Sharon Astyk’s guest article for Grist explains how states benefit from food stamp dollars because those federal dollars are funneled into the states and go directly to people who, considering the aid’s medium and the recipients’ sparse finances, will spend them right away, and spend them in the state.
However, after those food dollars are spent, they haven’t often stayed in the state because they’re most often spent on industrial (and often heavily processed) foods, instead of on less-processed local foods direct from the producer. Though it’s theoretically possible for farmers markets, and even CSA farms, to accept food stamps, the equipment needed and the red tape to navigate have often blocked their acceptance in practice.
Not only does this prioritization of the industrial do considerable ecological harm and also reduce the access of lower-income families to healthy foods, but it works against the interests of the states, which lose most of the dollars spent there as they go back to industrial producers. [“Stamping out hunger?” 6 Jan 2009]
We know that dollars spent on local products and services tend to recirculate in a community, bolstering the local economy much more dramatically than if the dollars are spent in a non-locally-based business.
States that work to make it possible for food stamp recipients to spend their dollars on locally-produced food would benefit from that multiplier effect: federal dollars come into the state’s communities and hang out there awhile, spreading the wealth (did I say that?) and helping many more than the original recipient of the aid.
If we are going to subsidize expensive food, why not good, nutritious food that will lower national health costs, enrich small farmers and local economies, and improve overall local food security?