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In denying New York’s request, the Agriculture Department also raised one objection that helped kill the bill in Florida: Food stamp users might feel stigmatized if they couldn’t buy the same products as everyone else.

This is a flimsy argument. Almost all food stamp beneficiaries today make purchases with a card that looks much like a debit or credit card, not a booklet of stamps. It’s not obvious to others standing in the checkout line which products are bought with food stamps and which are paid for with the customer’s own money. Once everything is rung up on the register, the customer simply pays the balance due on the exempt items. And if other shoppers can tell what products are purchased with food stamps, won’t it be a relief to them to see that their tax dollars aren’t going for junk?

Food stamp rolls exploded during the downturn, which began in late 2007. Even after the recession came to its official end in June 2009, families continued to tap into food assistance as unemployment remained high and those lucky enough to find jobs were often met with lower wages.