of important nutrients, so cutting them out of your diet to lower your cholesterol levels can actually be harmful. It won’t affect your cholesterol and it will prevent you from getting all the health benefits eggs have.

    4. All Food Additives are Bad for You.

    Some people believe all food additives are made of harmful, toxic chemicals. While some aren’t very healthy, most are completely fine. The panic over food additives mostly stems from a lack of understanding. For example, many people believe the additive carrageenan is toxic because it’s been proven to cause inflammation in lab animals. However, studies show human bodies don’t absorb or metabolize it, so it flows through the body without causing any harm.

    5. Restricting Salt Prevents Heart Attacks.

    Lowering your salt intake can reduce your blood pressure, but there’s no scientific evidence supporting the idea that restricting salt reduces your risk of a heart attack or stroke. If your doctor tells you to cut back on salt, you should listen. However, it’s a myth everyone needs to lower their salt intake to be safe and healthy.

    6. High Fructose Corn Syrup is Worse than Sugar.

    Many foods are labeled “No HFCS” as if this makes them healthier and many people buy these items because they’re so afraid of high fructose corn syrup. It actually is very similar to sucrose, or table sugar, in many ways. The composition of high fructose corn syrup is almost identical to that of table sugar and both have the same number of calories. They both have similar effects on insulin and glucose levels. Neither are particularly healthy, but one isn’t worse than the other.

    7. All Organic Food is Healthy.

    Organic food is free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and other additives found in most non-organic foods. Choosing organic produce can reduce your chemical exposure, but junk food labeled “organic” is still junk food. You can buy organic chips, cookies, or crackers, but they’ll still have as much sugar and empty calories as their non-organic counterparts.

    8. Coffee Makes You Dehydrated.

    Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it does dehydrate you. However, coffee has a very mild dehydrating effect and all of the water it contains will make up for any fluid you lose. Coffee also contains lots of antioxidants, so you don’t have to worry about drinking a cup or two every morning.

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