The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, you'll notice, has the word "nutrition" in the title. So why is it that SNAP debit cards, aka food stamps, can be used to purchase such decidedly non-nutritious items as Cheetos and Fanta orange soda? The Agriculture Department itself states, on its website, that "soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items." This is ridiculous, writes Charles Lane in the Washington Post, and he places the blame squarely on Congress "for not updating SNAP to reflect nutritional common sense."
This is particularly disturbing since "obesity, hypertension, and diabetes ... disproportionately affect low-income Americans but increase the entire country’s health-care bill," Lane writes. A nonprofit physicians' group recommends SNAP purchases be limited to whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans; Lane thinks it makes sense to also include fish, poultry, and lean red meat. If SNAP recipients want to buy junk food, they can use their own money. "The point is to increase the amount of real nutrition per taxpayer dollar," Lane writes. "If you take Uncle Sam’s help, you play by his rules." Click for his full column. (Read more food stamps stories.)