‘Obama Signed the SNAP Fairness Act of 2014’

A short-lived “satirical” website made a bid for attention in December 2014 by combining two favorite targets of the right wing: then-U.S. President Barack Obama, and poor people.

That month the “Salty Badger” published a post claiming that had signed the “SNAP Fairness Act of 2014” into law, saying:

Beginning January 1st, 2015, those who own a SNAP card, previously known as food stamps, will no longer be prohibited from buying alcohol, beer, wine, tobacco and cigarettes using their EBT card. This was a campaign promise made by many Democrat incumbents during the 2014 midterm elections in order to retain their seats. Hakeem Jeffries of New York’s 8th Congressional District stated, “For too long, American citizens have been discriminated against at the grocery store. There is no reason my constituents should be barred from purchasing a 6-pack of Coors Light with their EBT card to go along with their steak dinner, also purchased with their EBT card. To expect low-income hardworking Americans to go out of pocket for essentials such as cigarettes and beer is not only racist, but cruel. I am proud to stand with my president today in this historical signing for food stamp fairness.”

The story is, of course, fabricated; there is no record of any bill by that name. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture website clearly states the limits for people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program:

Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco

  • Vitamins, medicines, and supplements. If an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase.

  • Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store).

  • Foods that are hot at the point of sale

  • Any nonfood items such as:
    Pet foods
    Cleaning supplies, paper products, and other household supplies.
    Hygiene items, cosmetics

The founders of the “Salty Badger,” who identified themselves as “Brendon McDaniel & Poco Longfellow,” also published a statement (as opposed to other blogs’ disclaimers) admitting that the site is an attempt at “comedy”:

We will sneak our humor into the minds of the world one individual at a time starting with our close friends and family because they have a social obligation to read whatever we stick in their faces.

However, the inclusion of Jeffries — who in 2023 became the first Black U.S. lawmaker to lead a party caucus within the House of Representatives — as well as Obama shows the nature of the post’s “humor.” Republican political figures tried to smear Obama himself as the “food stamp president,” and people enrolled in the SNAP program (often referred to as “food stamps”) have long been targeted for mockery.

“I hear it a lot from clients, that they go to pay for their food and they pull out an EBT card or WIC, or maybe they have a soda, and then they hear snide remarks from customers behind them, or they notice a change in the cashier’s attitude,” a supervisor for the Atlanta Community Food Bank told the local Journal-Constitution newspaper in 2014. “I guess the assumption is that poor people should only eat certain things.”

Obama’s successor as president, Donald Trump, presided over the implementation of additional requirements in 2019 for SNAP users between 18 and 49 years old without any dependents, forcing more of them to work more than 20 hours a week in order to retain their benefits. As of October 1 2023, that requirement will expand to include SNAP recipients without dependents up to 52 years of age.

Update 9/25/2023, 10:51 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag