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Food Stamps Vs Public Mess Halls


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Has anyone ever thought of this? Maybe money that is wasted, by people using food stamps to purchase the wrong kinds of foods, and thus stay unhealthy and need health care MORE because of it, would be better spent on free, or very cheep, local healthy meals in public mess halls. Is a better society one in which POOR health is more wide-spread and thus many more people are in need of health care, AND they are taken care of at great tax-payer's expense, or is it better for GOOD health to be more common and therefore less need for expensive health care? More economic activity is not the ends, when one industry exists to deal with the ills caused by another industry. That is why I proposed a "junk food tax" to subsidize free, healthy, local mess halls. Meals are simple, low fat, low sodium, low sugar. There should also be an adjoining employment office, so the unemployed can get a free meal while they work at finding their next job. There may also be a large garden where much of the produce is grown. There should be about an hour wait in line to discourage people who don't really need it. Or am I just delusional?

Edited by Airbrush
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Dekan's claim is fallacious on so many levels that it's almost not even worth responding to.   First, he suggests things were just dandy in the 19th century. That's false. Second, he suggests there

Without thinking too deeply on this, one immediate problem would be the fact that you are introducing the need for transportation... which costs money. If people are poor enough to not be able to feed

As someone who actually does volunteer work with the needy, I find some of these post are barbaric. I am fairly libertain (not tea party), and I still support food stamps. A few distinctions are mi

Without thinking too deeply on this, one immediate problem would be the fact that you are introducing the need for transportation... which costs money. If people are poor enough to not be able to feed themselves, then chances are good they'd be unable to travel to the food kitchen. It's probably hard enough as it is for them to get to the grocery store once a week to use the food stamps...

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That's a good point about transportation. I was thinking that in terms of costs it would be higher. Dining facilities and wages for workers.

 

I could be mistaken but I thought there were already restrictions on what foods can be purchased.

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That's a good point about transportation. I was thinking that in terms of costs it would be higher. Dining facilities and wages for workers.

Indeed, that would add significantly to costs. It could potentially be volunteer based, but even existing food/soup kitchens have a hard enough time securing enough labor from volunteers to meet the need.

 

I could be mistaken but I thought there were already restrictions on what foods can be purchased.

There are: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items
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Nice link thanks for that.

 

"Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items.....

 

"Since the current definition of food is a specific part of the Act, any change to this definition would require action by a member of Congress. Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome."

 

I wonder what percentage of SNAP purchases are in the categaries: soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream?

 

If the mess halls are many and local, then no transport problem. In cities and high density areas, have free public transport to the mess halls. Only by preparing and serving healthy meals to people do you ensure the funds are spent on making people healthy.

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I may be mistaken, but I think that many people who qualify for food stamps ave jobs- just poorly paid ones.

so, when do you plan to organise the food? Will it be during the normal working day?
Many people who need (office cleaners etc) it work antisocial shifts.

 

Also re. this

"There should also be an adjoining employment office, so the unemployed can get a free meal while they work at finding their next job. " makes a tacit assumption which doesn't seem to tally with thefacts.

Why assume ther's a "next job"?

I don't know the figures for the US but here in the UK the number of jobs available is outstripped about 5 to 1 by the number of unemployed people.

 

At best you could find jobs for a fifth of them.

Then what? What do you do with the other 80%?

 

"There should be about an hour wait in line to discourage people who don't really need it. Or am I just delusional? "

My guess is that you are uninformed, or misinformed.

Again this data is for the UK, rather than the US but...

Do you know that (here) less than 3% of benefit expenditure is paid to the unemployed?

http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn13.pdf

 

Getting them all jobs would hardly affect the cost of welfare.

 

If, (in the UK) benefits were properly assessed, there would be a net increase in cost because there are about 12 billion pounds of unclaimed benefits owed to people. On theother hand, about 2 billion in fraudulent payemnts would be stopped.

Net, the effct woyuld be about ten billion more bieing paid out.

http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-qa-benefit-fraud-perspective/15796

If the people who showed up at the food halls had a proper opportunity to see what they(and others) were entitled to claim under the current system, the cost would increase.

 

Of course, if, rather than worry about the 3% of benfits paid to the unemployed ( 3%of about 200 Billion so about 6 billion, most (about 99%) of which is legitimate) you looked at corporate tax avoidance (estimates vary, but about 30 Billion) you could make a real difference

 

Are similar figures available for the US?

I'd be interested to see them.

Edited by John Cuthber
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BTW, I got this idea from my Mom. When I was a kid my mom told me in ancient Sparta the population was not allowed to prepare their own meals, there were public mess halls for that. Don't you think that is the best way to control the quality of food needy people eat? Also, think of the millions of hours it would save people taking their food stamps to the grocery store and buying impulse items and bringing them home and preparing a meal. That is a lot of transportation that would be eliminated. There would be innate efficiencies of scale by investing the food stamp money, plus a junk food tax, into good, simple, safe feed halls. They would be monitored by security cameras so folks will feel safe.

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Your vision of utopia doesn't tally with mine.

 

"Don't you think that is the best way to control the quality of food needy people eat? "
no, a decent income is and education are the best way to do that.

"They would be monitored by security cameras so folks will feel safe."

I don't feel safe while being spied on.

 

" That is a lot of transportation that would be eliminated. "

No, it's a lot of transportation shifted from moving food, which is easy, to moving people to that food which is more difficult.

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" That is a lot of transportation that would be eliminated. "

No, it's a lot of transportation shifted from moving food, which is easy, to moving people to that food which is more difficult.

 

People have to move to the market to buy food. No difference. Like I said "many and local", common as a local supermarket. This means transportation is not an issue. You haven't convinced me.

 

Also less food will be wasted. Millions of individual households waste food that goes to land fills. Waste from the mess halls can be processed into fuel, animal feed, or fertilizers.

Edited by Airbrush
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People have to move to the market to buy food. No difference.

There is a difference, though, and it's an important one. Just do the math. It takes one truck to ship hundreds or even thousands of food products to the store. That truck will be shipping products no matter what, so we can ignore that. However, the people who need that food then go to the store once per week or every two weeks and get lots of food that can be prepared into lots of meals. One trip. Two weeks of meals.

 

However, to go to the public mess hall for food they'd have to travel there for EVERY single meal EVERY single day... Minimum of 3x per day, which means 21x per week, or 42 trips to the mess hall every 2 weeks.

 

As I'm sure you can see, there IS a difference between 1 trip to the grocery store every 2 weeks and 42 trips to the public mess hall every 2 weeks, and that's an especially important difference when the person is poor enough to struggle affording food.

 

 

The waste argument is a separate matter, and might be solved easier by educating people about composting, recycling, and other similar activities, and funding form the city could go toward single stream recycling pickup to make it as simple as possible.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-stream_recycling

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I know for a fact that hospital food is bad, it is supposed to be a balanced diet, but IMO it is not. My wife, a school teacher, says the same about school lunches. I'm afraid that government food kitchens would assure poor food, not improve it.

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There is a difference, though, and it's an important one. Just do the math. It takes one truck to ship hundreds or even thousands of food products to the store. That truck will be shipping products no matter what, so we can ignore that. However,the people who need that food then go to the store once per week or every two weeks and get lots of food that can be prepared into lots of meals. One trip. Two weeks of meals.

 

However, to go to the public mess hall for food they'd have to travel there for EVERY single meal EVERY single day... Minimum of 3x per day, which means 21x per week, or 42 trips to the mess hall every 2 weeks.

 

As I'm sure you can see, there IS a difference between 1 trip to the grocery store every 2 weeks and 42 trips to the public mess hall every 2 weeks, and that's an especially important difference when the person is poor enough to struggle affording food.

 

 

The waste argument is a separate matter, and might be solved easier by educating people about composting, recycling, and other similar activities, and funding form the city could go toward single stream recycling pickup to make it as simple as possible.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-stream_recycling

 

That is a valid argument. But don't you think food production should be less centralized? If much food (not ALL food, but more than now) was produced locally, that eliminates much long-distance transportation. If there was a disaster, food transportation will be cut off and people will starve. However, if a significant amount of food was produced in local communities, that community will not be AS dependent upon long-distance transportation of food. An adjoining mess hall is a logical extension of the garden. You are also assuming ALL poor people (not all people, just the ones who NEED food stamps) will need to have 3 prepared meals every day. That may be excessive. That could be one or two healthy meals per day, and they may also stock up on beans, rice, and other foods that are easy to preserve, from the mess hall, so they can also cook at home. They will not be stocking up on 2 weeks supply of well-preserved junk foods. It would be a short commute to the local mess hall, maybe only once or twice a day. People who REALLY need it can have a free bus pass to the local mess hall, which may be a 15 minute commute at the most, IF the system is set up right.

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The idea of public mess-halls, or food kitchens, is fine in theory. Such places could feed poor people.

 

And once fed and re-invigorated, these people could, as Airbrush's OP suggests, make their way into the adjoining Employment Office. And earnestly fill in their job-application forms.

 

It all sounds worthy and good. But isn't it a bit outdated. Like something from the 1930's Depression years. In those years, most people were well-behaved, sober and drug-free, despite their poverty and hunger. The general level of behaviour was so civilised, that the US had "Automats", where meals were publicly on display behind glass windows in vending machines. You had to put coins into the machine, to get the meal out. Yet few people who didn't have any money, seem to have abused the Automats, by smashing the glass and grabbing the meal.

 

The nearest thing to abuse that I've read about, was a US Science Fiction writer of the 1930's. This guy apparently exulted in getting what he called free tomato soup from Automats. He mixed crackers, tomato sauce, and hot water (all three items supplied gratis by the Automat) to make his so-called soup. This is a kind of almost admirable exploitation characteristic of past times, when people were more restrained.

 

But in 2013, if public mess-halls were opened, mightn't they attract all the modern unrestrained types. The drunks and drug-addicts, who would start fights, and smash the places up. Or only want the free food, so they could sell it, to get more drugs and drink. All this would cause trouble for the police and the law-abiding element of the population. So perhaps it's better just to issue food-stamps.

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It would be a short commute to the local mess hall, maybe only once or twice a day. People who REALLY need it can have a free bus pass to the local mess hall, which may be a 15 minute commute at the most, IF the system is set up right.

What if they are working two or three jobs and cannot get away? In some jobs, if they leave they get fired, which would just make their problems worse. I feel you are too quick to dismiss the very real (and mostly fatal) problems in your idea. Extending availability of public mess halls is a good idea. Suggesting we use them to replace SNAP is not. There is a clear place for both programs.

And once fed and re-invigorated, these people could, as Airbrush's OP suggests, make their way into the adjoining Employment Office. And earnestly fill in their job-application forms.

The current situation is not fed by people unwilling to work. Quite the contrary, in fact. There is currently only 1 job available for every 3 people looking for one. It's a lack of job supply that is the problem, not the lack of demand for jobs. Add to this the fact that there are currently more people than ever before working two or even three jobs who are STILL barely able to keep themselves out of poverty despite working 70-90 hour weeks. To frame this as a problem of people being lazy and looking for a handout as you seem to be doing is to completely blind yourself to the economic realities we as a populace are currently facing.
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The idea comes from a Mom, by way of reading about Sparta. A key feature of Sparta's mess halls was that they were for everybody - all those benefits of low calorie, sugar free, healthy food were shared by all Spartans, not just a group of people called "poor". Another key feature was that everybody lived right near the food, in barracks or small nearby houses. Slaves grew and transported the food - very efficient.

 

The simplest way to imitate Spart would be to enlist all these poor people in the army, and put them in barracks like the Spartans did Then they would get healthy exercise as well as healthy meals. Then have the rest of the country join them.

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Sparta had a brutal culture. They practiced eugenics; imperfect babies were killed. Male citizens of Sparta at the age of seven went into a military education system that sometimes killed weak students, and the graduates of this education system were the only citizens of Sparta--the elite. Little is known of how female children were educated. The citizens of Sparta kept slaves who worked fields and did all menial labor. Slaves were not treated well, and were by law beaten several times each year for no particular reason.

 

The boys who survived military training, were incredible soldiers. In general, Spartan society is a poor model for anyone to emulate.

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Pick one.

Not too centralized and not too de-centralized.

 

Oh....well.....OK, you all beat the hell out of my idea. Hehehe. That means congress would totally hate it.

 

But what about unemployed people working the garden for the community? I'm doing my best to get local community gardens started so we are not totally dependent upon 18-wheelers coming from long distance. Food stamps remain, but maybe also a good free meal a few times a week? Any poor people out there up for that?

Edited by Airbrush
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That is not a bad idea in terms of improving food security. Main thing to keep in mind is that it takes a good amount of area to feed just one person. You are going to want to run some numbers before moving forward.

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Vertical farm everything. Fully automate it, no human labour necessary. Control the interior environment, ie no bugs in so no need for pesticides, control temps and co2 levels, control light necessary for each plant, minimal if any use of fertilisers. Must be government run, fully automate so no human labour input means you can give it away for free. Ship it to each persons home in an automated vehicle, no human input so can remain free. We should do that with everything in society/it is happening with everything in society, no human labour required anymore. He'll let's get rid of money, fully automate everything, and make everything free and easy to access. :)

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