Americans Aren’t Cool With People Using Food Stamps To Buy Crab Legs

August 16, 2013  |  


“Don’t you dare use your food stamps to buy crab legs,” most Americans would say. A surprising 54 percent of Americans are against the idea of food stamp recipients using federal aid to buy expensive food. But when it comes to buying junk food with food stamps, Americans are more tolerant of this expense, The Huffington Post reports.

Only 32 percent of respondents, according to a HuffPost and YouGov Poll, support food stamp recipients buying high-priced groceries. Two months ago, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who supports deeper food stamp cuts, spoke out about a “hardworking constituent” who was in line at a market behind someone using food stamps. The shopper was upset when he realized “he is actually helping pay for the crab legs when he can’t pay for them for himself,” Gohmert explained.

Besides a restriction on alcohol, hot meals, cigarettes, and household products, those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have few limitations on what they can purchase. Since the Great Recession, SNAP recipients has increased to 47 million; they have grown to be a bigger target for Republicans than ever.

Fifty-two percent of the poll’s respondents said if food stamp recipients want to buy gourmet meals, they should use their own money.

When it comes to food stamp users buying junk food such as chips, candy, and soda Americans were more split on their approval. “Forty-five percent said they should be allowed to buy [junk food] and 42 percent said they should not.”

Unsurprisingly, Republicans and people over the age of 65 were more likely to disapprove expensive purchases with food stamps. Still, Democrats and younger respondents are more likely than not to support restrictions on big ticket food items.

Your clothes are judged also. It seems that even the most polished food stamp users are given the side-eye. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) was upset to see a “physically fit couple” purchasing groceries; he said that they were a “fraud.”

The HuffPost/YouGov poll surveyed 1,000 adults using a sample that matched the characteristics of the U.S. population.

Do you think food stamps should be used to purchase expensive items? Or should there be restrictions?

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  • linda555555

    I used to get upset when I was working & people was getting gov money when able to work. But now I am disabled and on food stamps (& still embarrassed at check out) I don’t want to judge, but sometimes it’s hard when someone dress so expensively and may drive mercedes but we really don’t know their situation, they may have just lost everything & still have clothes & car left, or maybe spouse died recently & a stay at home mom is at a loss. Point is, I let God judge & if they buy expensive food, then they sacrifice running out early. I splurged & bought fresh crab legs, well only 5.99 in a small container I have never had them b4. I try & buy salmon when on sale which is EXPENSIVE but good for me & really helps my pain, but you sacrifice to eat healthy, if I was to eat 50% healthy I would be broke in first week. Anyway I am happy to help those in need & don’t stress wondering what someone else is eating, they may be splurging that one time for someone or self, mine was for my son. I’m embarrassed because I used to judge like you so I stress when I buy even salmon that someone is judging me. I’ts just wrong to judge, that’s why the bible tells us only 1 judge God, we DON’T know the hearts/situations only God does, & God says we will be judged twice as much for judging others. So please try to stop.

  • Simple

    The recipients don’t abuse… the real abuse occurs with the inefficiency in administration…

  • HappyFace

    Food is expensive period. I have two children one child who is allergic to soy, milk, peanuts
    nuts, shellfish, eggs, & wheat! Most of her food is gluten free & vegetarian. The foods that are are organic & gluten free cost several times more than regular food. I don’t think telling families what they can & can’t buy.

  • ugh

    Get a hook up and get you some lobster .50 on the doller & stfu. I mean if its really THAT important who’s buying lobster nowadays. …

  • Happy Monday

    The saddest part of this article is that people make assumptions based on looks. There is a huge stigma that people who use government assistance are abusing the programs and don’t deserve it. The FACTS are that abuses to the system are a very small percentage its unfortunate, but they happen. You don’t know any other person’s struggle or story. Why are people concerned with what someone else is eating. They don’t go around saying someone wearing an expensive bag or shoes shouldn’t be buying twinkies or ramen noodles. I didn’t know that food was socioeconomically specific.

  • cocolatte

    On one hand, no government assistance should be abused, but on the other hand, there is no blanket shopping list for those who receive food stamps, just as there is no standard look for a person who receives disability, WIC, SSI, or welfare payments. I get plenty of side eye when I have to use the EBT card in the grocery store– little do the folks giving the side eye know, these aren’t my groceries, but those of my mother who has been severely ill for many years and due some of her illnesses, has to be on a restricted diet, which does include things like soy/almond milk, whole wheat pasta, very little red meat (so mostly seafood, and poultry like fresh fish/shrimp, ground or whole turkey, etc…) and bottled water (there’s something in our local tap water that upsets her stomach now). The items we have to buy for her may appear to be food that, but in this case, its just the foods she has to have in order to keep GI issues off of the list of illnesses that are affecting her. I don’t shop for myself when I shop for my mom (she gets so little funds due to SNAP budget cuts that I oftentimes have to kick in a little $$ myself to cover the grocery bill), but even so, there’s no shortage of judgement (both verbally and silently expressed), which saddens me. There’s a lot of ‘have and have nots’ judgement when it comes to the topic of government assistance, but I’ll say this: when I take my mom’s paperwork down to the Dept. of Social Services offices, there are a variety of faces there, people in business suits, middle to upper class ‘looking’ people… in short, people who ‘look’ like they don’t need any type of gov’t help. The face of economic distress is changing, and those faces now look some of the same ones judging the ‘have nots’ and what they dare to buy with that ‘given money’.

  • Nina

    This is one argument that really aggravates me for the following reasons. Only 3 years ago when I was 22 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer and another rare disease which caused the cancer. Aside from chemotherapy, I underwent several surgeries thru the years (About 20 and counting), one which included removing my entire colon and rectum. With only my small intestine left to create a J-Pouch with. During chemo I was forced to wear an colostomy bag for 2 years. Only very few who knew me, were aware of my illness. I say all that to say, no one knew that I had cancer, no one knew I was on chemo because I didn’t lose my hair and no one knew I was doing #2 thru a bag attached to my stomach, unless I told them. And when I told some friends, they were in absolute shock because I looked like a typical healthy 22 year old. I didn’t resemble their image of a cancer patient so I was able to hide my illness very well, with certain clothing & such.

    So without being able to work or go to class like I once did, I had no choice but to get help from my government in the form of food stamps and disability payments just to cover my bare necessities. Having such a sensitive stomach, I can only digest certain things. Such as fish & vegetables which I prefer to buy organic at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. I have to follow a certain diet in order to live a normal life & not be in the hospital all the time! I know exactly what cashiers & people behind me at checkout lanes were thinking, “Why is this young & healthy looking woman using an EBT card?” So I ask those of you who judge, refrain from that because you have no idea what is really happening with them or their relative who they could be helping support and is simply using their card, like my mother does for me when I can’t buy my own groceries.

    Prior to my diagnosis, I felt the exact same way as those poll respondents but now I can’t judge, we can only wonder. I am strongly against junk food being purchased with food stamps tho. Not saying you’re all wrong because there are those who cheat the system. But who’s fault is that, ours or our governments for not putting heavier restrictions on what can be bought or not, or who should qualify for these benefits. Luckily no stranger has yet to bring up the topic but when they do, I will be honest. It will be an answer they never expected. Every case is different so please think again before rushing to judgement. (I’m very sorry this entry was so long but I hope I helped you see things in a different light)

    • MNAuthorKim

      Amazing and well-said! Your story really puts things into perspective. Appearances truly can be deceiving. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Monica

    The fact is, it’s the principal. Hard working people (like myself) have to think twice before buying luxury foods like crab legs. We splurg on those things on special occassions because we live on a budget. Recipients on food stamps wouldn’t understand that, as they are not earning their income. Once again, it’s the principal. Live within your means.

    • JMO

      But here’s the thing, I guarantee you wouldn’t trade spots with that person for one second. Between the two of you I bet you’re doing a million times better in life. Some of them will never see a city outside of their own or experience things you probably will. So yeah ok they can buy crab legs with stamps but will they have any of the other things you have? Probably not. They get a set amount of money each month & if they choose to use 1/4 of it on crab legs that’s on them. It’s not like we’re handing them extra money to buy these things.

    • Guest

      Just because you see someone using food stamps doesn’t mean they aren’t hardworking. That’s you making a judgement on a situation where you don’t have all the facts and then trying to make some sort of connection to yourself when it has nothing to do with you. That’s what hater’s do.

  • SMHgurl24

    Its not as easy as “minding your own business” when it comes to people buying certain foods with ebt. People on gov. assistance get judged harsher because its being paid for by everyone so people are more critical on how the money is being spent and whats considered necessary for living vs whats WANTED. There are plenty of things that ebt allows to be spent that many people don’t agree with and thats an issue that needs to be discussed. Theres no “hating” for the most part its one issue out of the millions that we as a country need to sit down and talk about.

  • get real

    Give me a break. I’ve seen comment sections with these same “Americans” complaining about them buying junk food. “Their kids can’t learn by eating that crap” etc. White people try to pretend that they are the only tax payers in America. “MY tax dollars” this “MY tax dollars” that. Another thing they lie about in these comment sections is “I see them using foodstamps but in the parking lot they leave in Esclades” etc. Really? So you hurried with your purchase only run behind them to see what they left in? Yeah right. If they cut foodstamps a lot of white people will be left starving.

    • Mrs. Myers

      You know it really aggrivates me when people make stupid comments like this. You can not say that every “white” person says these things, it’s risiculous and I’m tired of people thinking they can speak about subjects on my behalf as well as others.

      • get real

        I’m so sick of black apologist like you. I call it “Blacks to the rescue”. Everytime someone black is telling the truth about these racist, here comes the blacks to defend them. It’s not worth it trust me.

        • Mrs. Myers

          Your are basing a few white peoples opinion, and turning it into every white person. Its completely ignorant. And there are other people of different races where their views are exactly what you said, yet you pick out only the white people.

          • get real

            Did I not say the white people on several comment sections? Get your tongue out of these white arse holes. While you are breaking your neck to defend them, they would never go out of their to defend you. Silly woman.

            • Mrs. Myers

              Yout obviously not grasping what I am saying, and its just going straight over your head, so I’m done trying to make an ignorant person see the errors in his thoughts.

    • linda555555

      I wish you wouldn’t point fingers to any race, we all need help at times. I love to help people from other countries, & help them get food/shelter etc. A great feeling to do what God wants us to do, just legally w/out lying which can be difficult in many cases but if determine to do Gods way he always comes thru.

  • Yanez

    I don’t want food stamp recipients using their cards to get certain foods either. Lobster (or seafood of any kind) and Digiorno pizzas should just be off limits. These government assistance programs should not be set up to make you want to stay on them for extended periods of time. This program needs to be set up just like WIC where you can only get certain foods, and really I think people with that card should only have access to generic foods, not name brand at the grocery store. That will help wean them off of government assistance which is a good thing.

    • JMO

      Not everyone on assistance is abusing the system. Ask the millions who’ve recently lost their jobs. Some folks have been paying into the fund for years via taxes out their pay checks. People should not be treated as if they’re beneath the rest of society because they fall on hard times. To be honest, you shouldn’t even be angry at the wasting of $300, you need to redirect your anger to D.C (congress) where billions are being wasted!

      • EBT SCAM!!!~

        I agree not everyone is abusing the system but, a lot are…When they pull out a wad of money after they used up the money on their card…That pisses me off…I see it everyday and I being a single woman trying to keep my home because I missed work because of an illness and I stress trying to make ends meet but, I couldn’t get any help because I make too much gives me a bad taste in my mouth…I raised to kids by myself and I busted my butt and still do just to survive. I am not eating lobster and caviar that’s for sure…

    • smittyt

      What I be buy with my food stamps should be my business. I happen to like lobster and caviar too. Why should I be denied those pleasures?

      • EBT SCAM!!!~

        If you were paying for these foods out of your own pocket then I wouldn’t complain…When I’m paying for it then pleasures should be denied!!!~I witnessed a women buying a case of lobster this New Years and a platter of shrimp to entertain her friends for the holiday…That’s abusing the system and should be reported…

        • Get a life

          Don’t you have anything better to do then “witness” what someone else is purchasing and their payment method in the check out line?

    • Barren Boe

      People don’t want to be on these programs at all because people like you make them feel ashame. Listen to yourself. I’d rather them buy lobster than some unhealthy bologna. You sound ridiculous.

      • EBT SCAM!!!~

        If they were ashamed then they wouldn’t be buying Lobster, shrimp, steak etc…the cost of those items can buy them a lot more basic food to feed their family…Conserve, conserve conserve…

    • ChasT

      You are soooo bitter. Individuals and families on food stamps acquire them because their finances are depleted or have diminished due to a temporary crisis in their lives. Let them have the luxury of eating whatever the hell they want! I’m sure there are other areas in their lives that don’t scream “financial bliss” such as housing, transportation, education, career, etc! So what if they are eating lobster or steak! No one is taking food out of your mouth. I’m pretty sure there are plenty more on the shelf at your local grocery store for you to grab!

      • Yanez

        This is not about being bitter or angry. Government assistance programs should be set up to make people want to get off of them as soon as possible. Like I said in my initial post, this program should be set up just like WIC. People using EBT should only have access to certain government approved foods. There are people who are working hard that have yet to achieve “financial bliss.” Government assistance should not be blissful. It should be a situation that pushes you to quickly find a way to be self sufficient.

        • Shelly

          Yanez, I don’t think these people realize that taxpayers help pay for food stamps. If I can’t afford luxury food for myself, what kind of sense does it make for me to be forced to pay for someone else to eat like that? That makes NO good sense. And how is that bitter? No one is bitter that we can’t get on food stamps. I do not think people on food stamps should eat unhealthy; Whole foods accepts food stamps. But if you use stamps, why not be responsible with what you buy? Buy foods that are healthy, but will last a long time and will be enough to feed the whole family. Buy essentials, not luxuries. Be mindful of the fact that other people are basically paying for your food.

        • ChasT

          Once again, your worried about what others are doing! We can all say what others should be doing when we are not in their situation. Just as God gives he can take away! The career, health and savings you have today may not be there tomorrow. And if your butt had to become a EBT recipient I know you’ll be shopping for whatever grocery items you’d like without hesitating to think twice! O and I still think your bitter 🙂

      • EBT SCAM!!!~

        REALLY???? That’s bull!!!~ I know that for a fact…If everyone would be more conservative and stop abusing the system… Maybe we could possible lower some of the debt we are all in…Their finances are depleted because they don’t know how to conserve…They are wearing nice clothes, IPhones, nice cars etc…Give me a break…And then not to mention the immigrants that come here and get free housing, food stamps, education etc…No wonder we are in so much debt…Stop the insanity…

  • anonymouse

    you have to be a sad person to be jealous over some food stamps. People really need to mind their own business.

  • Guest

    People like that are just straight haters. What difference, positive or negative, is someone buying steak over bologna with their EBT card going to have on you ? None, so keep your eyes in your own damn basket. A lot of people on SNAP are or were working middle class people who pay taxes!