USDA upholds use of food stamps to buy soda

Food stamps can be used to purchase sugary beverages like soda? You bet, it’s America!

New York proposed the USDA ban the use of food stamps to purchase sugar-sweetened food and beverages through their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Seems logical doesn’t it? The USDA didn’t agree. They prefer incentives to bans. In many cases, they work. In the case of taxpayers supporting those on welfare to make choices that ultimately put a strain on our health care system? Not so much. In my opinion, this is too cut-and-dry for this kind of wishy-washy reasoning for rejection. Here’s some of the reasons it didn’t pass, pulled from the letter written to Mayor Bloomberg from Jessica Shahin, an associate administrator in the Agriculture Department.

  • The proposal was “too large and complex.”
  • It would be difficult to determine which beverage products would be eligible under the proposed ban
  • It would be difficult to identify the impact on a reduction in obesity rates
  • Forcing compliance from retailers that sell sugary beverages would be difficult

Personally, I think our government has performed much more complex tasks without the sorry excuses listed above. Not buying it. As I recall, Obamacare is over 1,000 pages long. Sounds a hair more complex to me.

In a class on the American Welfare State at Columbia, the main message driven home was that in comparison to other, better functioning welfare states, such as those in Europe, ours is generous to a fault. It incentivizes those on welfare to stay on welfare. Make no mistake, I believe everyone has a right to food, but to which foods? For how long? Welfare assistance isn’t a government service meant to support a person or a family indefinitely, it is supposed to function as a temporary lift from an unfortunate situation. It should be such that you should never want you or your family to be on welfare. (Not that anyone wants it in the first place.) That’s where other states have been successful where we have failed. Being able to purchase sugary processed foods and drinks detracts from the incentive to get off of welfare.

The fact that those on welfare are incentivized to stay on welfare, in addition to the fact of imminent health risks that SNAP inadvertently encourages, are facts that need to change. I agree with the ban’s apologists. Targeting the demographic with the highest numbers of obesity rates only makes sense. It’s disappointing to see yet another logical and well-positioned policy proposal rejected for reasons of “consumer freedom.” No doubt the Center for Consumer Freedom and the food industry played a role here. (As I learned in Stuffed by Hank Cardello, the food industry masquerades with the CCF, giving generously to spread the message of consumer choice, while bombarding us and our kids with addicting ingredients and incessant advertising.)

Even if the ban were passed, however, would it solve the whole problem of people purchasing foods that make them sick? Of course not. Do we want people to want to get off of welfare so they can purchase their favorite candies? Definitely not. People look to the government (unfortunately) for nutrition advice. The government needs to send a clear message only healthy foods, defined healthy by the government, can be purchased through food stamps. Soda is not healthy. Both diet and regular pose significant health risks.

Having to buy fruits and vegetables isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift, albeit a seemingly simple one. Fruits and vegetables can prevent and reverse disease. This kind of purchasing power with food stamps is the kind that our government should stand firmly behind.

Maybe the next proposal will help remove the sugar haze keeping the SNAP program from requiring healthy choices.


Don’t feed the models: Obesity, Part 1

Note to the reader — Be sure to click on both pictures and words with hyperlinks, they lead to sites that provide evidence and expand further on the subject. 

“Obesity is the terror within. It is destroying us, destroying our society from within. And unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist event that you can point out to me.”  

— Dr Richard Carmona, US Surgeon General 2002-2008

112,000 > 28

These numbers speak for themselves. Americans are in the middle of a battle far more lethal on our home turf, with very real death tolls. We’re not funding just one war, but two. Our tax money goes towards the many causes of our health epidemic.

The obesity crisis is deeply rooted within our country. I almost favor calling it a conundrum instead of a crisis because of how convoluted the issue has become with equally evasive solutions. Who do we blame? The government? The food industry? Ourselves? Biology? Is it nobody’s fault?

Read more… 

GMO should stand for Governmentally Modified Options

It actually stands for genetically modified organisms. Technically, all organisms are genetically modified either by natural selection or by farmers cross-breeding or cross-pollinating for optimal products. What I’m referring to is the process of genetic modification by genetic engineers. As in, putting some caterpillar genes in some corn genes to make the plant resistant to caterpillars. Mmm.

Was hungry for corn. Now, not so much.

If you want to know if what you’re buying is a genetically engineered (GE) product, reading the label won’t offer much insight, unfortunately. GMOs aren’t labeled. GE ingredients might or might not be included in your food. “Non-GMO” is labeled, however. According to Mark Bittman, author of “Why Aren’t GMO Foods Labeled?” (food safety and food politics guru), unless your food is labeled “Non-GMO,” it probably contains genetically engineered ingredients. Whole Foods statistics put the prevalence of GMOs in our crops at 93% of soy, 93% of corn, 93% of canola seeds, and 86% of cotton.

Scientific evidence hasn’t yet conclusively proved GMOs are immediately harmful to everyone who eats them. Evidence also hasn’t proven that they’re safe in the long term, either. We do know that you risk of an allergic reaction and eventually adapting the antibiotic-resistant properties of GMO products. Do people know this? Not really. The information isn’t widely circulated.

Truth: Neither the FDA nor the USDA require GMO products to be labeled as such, because, “they don’t want people to think the foods are different.”

Read more…