I heard this ad on the radio Friday night. I was heading to the store to buy some food in my not very new car, and thinking about having to buckle down and do my taxes, when I heard this conversation on the radio:

Not only do lots of people have misconceptions about who’s eligible for SNAP benefits, but they also have lots of questions. Thus, this concept attempts to bring some clarity through a playful interaction between a serious announcer from USDA and an everyday mom.
Music underneath
MALE ANNCR: (clears throat) The following message is from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. Did you know millions of Americans with low-income can get help buying food?
Introducing SNAP. It helps you eat right when money’s tight…
MOM: Wait. Excuse me! Did you say SNAP?
MALE ANNCR: (taken out of his rhythm) Uh, yea. SNAP is the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program. Lots of people with low income qualify for SNAP but don’t know it. If you qualify, you‘ll get a card you can use to buy all sorts of foods, including fruits and vegetables.
MALE ANNCR: (Resumes announcer tone) SNAP offers help to all kinds of people…
MOM: So, wait… can I be eligible if I have a job?
MOM: But what if I have a car?
MALE ANNCR: Well, you may still qualify….
MOM: But … I own my own house. So can I still qualify?
MALE ANNCR: (laughs.) Yes, you might.
MALE ANNCR: Ok. (announcer tone) To learn more about SNAP, call …
MOM: Hold on. Let me get a pen.
MALE ANNCR: Ok. (understanding laugh) Call 1-800-221-5689. 1-800-221-5689. That’s 1-800-
221-5689. SNAP. Putting healthy food within reach.
MOM: Hey, thanks!
MALE ANNCR: You’re welcome.

The PSA has apparently been around for a couple of years, but this was the first time I had heard it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to qualify for SNAP (though it should be more difficult), but the ad makes it sound like it’s a perfectly mainstream, middle class thing to get on the government handout dole. It’s a nice little message if you intend to normalize dependence.

Update: I just noticed this line on the SNAP web site, above the section that includes the transcript of the ad above:

Only scripts (not sound files) are available for paid radio ads due to licensing arrangements.

That means that the ad is not, as I originally thought, and Public Service Announcement (PSA). Radio stations only air PSAs when they have no paying commercials to fill a slot. PSAs run for free. But this ad is a paid ad. USDA has evidently hired a buyer to buy time to run this ad nationally. They’re using our tax dollars to advertise and normalize the entitlement spending of our tax dollars.