How a sushi-eating surfer is killing food stamps

Jason Greenslate became the face of abuse of the nutrition program by bragging about buying fancy items. But he's far from the norm.

By Aimee Picchi Sep 23, 2013 1:00PM

Screengrab of Jason Greenslate from a Fox News online video (© FOX News Network, LLC)Meet Jason Greenslate, the poster boy for food stamp abuse. 

Greenslate (pictured) is a 29-year-old San Diego surfer who was captured by Fox News in August going on a "food stamp binge," buying lobster and sushi with his EBT card. "All paid for by our wonderful tax dollars," he told the news channel, adding: "It's free food. It's awesome."

That's horrifying to many taxpayers, given the huge climb in food stamp spending. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is now a $75 billion annual program, up from just $21.4 billion in 2003. But with billions of dollars now at risk of being cut from the program, it's important to note that Greenslate is far from the norm when it comes to food stamp recipients. 

For one, Greenslate is an able-bodied adult, which represents just a sliver of the nation's 47.7 million food stamp recipients. 

An overwhelming majority of food stamp beneficiaries are either not expected to work or are working, according to a January report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Here's the breakdown for SNAP recipients:

  • 68% are children, disabled or elderly and are not expected to work.
  • 13% are employed.
  • 19% are not employed.

Receiving food stamps doesn't actually discourage people from working, either, given that more than 80% of recipients work either in the year before or after receiving the aid, the group notes.

But Greenslate's brief moment in the conservative media spotlight might just mean less food on the table for poor and low-income children and the elderly. 

That's because Fox News distributed the clip of Greenslate laughing at the idea of working a normal job on Capitol Hill, notes the Huffington Post. The House last week voted to cut food stamp spending by 5%, with one lawmaker citing the surfer as a motivation.

As for Greenslate himself, he told The Huffington Post that spending decisions for millions shouldn't be made on the basis of one individual case. 

"I don't think that one person should be the decision for 47 million people," he said. (He also told the Huffington Post that he's not lazy and works in his band for more than 40 hours per week.)

Greenslate has one thing right: He's not representative of the vast majority of food stamp recipients. 

That might be your local Wal-Mart (WMT) employee, such as Claire Robinson of Columbus, Ga., who relies on SNAP to help feed her and her 9-year-old daughter. 

"Before (lawmakers) make the cuts, they should look at the household income to make sure no kids are going to go hungry," she told The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. "It could put a strain on a lot of families."

So here's an idea for Fox News: The next time the network profiles someone receiving food stamps, how about picking someone who actually represents the majority of recipients? Chances are it's going to be a lot more sobering to realize food stamp cuts will actually take food away from those in real need. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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Sep 23, 2013 1:30PM
Anyone else want to punch that worthless parasite in the face?
Sep 23, 2013 3:08PM
Just another reason that we should go back to commodity distribution and do away with food stamps. Commodities were good basic foods. Perhaps not the the tastiest to most, but they filled the stomach with good nutrition. Unlike food stamps, the foods were not sold to others because most people would not pay for them. What were the foods in commodities? Peanut butter, flour, rice, corn meal, canned meat, powdered milk, powered eggs, cheese. etc..  Anybody else think that going back to commodity distribution is a good idea?
Sep 23, 2013 3:17PM
After years of working as a grocery store clerk, I know that there are a lot of people on food stamps who eat much more lavishly than I.  I understand that they need food, but seeing so many people spending their food stamps on expensive pre-packaged foods and large amounts of junk food just made me sick.  Also, they would come in with their shiny new iPhone and manicured nails to spend their EBT, things that I think are unnecessary if you are already struggling for money to feed your family.  Don't try to tell me that food stamp abuse is only a tiny sliver of the people who use it, anyone who actually sees this on a regular basis knows how widespread it is.
Sep 23, 2013 2:27PM
Ms. Picchi, Where are you getting your facts from? The food stamp program is ripe for abuse. Most of us who shop at working class foodstores have regularly encountered people willing to sell their aid cards for cash to buy cigarettes and beer.  This is more the norm than the exception.  The food stamp program isn't just free food, it's FREE MONEY with absolutely no accountability, and I for one, cannot afford it anymore.  How many people am I expected to carry?  We would have loved to have had another child but we couldn't afford it.  But in reality, we now have several more children that will bleed us dry from government HAND OUT programs.  What incentive is there to work?  How about following up on that train of thought, Ms. Picchi?
Sep 23, 2013 1:26PM

Dear Aimee,


If I owned a gas station (which I do not), guess how many drops of gasoline my underground tanks would be permitted to leak into the ground before I was forced to shut down my station, drain my tanks, dig them up and install new tanks.


Answer: As soon as one drop leaks, I'm out of business til I fix the problem.


Why is the food stamp program, (or medicare, or Social Security, or...) allowed to "leak" billions and still operate?


The government should make working a more attractive option than taking a handout from the taxpayer. Since that won't ever happen, I say, "Good job Jason Greenslate for taking a subsidy you don't need if you can legally get it."

I'll also say, "Good job Fox News for making us aware of it!"





Sep 23, 2013 2:06PM
You should not be able to buy brand chips, steak or high end seafood with food stamps.  I don't think this guy is that far from the norm.  I think people do use food stamps to buy things most blue collar and some white collar wouldn't dream of buying. 
Sep 23, 2013 1:42PM
the proposed cut is 5%


 on 75 billion thats only 3.75 billion. 


america was only using 21 billion 10 years ago.  now its 3.5 times more, and suddenly 3 billion is killing snap program?


lol typical end of the world by the liberal media.


obama has told us we are in a recovery.  if true why do we need 75 billion for foodstamps?


how can we be in a recovery if the govt is spending 50 billion more for food stamp recipients then 10 years ago?  either there are three times more families on it, or the recipients are getting 3 times the amount every month than 10 years ago.


Sep 23, 2013 1:50PM
I like how he says "our wonderful tax dollars" ......... You know this guy never paid a dime to uncle sam.
Sep 23, 2013 2:11PM
Taking the Fraud out of these programs, would probably pay for any cuts they want/need to make.
Sep 23, 2013 1:43PM

75 billion a year for foodstamps that we are not in a recovery.


proof that obamas policies have failed

Sep 23, 2013 2:02PM

19% don't work at all just like the surfer slouch.  Note he'd escape that statistic even if he say worked the counter of a surf shop for 5 hours a week.  Would that really make him any less of a deadbeat?


The program is loaded with deadbeats working way below their potential.  Having a job does not prove that someone is doing all they can and are worthy of public support...

Sep 23, 2013 3:04PM
Let's see.. Obama's "fix" for these problems is to give amnesty to 11+ million illegals while turning his back on any enforcement of immigration laws.  He supports the loss of full time jobs in favor of the creation of part time jobs, calling that the "creation of new jobs".  That gives us even more people like that struggling Mom working at a part time walmart job that can't make enough to support herself, forcing her into the food stamp and other assistance programs.

Isn't this all just a vicious circle that Obama and other idiots are creating?

Sep 23, 2013 3:13PM
try standing in line at costco and watch all the people that don't know the language buy all there food with there ebt card then buy a 60" tv with cash something is wrong and i have seen this happen four times
Sep 23, 2013 2:33PM
If you breed-em, you need to feed-em!  One way, or the other this stuff is going to end.
Sep 23, 2013 1:17PM

Even though he is a known abuser, he still gets food stamps because the system is built to benefit people like him. 

IF there are no food stamp recipients, then the food stamp administrators are out of their jobs.  IT is in their interest to have more people on food stamps, not to find losers like this guy.

Sep 23, 2013 1:52PM
I think we should give this guy a promotion from "Food Stamp Poster Child" to "Liberal Democrat Poster Child".
Sep 23, 2013 3:02PM
Can we say "slant!".Does MSNNBC ever write a story that isn't. I know three people on food stamps. One has a family and uses food stamps to help feed his family. But at the same time, he works off the clock and is paid in cash. In addition to food stamps he gets help with utilities and rent. Is this fair. The other two are involved with drugs, one a dealer and both are users. The dealer makes good money owns two cars and actually owns the house in which he lives. The cars are in his parents name as is the house. He get everything. He writes himself paid rent statements and gets help with his non rent. He get checks to help with utilities. He gets a disability check. And he has a party every night. The other just is a waste of skin, has an arrest record as long as my arm. Matter of fact, he was just released from prison because of an overcrowding problem. The first day out he went and applied and got all sorts of help from out local government. Now there, there's three more examples of the abuse of the system! If I put forth a slight effort ,I could find hundreds like these three who are ripping of the system and I'm paying for it.
Sep 23, 2013 1:24PM
Given that the average benefits are less then $200 per month I don't see how he could get Sushi or Lobster more then 1 maybe 2 times in a month and be able to buy anything else. It would be better if they showed how much benefits he actually received so we can have some perspective. For every person like this man there are thousands who legitimately use it to feed their family. Instead of getting rid of the program why not try some enforcement or stricter rules or punishments for people who abuse the program. 
Sep 23, 2013 2:15PM

Aimee, you cite Jason's situation as not being viable, as it is only one case.

Then you cite the single case of Claire as being vialble.  You use very poor logic, or would I be more accurate if I said 'no' logic!!!

Sep 23, 2013 1:44PM
Hey Aimee why are you ragging on this Liberal surfer dude? You know he votes Dumbocrat.
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