No Frappuccinos For You! What Should You Be Allowed To Buy With Food Stamps?

According to a Fox News station in Oregon, the Safeway supermarket chain has begun allowing patrons who have “Oregon Trail” cards — the state’s version of the supplemental nutrition assistance program — to purchase beverages and food items at Starbucks stands inside of their stores.

The change is the result of a loophole in the foodstamp program that decides what is or is not eligible for purchase with state money. Hot foods or foods that will be eaten in the store are not allowed.  But for one customer, who tested the system for the Fox investigation, a cold drink like a frappuccino and a slice of pumpkin bread were approved, as long as she didn’t eat it there.

Response to the investigation has been fairly predictable, with the audience angered at this “misuse” of funds on “luxury items.”  And to be fair, spending over $5 of a less than $200 monthly allotment of grocery support does seem pretty wasteful.  With such a small budget, cost effective shopping is key, and a purchase such as the frappuccino and bread will have to be offset by even more meager food purchases to compensate.

But advocating against “luxury items,” which include certain drinks, snacks, baked goods and the like, sets a troubling precedent as well, especially as those who are asking that the poor be cut off from those particular grocery goods are the same who often complain of the overreaching of the government into personal lives and the growing presence of a “nanny state.”

So far, the Starbucks exception seems to be a loophole that will likely be shut down quickly by the state by the national ban on using food stamps for “fast food,” although lobbyists are looking to change that as well. But what will remain is the bigger unanswered question: how much say should the government be able to have over the food you eat, and should the poor be banned from certain items just by virtue of being poor?

Photo credit: wikimedia commons


Naomi A.
Naomi A.4 years ago

Who can afford to shop at Safeway anyway?

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

"The poor should not be singled out and banned from anything the wealthy are allowed to do".............Pamela, you don't "get it". Nobody is singling anyone out, especially "the poor", all we're saying is that public money (welfare, food stamps) should only be used for necessities, not luxuries, and coffee is not necessary, ESPECIALLY lattes and cappachinos. I can't afford them, and I'm not using food stamps for my food. If I want a latte', I can jolly well pay for it on MY DIME, not yours. I feel that applies to everyone, equally.

By your logic, if the wealthy can afford a BMW, or a Ferrari, why should I drive one? Why can't I live in a 20-room mansion on the lake, with built-in surround-sound systems and TV's in every room? If the wealthy can live like that, why should I not be able to do the same, on YOUR money?

Stephan B.
Stephan B4 years ago

Thank you, CC.

You bring up an interesting point; no one has mentioned any good deed of giving even the most modest extravagance to someone in need of the spiritual uplift it would give. We are mean and self righteous here; we know how others should feel but to forget to mention what was inherent in our own nature.

I had the delicious benefit of growing up in real poverty in the 50s and 60s, and what I took for granted then I am appalled at the lack of today. As opposed of doing a simple act of charity, we expect charities, churches and government assistance to pick up the slack. I think I'll call this the 'Ebeneezer Scrooge" School of Social reform.

About forty years ago I worked for an air conditioning contractor. Two days before Christmas he asked me to give him a hand. He asked me an odd question; since it would be technically be overtime, would I expect to be paid overtime? I said no, strait time would be fine.

I met him on Christmas Eve morning. We went to breakfast on him, then to a bakery. I thought we were doing a trade service call. Instead he went in after telling me to bring the van to the back doors of the bakery. We loaded up at least over a dozen holiday cakes and cupcakes. From there we went to two shelters one feeding the homeless, the other a catholic church feeding mostly families. We used our unmarked van and he never got a receipt of r his taxes. True charity should be anonymous, so learned. If there is a reward for such acts, its between y

CC CC4 years ago

Pamela H Everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to act on their opinion. You sould act on yours by starting a Website for Free Coffee.

Stephan B.
Stephan B4 years ago


I did two things. I went back and read my posts, supportive of those who need the system, and your posts, sadly lacking in the early days on this site. So, how do you come to an opinion of me? Because I shared a note on the site with a friend, several actually? And others thought to send two stars because I we were on several sites at that time, we discussing the militant mind set that those who become so Draconian in their responses to societal stimuli? I don't collect stars as coup, no badges for making a point.

Pamela, I see you wrote two posts and read only one of mine, sufficient to use the term Pollyanna.. Tell me, do you have the capacity to form complete thoughts compromising more than a very short paragraph, and does the thought of reading an entire book give you cold sweats.

Please find the topic more interesting than a stranger you have no interest in.. At 61, I don't need any chastising on a site such as this; I do my best to stay on topic and my transgression was sharing a private post here. So strip me of my butterfly credits.

People who assault strangers are muggers. Get a life and make it a nice one. Please to not think about me.

Stephan Brown

Pamela H.
Pamela H4 years ago

Stephan B life is not a pretty pink bubble, it's made up of both positives and negatives, and they all need to be discussed. Being a Pollyanna will not get anyone very far in life.

Pamela H.
Pamela H4 years ago

The poor should not be singled out and banned from anything the wealthy are allowed to do. The elite already walk all over others to get what they want. People just need to be educated on how to live more frugally, but it would be plain cruel to ban the occasional little 'luxury' such as a fancy coffee once in a while.

lesley turnbull
lesley turnbull4 years ago

Postscript- Thank you Stephan, Diane and Michael for not disappointing me- and using the site to my expectations. and the handful whose comment I may have missed-you know who you are, thank you for your helpful suggestions.

lesley turnbull
lesley turnbull4 years ago

HalleluiaH, if only.........I mean we can dream can't we. We should not be arguing about it, rather trying to find helpful suggestions and solutions to a problem that instead of worsening it should be getting better by now. Half the problem lies with legilators that fail to realize just how dire this problem of insufficient food and medicine, and housing is-especisally for the seniors on Social Security that they have paid into for their whole lives and the lack of adequate medicines avalable for the ill, and disabled persons under 65 that cannot work anymore but when they did work-helped charities and paid taxes, etc. Instead the gov't turns a blind eye or procrastinates on doing anything that will really help institute a change--you know they still do not know the diference between recesion and depression. Even the charitable org. set up to help people over seas are great but what about the good old US of A where people starve daily trying to decide between food and med. or housing even when on Soc Sec. they are very few and far between-- A few bucks worth of food stamps when food costs have almost doubled on most things in the last few years are just not adequate assistance-and many do not even qualify for them! Who really cares about one Cappucino? Address the real problem and yes, young foolish adults should be given classes on nuitricious food choices if they have children to feed. But I dont even think you can buy ensure type beverage on food stamps - dont really know

Michael C.
Michael C4 years ago

The problems of Food Stamps are not new, I have witnessed them many times over the past 40 years. Yet to force a citizen to make the right choses would be as wrong as let them purchase products that do not provide proper nutrition.

Many of the recipients go one to make bad choices. Is it possible that there should an hour class for those seeking Food Stamps, one that defines their use and providing some form of guidance. I doubt that it would have along, lasting effect.

Maybe we can create a Republic where our citizens come to realize a Country with near full employment, receiving a fair wage, one that can sustain us without the use of Food Stamps.

I work with a food bank, I look to what people are inclined to chose for to fulfill their nutrition needs, they rush for the white bread. The nutritional value of a paper bag.