Soylent mentioned in food stamps article

I saw Soylent mentioned in this opinion piece about food stamps (EBT):

Here is the part which mentions Soylent:

It turns out there is a substance that satisfies the need for nutrition but skimps on the want. The product is called Soylent. It was devised by entrepreneur Rob Rhinehart, who determined what the body requires and simply ordered the necessary chemicals off the Internet.

According to the Soylent website, “Soylent’s nutritional makeup includes protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium. It includes all of the elements of a healthy diet, without excess amounts of sugars, saturated fats, or cholesterol.”

Living on Soylent, Rhinehart saw his food costs drop from $470 a month to $50. However, at the moment, one cannot purchase Soylent with food stamps.

The taste of Soylent appears to leave something to be desired. One reviewer, a New York Times dining reporter, stated: “These instant meals are meant for work warriors for whom good and delicious food is secondary to perfect and unassailable engineering.” For present purposes this is a plus: Soylent satisfies a need but not a want.

If Soylent were the only food available to those in need of dietary supplements, the percentage of Mainers seeking SNAP benefits might well decline (addressing the high rate of SNAP recipients in the state), while the health of those continuing to receive them might well improve (addressing the Medicaid costs of those recipients).

I know there have been several discussions on here about Soylent and food stamps, so I thought this might be interesting to some.


RL and the government ought to get together on the project of feeding the poor. When I was on welfare I got something called Welfare Commodities, which were miscellaneous agricultural products, and they were great. I don’t know why they were replaced with food stamps.

But Soylent would be even better. Maybe I’ll write my Senator or Congressman about it. Or my favorite Presidential candidate. “Hey,Donald…”

What a fantastic idea!

My mom loved the 5 pound blocks of cheese. We technically had enough money, but she was sooooooo cheap. She would buy food based on how long it would last. Unfortunately it would last longest if none of use kids wanted to eat it.

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I went straight to the comments section and was disappointed to see that all the comments were based on the title, so there wasn’t any outrage over the idea of feeding bland liquid meal replacements to the poor :frowning: Oh well.

Anyway, when it comes to restricting food availability to people on welfare to satisfy nutritional requirements first…isn’t that what food banks are already doing? You come once a month and have to take x number of items from each category(no more, no less) to ensure that you’re leaving with the workings of a balanced diet. They get snacks, too, but in moderation of course. Is it different in the US?

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I can’t speak for the current situation, but 20 years or so ago the food bank offering was largely affected by whatever they were given. For example one of the local bakeries for a major snack food company would donate a lot of their goods to the food banks when they obviously had too much of something and wouldn’t be able to sell it all by the expiration date. That helped a lot in getting stuff like bread, but I recall once when we got a giant bag of those fruit pies (the kind that come in the shape of a hot pocket). I definitely wouldn’t say we got a balanced diet from the food bank but it wasn’t that bad either. It was like they tried to get a balance and then they added to that whatever free stuff they had and the free stuff would of course throw off the balance.

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God bless America. “If we can punish the poor just a bit more, they’ll stop doing everything they’ve been doing wrong and therefore become rich just like us.”


It seems to take a significant amount of warping of the definition of “punish” to reach the definition of “providing high quality goods free of charge”. The idea that not providing every luxury someone can think of free from the government is punishment is how we ended up with this ridiculous sense of entitlement in the first place.


Uh huh. That idea that you hear people saying all the time.

I just feel like if you change an existing program in a way that makes it more restrictive for the people on it, that’s going to feel like a punishment.

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So we’re never allowed to discuss cutting or changing any programs regardless of whether they’re well designed, I recognize that style of discourse from somewhere. We’re being told that we’re responsible to provide nutrition for the poor and then our money goes to buying candy and soda, I think most people can look at that and wonder about the decisions that were made to reach this point.

By the way, once the candy and soda are consumed I’m then responsible for the forthcoming medical bills and permanent SSD benefits that are given away without oversight.

The welfare system is a broken mess and any suggestions that it be changed in anyway are deemed punishment of the people who are being forced into dependency on it.


This is the idea under discussion here:

The idea is that Soylent is so unpleasant it will drive people away from SNAP.

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I can guarantee that you don’t recognise it from anything I’ve said.

Or you could frame it like this and it will suddenly seem a lot more positive:

SNAP will move from a status where it isn’t providing that guaranteed base nutrition due to misuse of SNAP benefits to purchase low nutrition foodstuffs to a status where it encourages healthy living by bringing easy and convenient nutrition to those in need. Since choice provides utility removing the benefit of choice from SNAP benefits decreases the utility of those benefits relative to the utility derived from providing for yourself, thus encouraging people to use SNAP as a “hand up” rather than a “hand out”.

@pauldwaite I didn’t mean to imply that you said that, I’ll clearly state that discourse in this country is at an all time low due to the ease of self-selected reporting. It’s impossible to get people to discuss the merits of a proposal because they don’t have to listen to any positions they don’t want to and anyone disagreeing with their preference can be demonized within their self-selected echo chamber. Suggestions for improving welfare benefits circle through the news on occasion and the people who suggest them get demonized regularly for being unsympathetic and greedy which typically gets summarized into “evil”.


I look at it this way.

Most poor people are poor because of mental and physical issues (directly or indirectly). A nutritious diet can minimize the effects of those conditions. Helping them be healthy is good for both them and society.

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I think it would be great if Soylent qualified for food stamps, or whatever they’re called these days. It could be especially good for elderly or ill people who don’t have much appetite.

I think it would be horrible if people on food stamps could only get Soylent. For lots of reasons, but I’ll just list a few:

  1. Pregnant women often get food stamps. Iirc, Soylent isn’t currently recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.

  2. Lots of people who qualify for food stamps have kids. Soylent isn’t recommended for kids.

  3. Too many people who work, frequently full time and sometimes multiple jobs, need food stamps to survive. Some of them may see the benefit in being able to down a bottle of Soylent during their 15 minute break or on their commute from one job to the next, but the last thing someone who’s already spending all their time working needs, is to be allowed only a single, bland food product.


I went back to my message toward the top of the thread and I didn’t say Soylent should be forced on the poor. I had in mind Soylent as a choice, perhaps at a cost incentive.


There’s an awful lot of red tape around food stamps. RL does not qualify, and so would probably have to find people to talk to directly in order to have any hope, rather than going through the typical application process. The SNAP Retailer Service Center’s phone number is 1-877-823-4369, so that could be a good place to start. Gonna take a lot of work to find the right strings to pull though.

That link is for the eligibility of retail stores, not products.

However, I do not know which category Soylent would fit into out of these:

  • meat, poultry or fish
  • bread or cereal
  • vegetables or fruits
  • dairy products

Presumably if they had a retail store (not sure if online counts), then they would qualify since >50% of sales are of Soylent. (the (B) in the link)

I said:

You said:

Those two sentences mean the same thing. Both express the idea of trying to disincentivize people from collecting SNAP benefits by making SNAP benefits less appealing to people. Neither way of describing the idea seems more or less positive to me, since using more or less positive words to describe the same policy does not change the policy itself.

I agree with Paul’s point that attempting to disincentivize people from collecting SNAP benefits in this way is unlikely to make the people who currently collect SNAP benefits better off. This does not mean I am opposed to “any suggestions that” the U.S. welfare system “be changed in any way”. It just means I’m opposed to this particular change to SNAP benefits.

I know that they mean the same thing, that’s exactly the point I was making. You framed the issue as us providing some unpleasant punishment through the SNAP program, I framed the same issue as us providing nutrition through the supplemental nutrition assistance program as well as removing the incentive to be on it.