This is a fitness blog. I try for the most part to keep politics out of it (perhaps with an exception on health care). But I will state today that if the U.S Department of Agriculture allows food stamps to be used for Taco Bell or KFC I will support anyone who votes for the end of the program. I would say shut it down before allowing fast food to get a government endorsement.

No Food Stamps for Fast Food
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photo by Miss Karen

It seems Yum! Brands (the owner of those establishments as well as many other fast food brands) has been putting quite a few resources into lobbying congress for such an endorsement, to allow their products to be purchased with food stamp dollars.

I’ve made no secret over the years of the fact that I came from humble beginnings. My mother and father divorced when I was about 5 and my mother had cancer when I was about 8. We went through a very rough period in my early years were we had to be on public assistance, including food stamps.

I was shaped by this experience, believing in the importance of helping others and that everyone should have certain basic needs, like food and shelter, even if the government has to assist.  I know without the kindness of others and the assistance of government programs we would have gone hungry, without access to health care and potentially been without a place to live.

So for me to say I would rather the program go away entirely than to allow fast food may seem like a knee jerk reaction, perhaps throwing the baby out with the bath water.

But I believe to do so would undermine the entire purpose of the program:

eligible households within the State shall be provided with an opportunity to more nearly obtain a nutritionally adequate diet through the issuance to them of a coupon allotment which shall have a greater monetary value than their normal expenditures for food. (The Food Stamp Act of 1964)

Fast food is not a need nor is it part of a nutritionally adequate diet. It has nothing to do with health. People living in food deserts are already challenged with finding healthy foods that can be purchased with food stamps. Often they end up shopping at convenience stores with no fresh produce but plenty of chips, cakes and soda. These areas are overrun with fast food. This is not the food source they need to be encouraged to use and I am outraged that anyone in government would even entertain the idea.

The food stamp program is a valuable part, as is WIC, of making sure those in need have access to adequate nutrition. Let’s really make it about nutrition by providing the incentive to purchase the right foods.  Here are some great examples:

  • WIC approved foods should not contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s in the approved baby formula, check the next time you’re at the store.
  • Arrange EBT usage at farmers markets. My local one does this. There is a limited quantity incentive program as well, where you can get a 2 for 1 of $20 for farmers market products for $10.
  • Limit food stamps purchasable products the same way the WIC program is limited. Soda should be off limits as well as candy bars, prepackaged cookies and cakes.

Food stamp dollars are often inadequate in their amount. Let’s not make them equally inadequate in their nutrition.

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