The United States Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more popularly known as the Food Stamp Program, was used by more than 41 million people in July 2010. Those are record levels during one of the more trying times in our country’s history.
Considering the fact that this means more than 10 percent of our citizens are on the public aid program, what people purchase with their food stamp assistance has become a bit of a hot topic in public discourse.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is advocating a ban on his city’s 1.7 million recipients of food stamps from using them to buy soda or other sugary drinks. That request for federal permission, made earlier this month, has its merits and should be considered.
There’s an even better idea afoot, one surrounding incentivizing healthy choices rather than admonishing citizens for bad ones. Congressman Anthony Weiner from New York’s 9th District has proposed offering a 50 percent discount on fresh produce to those on food stamps.
“The cheapest foods are the ones with the most sugar, the most preservatives, the most salt,” said Weiner. “This is a simple fact of life, and if you’re on food stamps, that simple fact leads you to buy foods that are simply unhealthy.”
Congressman Weiner says the bill would cost taxpayers about $2.5 billion to compensate the store owners, but when you consider how much obesity is already costing us (not just on an emotional level, but in real dollars), it just may be money well spent.