Stigma, Aisle 7: Public shaming of food stamp recipients

What should people on public assistance be allowed to purchase at the grocery store?

Is it any of your business?

In market aisles and checkout lanes across the country, those questions are bubbling up and spilling over into incidents of shaming public aid recipients.

» TAKE THE QUIZ: How well do you know the food stamp rules?

Meg Johnston, of Marietta, knows a thing or two about what can happen when a person goes to buy an item of food with a particular form of government aid. What happened to her recently in a local store was an ugly part of the entitlement debate.

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How much the government should spend helping poor people put food on their tables is a policy debate. But often it’s played out shopper to shopper.

“The average person knows nothing about what the law allows for in terms of purchase,” said Michael Leo Owens, associate professor of political science at Emory University. “What they think they know is what a person should or shouldn’t be consuming if they are receiving public assistance.”

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