Politics
Kevin Concannon, U.S. undersecretary of agriculture, chats with vendor Helen Wise at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. The federal government is spending $4 million to make such markets more accessible to food stamp recipients. (AP Photo/Allen Breed) Kevin Concannon, U.S. undersecretary of agriculture, chats with vendor Helen Wise at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. The federal government is spending $4 million to make such markets more accessible to food stamp recipients. (AP Photo/Allen Breed)  

USDA buckles, removes Spanish food stamp soap operas from website

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

Following The Daily Caller’s expose of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food stamp outreach to Spanish-speakers via radio novelas, or Spanish language soap operas, the agency removed the series from their website.

Each of the 10 novelas promoting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, had been available as a resource for state and local outreach partners as late as Thursday.

The page, formerly containing the audio and Spanish language scripts was “modified” Friday, eliminating the novelas.

The series had been promoted as a resource to increase SNAP participation. They were produced and written in 2008.

In a statement to The Daily Caller Friday, Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services explained the reasoning for their removal.

“The American people support helping those in need, but they want to know their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Many of the PSAs and ads on the agency’s website were posted nearly 4 years ago and some of the content in these advertisements does not meet the standards of what I consider to be appropriate outreach,” Concannon said.

“To that end, I have instructed the agency to remove these materials from our website and to cease future production of advertisements. These funds could be better invested in improving our oversight of this critically-important program and that is exactly what I intend to do moving forward,” he added. (READ THE ORIGINAL STORY: USDA uses Spanish soap operas to push food stamp participation)

The USDA’s scrub of the novelas from their website came on the heels of a Daily Caller series highlighting USDA’s stated mission and campaign to get more people on food stamps.

Thursday, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, slammed the USDA for its aggressive outreach tactics.

“Today we learn that the USDA, in an effort to increase the enrollment of immigrants, including non-citizens, has produced Spanish-language radio soap operas,” the Alabama senator said in a statement. “In one of these, an individual tries to convince a friend to enroll in food stamps even though that friend declares: ‘I don’t need anyone’s help. My husband earns enough to take care of us.’ The first individual replies back: ‘When are you going to learn?’ Is this message we wish to send new arrivals into our country—depend on the government even if you don’t need to—particularly at a time when we have to borrow forty cents of every dollar we spend?”

Sessions also reiterated his contention that America needs to have another debate about welfare reform and reassess the way such programs actually serve their intended beneficiaries.

“USDA’s effort to scrub these records from their site betrays that they realize their recruitment tactics would not be accepted by the public,” Session’s communications director Stephen Miller added in a statement to TheDC.

UPDATE: In a statement emailed to TheDC after this article’s publication, Sessions said that agency’s announcement “represents an admission of a broken culture at USDA” and the tip of the iceberg in terms of necessary reforms. The senator further promised that he would be following up with USDA about its tactics.

“It is time for a top-down review of USDA to examine how the food stamp program is administered. The overriding goal that demands constant and intense focus is to move people from temporary assistance to permanent employment. We must review the tactics USDA has employed that have resulted in a unprecedented quadrupling of the food stamp budget and an apparent lack of respect for the individuals they are seeking to enroll,” Sessions said.

“I have concluded these ads are only the symptom of a wider culture in USDA,” he added, “apparent throughout their enrollment literature, which seeks maximum registration as the ultimate goal, regardless of need… The USDA will have many pressing questions to answer in the coming days. Reform is long overdue.”

See the USDA website until Friday, saved in Google’s cache:

See the modified website:

Follow Caroline on Twitter