By Santee Ross, University of Montana
Soda, chips, pizza and candy are under attack from Montana state senators and representatives in Helena according to a letter that appeared in the Valley Journal.
Many state representatives and senators want to see SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) revamped so that people can’t buy foods high in cholesterol and sugar with their food stamps.
Natives are no strangers to food programs like SNAP and WIC. I mean commodities are a major part of our food pyramid. Hello, commod cheese.
I agree in part, food stamp purchases like candy could be eliminated but targeting any foods with high cholesterol and sugar are a little unrealistic.
I can see how legislators are concerned with how food stamp money is spent but honestly I don’t know if they have experienced living on less than $10 a day. They possibly have plenty of financial support in order to make meals like fresh vegetables and grilled chicken daily. Not to mention the time to cook these nutritious meals.
Most food stamp recipients are single parents whose income is less than $1000 monthly.
Finding the time to cook is half the battle when it comes to meal time for these single parents.
Buying items that are high in cholesterol and sugar is the trade off most food stamp recipients make in order to stretch the amount of food they can buy.
A common question I find myself asking at the grocery store is, should I buy the lean chicken for $8 a package or the $1 package of hot dogs? The thing to keep in mind is I still have to plan for tomorrow's dinner and the rest of the month as well. I can’t imagine how single parents manage grocery shopping.
Now that i am on my own away from my family, SNAP has taken a huge financial load off my shoulders. Scraping together the rent money is easier now that I can rely on SNAP to provide for my food costs.
Although making it to the grocery store is easier for me then most Natives like my family who live miles from the nearest grocery store.
Most reservations are very rural and isolated so getting to the grocery store is difficult on its own. This means Natives don’t really have the option to indulge in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Those items don’t hold well on the shelf for long periods of time. Which is why most rez cupboards are filled with canned or boxed goods. They aren’t exactly bursting with nutrition but they won’t spoil if a Native family can’t afford to go into town for a while.
The letter also stated that 15% of food stamp purchases were made at convenience stores. This I find reasonable especially if the food stamp recipient lives on the rez.
It’s common that gas stations are the grocery stores for most reservations, considering how isolated rez towns can be. It’s not uncommon for Native people to get milk while gassing up.
Maybe if the legislators who are demanding a new SNAP food item list, walked a mile in low income families shoes, they would have a better understanding on which items are reasonable and which ones can be clearly eliminated. I might have to say goodbye to my precious snickers indulgences.
Santee Ross (Hopi/Lakota) is from Lander, Wyo.