Should Food Stamps Be Used To Buy Organic Food?
While the Reagan-era stigma attached to public aid in the form of "Food Stamps" seems to have faded in the face of spreading US unemployment, people are thinking and writing about what is, and is not, appropriate food to buy with taxpayer support.
Farm-market use is a possibility, per the WaPo report: "Participants apply locally to receive an electronic card that is used like an ATM card to buy food at most grocery stores and some farmers markets."
A knee-jerk answer to the rhetorical question posed by this headline would be 'no,' that Food Stamp credits should not go for organic food, which is widely seen as a luxury. In the real world, this simplistic answer can be either misleading or wrong, cost wise.Update: strike-through code is used below to make a correction suggested in a reader comment.
Going down this road gets into semantic and ideological difficulties. Does the "no" apply to something with the label "natural?"
Should the food stamp recipient be allowed to buy the more expensive CFL bulb vs incandescent?
Leaving the ethical and political aspects out, common sense suggests an answer in pure dollars and cents: say the organic item is on sale, and a good value. Why should they (taxpayers) not buy it for the unemployed?
Pure economics also handles the CFL vs incandescent choice: the CFL is the better value from a total cost standpoint.
Home grown example.
When I lived in downtown Chicago I regularly rode the bus to and from work, leaving my old-ish car parked on the street near my house. When it broke down one winter, and I could not afford to have it repaired right off, I took to stopping at a relatively high end food market on my bus route home, getting the best prices I could there: sometimes on organic items. Compared to the thousand bucks I'd have to pay for a car repair, on balance it was the most economical way to meet daily needs.