No More Sodas for Food Stamps
Government is subsidizing obesity: Mark Bittman
By Liam Carnahan, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2012 9:46 AM CST
Off limits for those with food stamps?   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(Newser) – It's time to stop letting people buy soda and other sugary garbage with food stamps, writes Mark Bittman in the New York Times. At the same time, the government can encourage healthier food choices by increasing the value of the stamps when used to buy fruits and veggies. The food stamp program, known as SNAP, "does a good job of addressing hunger, but encourages the consumption of unhealthy calories," writes Bittman. That may help explain why poor kids are far more likely to be obese than underweight.

Bittman takes a look at an essay penned by three doctors on the difficulty of reducing both obesity and food insecurity among American children. One of the authors argues that the current setup hits taxpayers twice: "We pay once when low-income families buy junk foods and sugary beverages with SNAP benefits, and we pay a second time when poor diet quality inevitably" raises the costs of health care. Bittman agrees and thinks the USDA should set up a pilot program to test new regulations. Read his full column here.

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Dec 29, 2012 7:13 PM CST
I'm a 60-year-old disabled woman and I get $47 a month from SNAP. I can either spend $.92 and buy a tv dinner or $.82 and buy ONE apple at the only supermarket I can get to. Which would you choose? The only meat I can afford is chicken, which I do sometimes prepare with Stovetop stuffing and canned or frozen vegetables--the only kind I can afford. I would love to be able to buy fresh fruits and veggies but they are generally priced way beyond my reach. And, yes, I do sometimes buy soda, albeit the diet kind, not the sugary ones. That is my only treat. And now you want to take that away? What a country!
Dec 28, 2012 3:35 AM CST
I have always thought the SNAP is such a wasteful government program that is a combination of economical inefficiency and corrupt corporate welfare rolled into one. The key beneficiary of this program is grocers who can "sell" junk foods at whatever the price they want to set, and keep all the profits. Then prey on the uneducated poor who are desperate for cheap calories and instant gratification by marketing cheap junk on endless special promotions. This profit motive is so insidious that even small mom-and-pop corner stores (who for the most part specialize in overpriced junk) are jumping on to the bandwagon. If USDA wants to promote health then the only solution is to end SNAP altogether, and distribute food at official government-run "stores" that only carry approved items, or at non-profit/cooperative stores that can meet a high accreditation standard set by the USDA. This would also significantly reduce the taxpayer costs to run this program, as the federal government would have a massive purchasing power and negotiating ability to ensure the lowest prices, and not having middlemen or profit motives the overall costs would be kept low.
Dec 27, 2012 9:31 PM CST
On the first of the month, I see food stamp people with up to 5 baskets loaded level full of boxes of zingers, chips, coke, and beer. Another basket is full of meats, another basket is full of tv dinners, another basket is full of things like hamburger helper, stove top stuffing, etc. I was discussing this at work when a co-workers said that's what her mom did each month. She was able to put on a feed every Sunday afternoon for 25 people from the nearly $900 in Snap funds she got each month. She did that by putting all her kids and grand kids as dependents. She got so much food from SNAP/Access, Salvation Army, church food pantry, county food bank, and Feed the Children that she had 4 refrigerators in her garage. As for her kids, they are all morbidly obese. The girl who told me about her mom was horribly morbidly obese. She didn't last very long either. She had complained that she needed a 5 minute break every 20 minutes due to bad phlebitis. Evidently she was supposedly walking around the office suite a few times. Actually no. We have a smoker's area that you use a key card to get into. Its a completely fenced in area outside the office. The boss looked at her key card use and nearly all the times she said she was out walking, she was sitting in the smoking area, smoking. They verified this by looking at security footage from the smoker's area. They terminated her for cause. I guess at that juncture she was truly dependent on her mom.