Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Baker Rejects Food Stamps as Payment for Pies

A Massachusetts baker says her pies are great, but not great enough to buy with food stamps.

Andrea Taber owns the Ever So Humble Pie Company, which is located south of Boston. Each Friday, she sells some of her pies and other pastries at an area farmers market.

She caused a stir by being the only vendor there to refuse EBT payments for her treats. The farmers market is considering requiring its vendors to accept food stamp payments, and she says if that happens, she’s ready to walk.

Organizers of the farmers market say they just want the poor to be able to access healthy, fresh foods. And therein lies the rub for Taber.

“To me it’s no different than nail salons and Lottery tickets,” Taber said. “It’s pastry, it’s dessert. My pies are great, but come on.”

It’s not all that common when you see a business owner taking a stand that could potentially hurt her own business. But Taber is adamant:

“I don’t think American taxpayers should be footing the bill for people’s pie purchases.”

I completely support food stamps to help struggling families have healthy meals. But I completely agree that there should be limits on what you can buy with them. I realize that poor people crave sweets as much as the wealthy. But while they’re looking for work that will get them off government assistance — and if they aren’t, they should be — they can at least be enjoying healthy produce and vegetables and better food choices.

So they’ll be healthier and more likely to have the energy to find that job.

If they have cash left over after paying the bills they have, it should be their decision what they do with it. But the things taxpayers are paying for shouldn’t include “luxuries.” That ought to be common sense for everyone.

Maybe this woman should be run for president!

18 Comments

  1. Just because a person on food stamps goes out on a Friday and buys a pie doesn’t indicate that they eat junk food on a daily basis. Even people who have fallen on hard times temporarily may want to buy themselves or their families a treat now and then to help maintain some semblance of a normal life. If there is a concern regarding the health and, therefore, ability to look for work of people on food stamps, it might be a good idea to issue them coupons for free doctor’s visits and other medical services. Lack of accessible health care is a bigger issue among those on welfare than whether or not they buy a pie for the weekend.

    1.  @msalakka Very true…I think the issue is that food stamps should be used for healthier foods rather than “junk foods.” Apparently, food stamps can be used to buy soda…I think that’s wrong, especially when children are involved: that assistance should pay for milk and juice, not Coke.

      1.  @patricksplace  @msalakka Not only that, when paying with SNAP, they don’t tax soda and other SNAP-eligible food items that are otherwise subject to sales tax. (At least here in Texas.) No idea if they tax if paid directly with TANF, however.

  2. I disagree with the general notion that dessert is a luxury. Certainly, if someone’s blowing their entire SNAP (food stamps) benefit for the month on pies, it’s an abuse of the system. But overall, refusing a method of payment is only going to cost her sales in the long run.
     
    What’s next, are we going to disallow cash withdrawals from TANF and say those can only be spent on non-luxury items? How about a professional woman who needs to keep up her appearance as part of her job (PR, TV, news media) but who is temporarily on TANF and/or SNAP? Are we going to tell her she can’t go get a manicure with her TANF money because that’s a luxury? What do we tell her when she loses her job as a result?
     
    Further reading: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/eligible.htm

    1. @skquinn As someone with 21 years experience in television, I’ve never once encountered a situation in which female talent was in even remote jeopardy because they didn’t pay someone else to do their nails.

      Presumably, when one has reached a point at which they’re in need of SNAP or TANF, they are in a dire situation. I don’t think it’s so unreasonable to use common sense in what the programs should and shouldn’t pay for.

      One of the aims of TANF, for example, is to provide for “job preparation.” Some people might be so stressed at NOT having a job, that they might wish they could take a nice vacation for two weeks to not think about their unemployment. Should TANF be used for THAT? There ought to be a line somewhere.

      1.  @patricksplace  @skquinn TANF is a cash benefit and there’s nothing the government can really do right now should one use that money on a pre-job vacation. There are professions where appearance matters, though I only used nails as an example because it was from the original article; perhaps hair badly in need of a cut would have been a better example, particularly for TV personalities or PR jobs where public speaking is a core part of the position. If we step in and make TANF no longer a cash benefit and go telling people they can’t spend it on X, eventually it’s going to screw someone. How do you tell the difference between a trip from Houston to San Antonio for an interview and a week of training, and a trip between Houston and San Antonio for a week-long vacation? What if the training is in Las Vegas? Of course, that’s further down the slippery slope, but it’s something to think about.
         
        Getting back to the story behind the original article, I would much rather see a system where the sellers are blind to the payment method used. If you want to buy food at this co-op, you buy tokens, the cashier accept whatever payment methods (cash, Visa/MC/Amex, EBT), the sellers trade food for those tokens, and trade the tokens back in for the money that comes in. All the money’s in one place, and it no longer matters to the sellers who pays with EBT or even with credit cards instead of cash. Each seller no longer has to have their own individual merchant account unless they really want to.

        1.  @skquinn I don’t have a problem with sellers having a say in the matter: in some respects, the sellers can help “police” the system to make sure the assistance is going for healthy, wholesome foods, which was the intent to begin with.
           
          If a seller is the one who says her food isn’t healthy enough for people with a limited income who ought to be putting that money towards fruits, veggies, etc., I tend to respect that. The fact that she’d put her own sales on the line to make that stand makes me respect her opinion that much more.
           
          Why can’t the families in question use food stamps for the “healthier” food and any cash for sweets?

        2.  @patricksplace Honestly, if she’s going to be this picky about the money she takes in, I hope she goes out of business. And she’s also refusing TANF money (which is a cash benefit, not restricted to food like SNAP) when she refuses EBT.
           
          She can and should look at it this way: her pies are probably healthier than any store-bought frozen pies. And the grocery stores (any decent grocery store, anyway) will let people buy frozen pies with SNAP and not ask questions. So in that respect she’s undermining the mission of the co-op by refusing EBT.

        3.  @patricksplace TANF is a cash benefit but it still must be withdrawn from the EBT card by a retailer. It’s similar to a debit card in that respect, however it has the same state benefit logo as a card with only SNAP benefits and it’s impossible to tell what kind of benefits a card is tied to just by looking at it.

        4.  @skquinn If it is coming of an EBT card, there is a merchant category code associated with the merchant, as well as an electronic record kept of the transaction. Which means that it is entirely possible to restrict the use of the card for certain types of purchases (for example, in Texas I think both alcohol and tobacco products may not be purchased using the Lone Star Card.)
           
          Also, while a person may not be able to tell what program the benefits associated with a card are coming from by looking at the card, the back-end processing and authorization systems certainly have this information – if not, they should have!

        5.  @skquinn If it is coming of an EBT card, there is a merchant category code associated with the merchant, as well as an electronic record kept of the transaction. Which means that it is entirely possible to restrict the use of the card for certain types of purchases (for example, in Texas I think both alcohol and tobacco products may not be purchased using the Lone Star Card.)
           
          Also, while a person may not be able to tell what program the benefits associated with a card are coming from by looking at the card, the back-end processing and authorization systems certainly have this information – if not, they should have!

        6.  @skquinn I don’t agree. This baker’s position is similar (though *not* the same!) to that taken by the photographer who “wouldn’t take pictures of ugly girls” – her way of refusing to do business with high school seniors who were engaged in bullying some of their classmates.
           
          How she “should” look at this situation is *her* decision, and so long as she doesn’t exclude customers based on one of the classes protected by law (race, creed, national origin, etc.) then she should be free to set the conditions under which she will do business.
           
          I, personally, wish there were more businesspeople who were willing to take a stand, and not simply pursue the “almighty dollar”.

        7.  @skquinn I don’t agree. This baker’s position is similar (though *not* the same!) to that taken by the photographer who “wouldn’t take pictures of ugly girls” – her way of refusing to do business with high school seniors who were engaged in bullying some of their classmates.
           
          How she “should” look at this situation is *her* decision, and so long as she doesn’t exclude customers based on one of the classes protected by law (race, creed, national origin, etc.) then she should be free to set the conditions under which she will do business.
           
          I, personally, wish there were more businesspeople who were willing to take a stand, and not simply pursue the “almighty dollar”.

        8.  @skquinn If it is coming off an EBT card, there is a merchant category code associated with the merchant, as well as an electronic record kept of the transaction. Which means that it is entirely possible to restrict the use of the card for certain types of purchases (for example, in Texas I think both alcohol and tobacco products may not be purchased using the Lone Star Card.)
           
          Also, while a person may not be able to tell what program the benefits associated with a card are coming from by looking at the card, the back-end processing and authorization systems certainly have this information – if not, they should have!

    2. @skquinn As someone with 21 years experience in television, I’ve never once encountered a situation in which female talent was in even remote jeopardy because they didn’t pay someone else to do their nails.

      Presumably, when one has reached a point at which they’re in need of SNAP or TANF, they are in a dire situation. I don’t think it’s so unreasonable to use common sense in what the programs should and shouldn’t pay for.

      One of the aims of TANF, for example, is to provide for “job preparation.” Some people might be so stressed at NOT having a job, that they might wish they could take a nice vacation for two weeks to not think about their unemployment. Should TANF be used for THAT? There ought to be a line somewhere.

  3. By The Way…
    “But while they’re looking for work that will get them off government assistance — and if they aren’t, they should be — they can at least be enjoying healthy produce and vegetables and better food choices.”
     
    If they are Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD), U.S. citizens or legal aliens (after a 5 year residency requirement) and they not working they are only eligible for 3 months food assistance within a 36 month time frame if they are not working. Once they use up their 3 months assistance they cannot get assistance for 3 years. They must also be actively looking for work or in a work training program.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.