Every once in a while, you may run into someone who grew up on food stamps and hear them ranting about how they were forced to eat something called Government Cheese. Any cheese with the word government in it can’t be good! Throughout the 1960s-1990s, instead of giving out socialized medicine or socialized retirement funds, the government would give out socialized dairy products to welfare and food stamp recipients.
Government Cheese was first given out as military rations to troops during WWII. Following the war, the cheese was introduced into the public school system as part of the student lunch programs. Throughout the south and west sides of Chicago’s, impoverished families flocked to corner grocery stores to get their socialized cheese blocks.
When cutting into a block of government cheese, you never really knew what type of cheese you were eating. It was processed using leftover bits of Colby, cheddar, cheese curd, or granular cheese mixed with emulsifiers to give it a blocky shape. The taste and smell can only be described as a cross between very low-grade American cheese, a generic Velveeta knockoff, and a somewhat rancid cheddar. It was like biting into a cheese made from rotten socks. Once the dairy program was pulled and the food stamp program switched over to Link cards, Government Cheese was taken off the market.
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