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Issue Analysis

The Hunger Champion Awards: Race to Waste

Last year, Ashe County, South Carolina received national recognition from the US Department of Agriculture for their work involving the Department of Social Services. However this attention only highlights the wasteful spending of government. Through the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), a USDA agency, the Hunger Champion awards are handed out annually to local government agencies for increasing participation in food stamps or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Yes, a taxpayer funded agency is purposefully encouraging individuals to depend on food stamps and then being awarded for doing so. There is no doubt that helping those in need is a priority, but it is the abuse and fraud accompanying their work that is taking away taxpayers’ hard earned money.

The Ashe County Department of Social Services (DSS) was one of four “Gold” award winners and included a multitude of other local government organizations winning lower level awards. Adding to this monstrosity of waste is the fact these “Gold” award winners are sent to the annual conference for State SNAP directors. No matter what part of the country the event or winners are located; taxpayers foot the bill for these trips. These winners are sent to explain their tactics for garnering more SNAP participants and then given a slap on the back for their "great work".

In their press release from last year, the FNS touts Ashe County DSS’s tactics for increasing participation by being able to garner the North Carolinians with “mountain pride”. (People who agree with self-sufficiency and disagree with hand-outs).  These individuals exemplify the American ideal of not relying on the government for help- that local government tells them they need. 

In order to combat the people with “mountain pride”, the Ashe County FSS partnered with a local food bank and received a grant from Feeding America, a non-profit organization, to use a caseworker. Brandi Legge, the caseworker, is noted as having knowledge about the county and would begin a campaign to help individuals that they deemed needed government help. Isn't it ludicrous to think the government should tell hard working Americans to get on government aid because they believe these Americans are “unsuccessful”? Individuals Americans are the judges of their own success not the government. Also this aid is not free paid for by hardworking taxpayers. 

Legge wanted these “barriers” to be broken down for these individuals so she changed her marketing strategy. She went around the county convincing people that this taxpayer funded aid called the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), could be used to buy seeds to grow to “maintain a sense of self-sufficiency”.  This shows government as a parental figure while Americans are the uninformed child. Self-sufficiency should not include the government. 

Another tactic involved busing individuals from across the county. Also the Ashe County DSS would set up stations around the county completing applications for individuals they thought needed food stamops. Not only did they convince individuals to get on food stamps but other forms of taxpayer funded programs like a type of Medicaid that subsidizes Medicare and Low Income Energy Assistance Program. This is how government begins to grow. It deepenens their position in citizens' lives at the cost of taxpayers. 

According to the USDA press release, Legge’s work impressed the Ashe County DSS and so that they will continue her position even after the grant has stopped. Now taxpayers can pay for her to spend more American tax dollars on people they think should recieve government aid. By making a game out of this the American taxpayer is the only one losing.