Since the Great Recession of 2008, the number of Americans who depend on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits has doubled. Because of this increase, opponents of the federal assistance program demand that benefits be cut, mostly citing anecdotal fraud or abuse, rather than specific, empirical data. However, Fox News has conducted an investigation and discovered “several offerings at Craigslist sites around the country, where the sellers offered the welfare benefits at large discounts from face value.” They also point out that some who are “desperately hungry” are also offering cash for SNAP benefits. Yet, outside of quoting three posts, they offer no concrete numbers about how many ads selling food stamps they discovered.
Opposing Views did its own research by selecting Craigslist sites from 15 major metropolitan areas and searching for a combination of search terms that might be used to sell food stamps for cash, even discreetly. In fact, the closest we came was this ad which offers SNAP benefits or EBT cash assistance (the posting is unclear) in order to buy a wedding cake. Some of the more hardline opponents of SNAP benefits decry folks for purchasing potato chips or junk food, this will surely be seen as an offense, but it is a far cry the food stamp open-market the Fox News article implies exists.
In fact, the search uncovered a numberof Craigslist adsfrom people who detail their financial situations in a plea for help to the anonymous masses on the internet. A few ads turned up where sellers of items express their willingness to accept food stamps in trade. There were a number of ads for tickets to concerts or sporting events that also say they will accept food stamp benefits, but the majority of those ads had been flagged and removed from the site. While this practice surely does happen, the evidence appears to support that it is far less widespread than the Fox News report would have us believe.