Today on Megan McArdle’s column for the Atlantic Monthly, she posted about the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program, and that it blatantly supports the dairy industry. True, sort of. Last year, it was announced that WIC would be undergoing reform. It will (this fall, allegedly) be providing whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as soy beverages and tofu. So while it stinks for now that vegans can’t get soy milk and such, that should be changing in the coming months (check with your state’s WIC program for details).
Erik Markus of Vegan.com picked up the post, but attributed it to the Food Stamp Program. I feel the need to post this because I’d absolutely hate to see a vegan in need of food stamps google “vegan food stamps” and find a major blog saying that they can’t be used to purchase vegan foods. That is incorrect. Food stamps can be used to purchase any food in the grocery stores, except hot or “to-go” foods. They also can’t be used to purchase pet food or toilet paper, or other non-food products. You can purchase anything else, vegan or not, from fillet mignon to tofu to Doritos to an apple with food stamps (and I use that terminology because the program is technically still called “food stamps,” although the actual paper stamps from days of yore have been replaced with an EFT card).
So why is there also the WIC program, you might ask? WIC is meant to provide foods that will optimize the development of infants and young children. Young children (under age 2) actually need a fair amount of fat in their diets. It seems counter-intuitive with the rising rates of obesity in America, but it’s true. No, they don’t need to be eating junk food, but they do need some fat for adequate development of their nervous systems. I think it’s reasonable to say that at the time that WIC was developed, that was really the only thought that was put into choosing “nutritious” foods. At any rate, not everyone who qualifies for WIC also qualifies for food stamps, and these days food stamps don’t go all that far, so the additional foods that WIC provides can be vital. I know that frequently when people see a post about food stamps or other social service programs, they often become defensive and talk about the lady in front of them in line who paid for her groceries with food stamps and then jumped in her Escalade or what have you, but that’s really unfair. I’ve been working in social service programs for the better part of the last 13 years. Just because you see someone with a sign of wealth (fancy car, credit card) doesn’t mean that they have money to spare. You don’t know that the car belongs to that person. They might be borrowing it from the neighbor. Unfortunately today many people have no other choice but to use credit cards (gold or not) to pay for the balance of their groceries. I’ve seen over the years people who didn’t get to eat when their food stamps ran out. People who have to “shop” at the food pantry when it gets to be the end of the month. This really happens, and I’ve seen it. Really.
Now that I’ve rambled on, jut a reminder: food stamps can ABSOLUTELY be used to purchase vegan foods.
EDIT: The post on Vegan.com has been corrected. I’m glad to see that!