The Food Stamp Controversy

By, Evaristo Rios

For the past few weeks in AP Language and Composition class, we have been learning and gathering information about government food assistance, more commonly known as food stamps, and whether or not recipients should posses the right to buy junk food with it. We initially began this unit with a lesson using “Coffey Cash,” named after our very own teacher Ms. Coffey. With our “Coffey Cash” of $100, we had to choose one of the following three options for giving money to the homeless:


A – Give the money to the homeless person, but tell them what they can’t buy

B – Give the money to the homeless person, but tell them what to buy

C- Give the money to a third party that will be used to help the homeless


After reading the options, many students were confused about which option to choose. They wanted to help the homeless but didn’t want the money they were giving to help others be taken advantage of. This assignment showed us, students, that perspective matters; and while we might believe something initially, viewing a situation from a different perspective could alter the way we see it.

For our next assignment, we were given the question “Should people be able to buy junk food with food stamps?” We then had to provide an answer that advocated for both perspectives: yes, people should be able to buy junk food with food stamps, and no, people should be unable to buy junk food with food stamps. For each side, we came up with three reasons and found evidence for each reason to further prove our arguments.

After learning both sides of the food stamp debate, we then picked a claim that we personally agreed with and formed groups with a few fellow students who believed in the same cause. We then created a presentation gathering our reasons, evidence, and counterclaims. Lastly, we created a pitch. The group work simulated an exploratory committee presenting to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on whether or not recipients of food stamp assistance should be able to purchase junk food. As a group, we had reasons and evidence to support our perspective, as well as prepared evidence for the opposing perspective.

Finally, each group presented in front of two people—our assistant principal and our IB Coordinator—acting as the Secretaries of the USDA. I felt very nervous as time drew closer and closer for me to present; but when it was actually time to present I felt ready because I truly believed in my claim. After presenting I was asked questions about my presentation and given feedback on what I can do to improve my presentation skills. This experience was very eye-opening and also helped me to improve my skills as both a writer and a speaker.

Evaristo Rios is a junior at Roberto Clemente who is a member of JROTC, GSA, the recycling club, and student council. He enjoys writing, reading, and playing video games. His goals for the future include graduating with an all A honor roll, attending college, earning a bachelor degree in journalism and masters degree in psychology.