Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"BBC World Service"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
KNPR's State of Nevada About SON Archives Participate Specials

Should Food Stamps Only Pay For 'Good' Food?
Should Food Stamps Only Pay For 'Good' Food?

AIR DATE: April 5, 2013

In a little-noticed amendment to the Senate Democrats' budget, Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn tucked in an amendment that would force the government to limit what people can buy with food stamps: No ice cream, no soda and no snacks. Should poor people lose the right to choose? Or should the government insist that it only pays for healthy food?

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is pushing a similar effort to limit what foods could be purchased with food stamps in order to curb the obesity problems in her state. The governor points to the public health costs of obesity -- Catherine Templeton of South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control says: "What, if we prevent it, would save the state the most money in treatment in South Carolina? What should we be paying attention to? Guess what the answer is. Obesity, obesity, obesity."

Is there a proven relationship between food stamp use and obesity rates? An Ohio State University study that followed participants' food stamp use over 14 years shows that there is "a strong linkage" -- at least among women who use food stamps. According to the study, women on food stamps had a Body Mass Index that was 1.24 points higher than those not participating in the program.




Nancy Menzel, Professor of Nursing, UNLV

Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, New York University



    comments powered by Disqus
    I strongly support limitations on purchasing high calorie / low nutrition products with "food stamps". Anything we can do to address the obesity epidemic needs to be done, especially childhood obesity. At our primary care / urgent care clinic here in Las Vegas we seee the effects of obesity: diabetesd, hypertension, back & joint issues. What is particularly disturbing is the number of obese children we see. Eating right is critical to early development and the eating habits developed early in life determine future health (and health care costs). Not having the wrong foods available is one way of biasing towards the right foods. When someone applies for assistance from our government it comes with limitations and requirements. We already ban alcohol and tobacco purchases under this program, why not junk food?
    Paul AndresMar 29, 2013 07:12:29 AM
    For the woman who called in, I believe her name is Mary, the fact is, comparing soda to milk is extremely ignorant, which is part of why this country has problems.
    LeslieMar 28, 2013 20:24:25 PM
    As far as I am concerned, food stamps should be the final resort to get basic sustenance for someone who is temporarily truly down-and-out. So, yes, there should be severe limitations on what can be purchased; indeed, I wouldn't have a problem if food stamps were instead turned into a sort of voucher that could be presented at the local indigent soup kitchen for a meal, or perhaps limited to purchasing a *very* few basic items like hamburger, milk, bread, etc. With 50 million or so Americans using food stamps, I can't help but think that they are mightily abused, and at my expense! Indeed, I routinely see food stamps used to purchase much more expensive food than I buy, and rarely see them used to buy the sensible, life-saving foods that they were intended for! Bottom line, most food stamp users are welfare parasites because we allow and encourage them to be so.
    Tom HurstMar 28, 2013 14:08:30 PM
    I have two sisters on food stamps. My older sister uses her food stamp money to buy better quality food then even I can afford to feed her family well. My other sister buys the cheapest food possible for her children, Ramen noodles, chips, and other junk, and sells the rest of her food stamp money. If she was not able to buy those cheap foods, then she might not be able to sell her food stamps for other things such as drugs and alcohol. If I am paying for these services as a tax payer, then I believe that there freedom to choose those cheap sugary foods is no longer an option. It is a luxury.
    MiaMar 28, 2013 09:36:25 AM
    Spot on, Mia! You are all too right. It must be tough for you to see your sisters in that position, and hats off to you for being able to see the trees through the forest.
    LeslieMar 28, 2013 20:27:27 PM
    If you allow taxpayers to subsidize your food, then you must allow taxpayers to decide what food you are able to get. It is simple, if you want freedom of choice, then you need to provide for yourself.
    JohnMar 28, 2013 09:22:02 AM
    Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.