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@_hunger_ - SNAP, Obesity, and Fast Food

@_hunger_ - SNAP, Obesity, and Fast Food

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Published by Dustin Cassell

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Published by: Dustin Cassell on Dec 26, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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@_hunger_ – SNAP, Obesity, and Fast FoodDustin Cassell12/26/2011
“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” - Aesop
Recently Susan Blumenthal from the HuffingtonPost wrote an article titled
SNAP to Health
. In thisarticle it was reported that the number peopleenrolled in SNAP had increased to the highest levelin the history of the program. Over 15 percent of the U.S. population or 45.8 million people in theU.S. receive food aid from the government. Hencealmost 1 in 7 Americans are now receiving SNAPassistance, which is a 38% increase since 2008. Asa result many people are wondering whether it isthe result of the recession or a return to the welfarestate. Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich evenwent so far as to call Obama “the food stamp president,” even though Gingrich failed to mentionthe current expansion of food assistance for American citizens originally started during theBush Era.But what is SNAP? SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and provides low-income households the assistance needed to purchase food. According to the Food and NutritionService, the change in name from food stamps to SNAP “reflects our focus on nutrition and puttinghealthy food within reach for low income households.” SNAP is attempting to achieve healthier livingfor its recipients by subsidizing some foods considered to be healthy, rather than limiting which foods people can purchase. However it is still a tough sell, as people will naturally target high calorie foodswhen hungry.Interestingly, although the number of people receiving food assistance is at an all time high, America isstill facing another dilemma–obesity. If the obesity epidemic continues at the current rate, by the year 2020 three-quarters of the U.S. population will officially be overweight or obese (NPR). As Susanstates in her article “This is a particular problem for low-income populations.” To compound the issue,the The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 allows the following items to be purchased with food stamps:
Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream
Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label
Birthday and other special occasion cakes are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits as long
as the value of non-edible decorations does not exceed 50 percent of the purchase price of thecakeConsequently many have criticized the program, stating that it leaves the door open for abuse andunhealthy lifestyles, which are counterproductive to a program claiming to “focus on nutrition” and“healthy food.” During the holidays it is not uncommon for people to use their SNAP funds to purchase large amounts of chocolate and other foods that can be used as gifts. In general, most people benefit greatly from the program, especially children. In fact roughly 50% of those receiving benefitsfrom the program are children, the majority living in single parent households. But this still does notstop critics from claiming abuse of the system. Whether purchasing chocolate and junk food is anabuse is still up for debate. Whatever the case, it is ripe time for a nation fighting an epidemic costing billions in health related expenses to make the necessary changes. The food stamp program whichstarted with humble roots of handing out bread and milk has now gone rotten.Ironically instead of taking steps in the right direction the government seems to be digressing, yieldingto the interest of fast food lobbyists. New reports show that people may soon get the green light to usetheir SNAP funds to purchase fast food. The argument the fast food lobbyists are using is that theelderly and the homeless have a hard time preparing meals for themselves. ABC News noted that anumber of states such as Michigan, California, Florida, and Arizona already allow people to use their SNAP funds at fast food chains. Pilot programs such as the one in Hampden County, MA are trying tocombat this within the SNAP program, by giving recipients an additional 30 cents for every dollar theyspend on fruits and vegetables (Hunger Report).However the power of the lobbyist reaches deep into even the classification of food, as manyAmericans were shocked to awaken to the news that congress declared “pizza is vegetable.” Well notreally, but that is the title the many news organizations ran. The truth behind the story is that thetomato based paste used on pizza can be considered a vegetable, allowing schools to continue to serve pizza during lunch. So will the SNAP reforms actually be enough to combat both lobbyists and theevolutionary desire for high-calorie intake?Overall, most people love to eat and there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal. But should welive to eat or eat to live as Sudanese-born model Alek Wek questions? Alek Wek grew up eating verylittle in anxiety, while others ate banquets in peace. This is the unnatural duality of the world in whichwe live: 1 billion obese, 1 billion hungry. At the moment it appears the lobbyists have the upper hand, but in time, just as the tobacco industry fell from grace and the super-sized value meal disappeared, sowill the unhealthy living advocates. Until then, social reform, education, and political advocacy are our  best bets for combating the broken symmetry of the twin chimeras – hunger and obesity.Follow us on:

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