Giving food stamps for college kids?

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let them eat baked potatoes. Maybe I better explain.

I came across an interesting article at The Daily Caller Web site: more college kids are qualifying for food stamps.

Whereas government-funded grub has long been available to the working poor, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is eagerly expanding such benefits to college kids, too.

Email newsletter signup

For starters, says The New York Times, the USDA has worked to take the stigma out of receiving government grub. It now calls food stamps “nutritional aid.”

Recipients who once received actual stamps now receive a plastic card. It looks and works like a debit card. Only you and your grocer know who is really picking up the tab.

Though it’s not like college kids feel stigmatized by food stamps. Many can’t believe their good fortune.

That’s because the USDA has made it easy for them, regardless of their socioeconomic background, to qualify. Many college kids are “poor” on paper even if they’re from well-to-do homes.

And if they live at home with Mom and Dad, they still may qualify — so long as they can show that Mom and Dad prepare only half of their meals.

And so it is that many are receiving a few hundred bucks a month in free grub.

I surely could have used such assistance during my Penn State days in the early ’80s, but those were the

unenlightened Reagan years, when many college kids WOULD have felt stigmatized for accepting handouts.

Boy, was I broke.

When school was in session, I worked as a cook, janitor, bouncer and grass cutter. I managed the dump of a rooming house where I lived.

We had a community kitchen and never locked the doors (the cockroaches needed to come and go, too!).

One day after I’d earned just enough dough to buy fresh sliced turkey and bread, the lunch-meat thief struck — no sandwich for me.

We never caught the jerk, but he surely suffered no stigma for receiving handouts.

I concocted what I thought was a clever strategy to spend less money at the pub. I sold my plasma twice a week — they drew my blood, spun off the plasma, then gave me back the rest — and I always planned my donations around happy hours.

Lightheaded, my blood thickened, one beer had the effect of three. My bar-tab savings were enormous.

The only food assistance I recall receiving came from Ralph, one of our rooming-house tenants.

Ralph was in his late 20s — he’d earned his degree years before but his mother wouldn’t let him return to the family farm until he found a wife – and he spent all of his time baking potatoes.

They sat all over the house.

The wrinkly spuds didn’t look very appetizing, but to a fellow stumbling into the kitchen low on plasma and high on Budweiser, they may as well have been the finest cuts of filet mignon.

Ralph’s “bakers” got me through my senior year of college.

In any event, it would appear our government is eager to get more people hooked on government handouts — President Obama’s latest budget includes $72.5 billion for food stamps, almost double the amount from 2008.

And while most college kids figure they’d be dumb not to accept free grub if we taxpayers are dumb enough to let our government to pay for it, I offer a different take.

Nobody minds when his tax dough is used to help the working poor and others who are truly in need, but food stamps for college kids?

Let the spoiled moochers eat baked potatoes.

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Visit Tom on the web at or e-mail him at