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The Food Stamp And Junk Food Mix
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The Food Stamp And Junk Food Mix

As Florida debates the issue, using food stamps for junk food, I have to ask myself, is this a good idea? The federal rules already prohibit benefits used for alcohol, tobacco and prepared foods. Should the government really be able to tell people what they can eat?

I understand we have a problem with obesity in this country and our children will be a generation that has a shorter lifespan than what we do. However, I can see both sides to this dilemma. While we need to find a way to slow down obesity, there are some drawbacks to this type of legislation.

While that box of popcorn can certainly be classified as junk food, it can also be a nutritious meal for some. The difference lies with additives like butter, cheese and caramel, to name a few. A person that grabs a bowl of air popped or a bag of reduced-fat popcorn for lunch is actually eating a nutritious and filling meal. So, is popcorn really a junk food?

What about the elderly and disabled? Many cannot cook balanced meals for themselves so a frozen pizza or a sandwich from the deli with a bag of chips may be their only option. How can you say they can’t buy that type of food?

I will agree that buying pop, snack cakes and sugary drinks is not necessary when there are so many other alternatives available. These, in my opinion, are unnecessary foods that only cause diseases like diabetes, cancer and obesity. Our government should not subsidize foods that do us the most harm.

Now we have Yum!, the corporation that owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, lobbying for food stamp dollars. After all, food stamps account for $65 billion annually, why wouldn’t they want a piece of the pie, so to speak? Here again, I am divided on this issue. On one hand, it would allow those who are unable to cook for themselves get a reduced-price meal. However, I know that each drive-through will have a mother, who is capable of cooking, handing her food stamps over to the cashier as the kiddies get their fat filled kid’s meal. There is just no way to separate the needs from the wants in this issue, at least not from what I can see.

Then you have the economic reality of this issue: People needing assistance eat less healthy foods. A person that has $5 to spend on groceries is not going to buy leafy green vegetables and lean meats, they are too expensive for their meager means. They can get a bigger bang for the buck by buying pre-packaged and processed foods. Last I looked; you can still get a pound of bologna for a little over $1. That means the shopper can feed themselves and three other members of the family for a fraction of the cost of one bunch of leaf lettuce and a couple of oranges.

Now, if the government were to raise the value of the food stamps when they were spent at local farmer’s markets or health-food stores, then “maybe” people might eat healthier.

This topic brings up several questions:

  1. Do individuals know more than the government about what foods are best for them?
  2. Should we let the government define what is and isn’t healthy?
  3. If people are receiving any type of government assistance, should the government be able to dictate what that assistance is used for
  4. Discouraging the consumption of junk food hinders people’s food choice freedoms.
  5. Limitations imposed to reflect lobbyists and the food industry’s goals.

Just some food for thought.


Street Talk

Good article. When the government gets involved, expect poor results. Yes many do need the assistance but trying to tell what they can eat will not change habits nor outcomes.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thanks Mark. You are so right, telling people what they can eat will not work. Even eating healthy food, you can over do it and it will still cause obesity. The government is so entrenched in our lives now, we don't need them telling us what we can eat.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
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