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