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From: John J. Pershing (e-mail him)
Costa Rica, for example, has a number of socialized and mixed programs, not to mention controls over businesses. Costa Rica is also a traditional beneficiary of a lot of U.S. largesse. Various enterprises and economic sectors all suffer from corruption of one sort or another.
But the way Costa Rica runs its version of Food Stamps makes the U.S. look like a dysfunctional banana republic controlled by Wal-Mart, and Costa Rica the most advanced society on the planet.
The Costa Rican program is run by The Consejo Nacional de Produccción [National Production Advisory Board] through a chain of government-run grocery stores. These stores are typically less than 1000 sq. ft. in size.
The beneficiaries of the program can only exchange their food vouchers in these stores for a short list of food items that are carefully and scientifically selected by nutritionists and agricultural economists for optimal fiscal/nutritional bang for the buck.
The list is generally limited to: rice, black beans, flour, corn tortilla flour, whole powdered milk, vegetable shortening, coffee, sugar, plantains, and a fluctuating selection of fresh fruits and vegetables that varies in availability, according to surplus conditions in the regional wholesale produce markets.
Note also that the food items sold require no refrigeration. The non-welfare beneficiary population is also welcome to shop for cash in these stores.