Time to Rethink Food Stamps

By ANDREA FORCUM
Staff Writer

It is no surprise that the United States has an obesity problem.  Any Body Mass Index that exceeds 25 is considered overweight, and health dangers rise exponentially with the BMI number.

The rapidly growing number of people whose BMI is over 25 effects not only those individuals personally, but the healthcare costs of an individual whose BMI exceeds 25 are $1000 more per year on average for insurance providers according to healthcaremedialeaders.com.

Meanwhile, the nationwide United States Nutrition Assistance Program, aka “food stamps,” is providing the nail in the coffin for many of these individuals.

The good intentions of various food stamp programs fall short of their goals.  There is absolutely no question that individuals in a democracy can hit on hard times.  This program started in the late 1930s and has evolved significantly throughout the years.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the recipients get a lump sum on a card on the first of each month.  They are allotted a certain amount based on the size of their family, their income and several other contributing factors.

However, most of these individuals opt for unhealthy, processed foods that are not only a poor use of tax payer’s dollars, but they build an unhealthy habit in themselves that will condeficit.

With the addition of the Health care bill, this issue becomes more important than ever.  The nation is currently assisting people to become obese on the tax payers dime, and the thousands more in health coverage would also become the responsibility of tax payers when, and if, the health care bill comes through the Supreme Court.

I propose that it is not only in the nation’s best interest, but also the nation’s responsibility to educate food stamp recipients about nutrition.  As a prerequisite to receiving food stamp benefits, the individuals should have to complete a short nutrition education course.

I would like to go a step further to say that the government should change the way the benefits are received from a lump sum to specified recipient items.  These items would be chosen and calculated by panel of government paid nutritionists to give the individuals what is needed for a healthy diet.

We already have a program that works similarly to this: the Women Infants and Children program.  In this program, they are given a set amount of necessities such as milk, diapers and formula.

I simply propose that we work food stamps the same way.  Each family would get a sum from which they may purchase their choice of protein, a certain amount of whole grain starch, and allotments for fresh fruits and vegetables.

As it currently is, these individuals can get sushi, prime rib, lobster, cake, soda and ice cream.  I am not saying that the recipients should never get those items but instead put a small amount aside that is the “discretionary fund.”   This would instill a reminder that although they are receiving this food free of cost, it is not free.  We, the taxpayers, pay for it each week out of our paychecks.

Because the money is coming from the government, the recipients should be held responsible for how it is spent.

These much needed changes to the food stamp program would help decrease obesity in food stamp recipients.  In addition, those that want to have more freedom to purchase whatever they please are motivated to fund their own grocery bill.

These changes would not only help the country’s current financial woes but also the recipients themselves.  After all, America is about giving a hand up, not a hand out.

TAGS: , , , ,

5 Comments

  1. SNRK says:

    One time, I was at Wal-mart and had to wait in line an extra 10 minutes so the people in front of me could seperate their food stamp food(I believe some sort of frozen baby back ribs were in that pile) from what they couldn’t use their food stamps on(beer).

    Wait, what? You can use your own money to buy beer but you’re using MY FICA money to feed your family?

    Something’s not right…

  2. Anna says:

    The problem isn’t necessarily education, but lack of resources. If you are worried about the obesity epidemic, then the food stamps program could better suit nutritional needs by providing more money so that people could afford to buy healthier options. Processed food is just cheaper (and more convenient since many people on the program work long hour) so they can make their vouchers go farther.

  3. The Model T says:

    I’m glad that Ms. Forcum feels qualified enough to make a blanket statement about folks who use food stamps as being overweight or obese (“Most of these individuals opt for unhealthy, processed foods”). What is most? 51%? 98%? Are there statistics involved in this argument that will qualify your statement? Otherwise, it just sounds like you are mistrustful of people who need food stamps.

    According to Wikipedia (which I recognize is not the most authoritative source), the average monthly benefit in June 2009 was $133 per person. Wikipedia also states that half of all beneficiaries are children, and that 79% of all benefits go to households with children.

    While this makes it more imperative for healthy foods to be readily available to these families, how much prime rib and ice cream are the parents buying? It would probably take a lot of lobster and cake to feed two children for a month, let alone their parents.

    Additionally, how exactly do you want to orchestrate this mandatory food-stamp-nutrition program? Are the cashiers at Wal-Mart going to check the nutrition facts of each item bought with food stamps to make sure it was allotted? What about food allergies? Kosher foods? Vitamin Water is pretty expensive – but hey, it’s healthy. What if all of these poor obese people that you are picking on promise to go jogging more. Can they have their prime rib back? Not to mention, how much more will it take in tax dollars to create and administrate this new plan?

    This article had a good premise, but unfortunately it just seemed mistrustful of food stamp beneficiaries without any sort of evidence that such a mistrust is appropriate.

  4. Taylor says:

    People who are on food stamps have intense restrictions on what they can and cannot use them for. People that have to be on food stamps are usually people that hardly make enough money to support their families, juggle multiple jobs, can’t afford health care or childcare so they have to strategically plan when they can work so they can also tend to their children. And you think these people have time to sleep at night nonetheless complete a nutrition course? Yes, there needs to be regulations but they also need to be realistic.

  5. Cheyna says:

    I loved this article. Those of you who have a problem with it are part of the problem. I work on the navajo reservation as a registered dietitian and diabetes educator. It is crazy what my patients tell me they buy with food stamps. I seriously get the answer that “we can’t afford to buy fruits because the kids put their chips and candies in the cart first and then there is no more money”. I got that just last week from a lady who has a 14-year-old who is obese with diabetes and another 17-year-old who has pre-diabetes (A1C 6.4; so really should be treated as though having diabetes). It is CRAZY because I see these same people paying for satellite TV, air jordans, expensive name-brand foods, etc. I am not saying that every person who receives food stamps is this way, but there are enough that are to cause a problem. Those of you who are responsible with your free money are what the program is for. Working people who have come upon hard times who are trying to get out of the system. I see this first hand and if you don’t believe me – come visit. You’d be shocked.

Leave a Comment