Let’s Talk Food, Dignity & SNAP

Arkansans spend a lot of time in conversation, we all do it whether it be in the grocery store, in the coffee shop, or on the bleachers at a football game and we talk about what we’d do different and what we’re not happy with in the world.

A lot of times we complain about things we see locally. Like being in line at a grocery store and seeing someone buy things that aren’t necessarily healthy, and people using food stamps to purchase them.

Often the conversation comes back that the government ought to tell people what they can and cannot buy with food stamps. To a lot of people that makes sense and to a lot of people it’s hard to argue the other side with.

But with policy decision like that you always have to look a little deeper, you always have to look at who it really effects and what it really means. All of us have been there.

Remember those times where you’ve been in the grocery store behind a single mom who looks like she’s just had one of those days that we’ve all had, and you just want to get it over with. Her cart is full and there is a kiddo hanging off the side of it with a big smile on their face, maybe with a dirty elbow, runny nose and just clawing at a candy bar at the cash register.

That smile, often times, is because of a candy bar clutched in their hands, put there by a parent who loves their kid enough to make sure to keep them happy in the grocery store line. The mom gets them the candy bar just to get them to stay quiet, so they can get home.

Now imagine being in that line and seeing that smile on that kid and hearing the clerk say, ‘I’m sorry you can’t buy those two candy bars, the government says no. And oh by the way that brand of Mac and Cheese, those type of hot dogs, and that generic Captain Crunch…you can’t buy those either.’

Imagine the shame you would feel if your children had to watch you leave their breakfast, their lunch, or their reward for being good going through the grocery store…Imagine having to hang your head and leaving that food on that worn vinyl belt in line at the grocery store.

When we argue that it makes sense to some people that the government restricts what you can buy, we try to use the argument that we want people to be healthier. But we also want people to have dignity.

There are better ways to help people develop healthy habits and still retain their dignity. There are better ways than yanking that smile off that child’s face or adding one more burden to that single mother just trying to make it through the day.

I agree we should all eat healthier but we shouldn’t punish people for purchasing things that fit within their budget. And frankly in rural Arkansas options can be pretty slim and we’re purchasing what we can

We shouldn’t be punishing people as a way to incentive people to be healthy. There are a couple bills in the Arkansas Legislature that try to do that. Arkansans are better than that. Just because it sounds good in the bleachers or in a coffee shop. We should always look to how we can help people be better, not simply punish them because they’re not having the way we think they should.

We should always be focused on helping people, not having the government tell people how they should live. But having the government be there to be a helping hand to help them live better.

Let’s incentivize healthy eating, let’s ensure there are good food options whether you live in the city or in rural Arkansas.

That’s a path toward a healthier Arkansas. That’s a path toward a happier Arkansas. That’s a path to show the rest of the nation that we truly are better than they give us credit for.

I’m Michael John Gray, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas