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Food Stamps for Pounds!

A 14-year nationwide study shows the U.S. Food Stamp Program may help contribute to obesity among its users. The average BMI of a Food Stamp participant was found to be 1.15 points higher than nonusers. Specifically, women’s BMI rose with food stamp usage, while men’s did not [1].

People’s BMI’s increased faster when they were on food stamps than when they were not, and also increased the longer they participated in the Food Stamp Program. While the Food Stamp Program is intended to increase food security and combat hunger, there may be unintended consequences, such as obesity [1].

Based on these findings alone, the Food Stamp Program may have a significant impact on America’s obesity rate with nearly 1 in 11 U.S. residents receiving food stamps in 2008. Because poverty and obesity are linked, the study accounded for income and a variety of other factors, including race and education [1].

Is this trend worsening? Yes. While Food Stamp Program participant BMI’s have increased in the past, the rate is increasing. The average food stamp user’s BMI rose 0.4 points per year on food stamps, compared with 0.07 points the year before they were receiving food stamps and 0.2 points the year after they no longer received food stamps [1].

While 2002 was the last year included in the study, participants were then receiving a mere $81 in food stamps per month. The study co-author of the study, Jay Zagorsky states, “I think it would be very difficult for a shopper to regularily buy healthy, nutritious food on that budget…Modifying the Food Stamp Program to include economic incentives to eat healthier might be an important tool for fighting obesity.” It is true that calorie-dense, high-fat, processed foods tent to be less expensive and the least healthy of the available options out there [1].

So, the Food Stamp Program needs some tweeks. Maybe they should consult with WIC which recently removed juice (yes, even 100% juice) from their program. Just like with soda, juice is now being linked to excess weight gain among American’s, and specifically among children.

Any thoughts on ways to better the Food Stamp Program? Should certain foods be excluded from the program due to their nutritional content…or lack thereof? Weigh in! Tax dollars making our nation more unhealthy should be concern for us all!

[1]. Food Stamp Use Linked to Weight Gain. Today’s Dietitian. Source: Ohio State University. September 4, 2009.

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  1. Gina
    September 12, 2009 / 6:26 pm

    When I worked at WIC during my internship I was STUNNED by the list of CRAP they were able to choose. Literally all the worst cereals, AND they could only get 2% or vitamin D milk!! It was awful. I really think they should start a program where depending on which store they go to, they can purchase ANY of the store's own brand products. Do you know what I mean? Like the store's brand of cereal, peanut butter, canned goods, frozen vegetables. And then the store would be reinbursed. Either way, you are right, it needs some serious tweeking.

  2. Kelly K.
    September 13, 2009 / 12:14 am

    I used to work at a grocery store, and it's sad to say that I could look at an order that came through and tell that it was a food stamp order before they even took out the card, and I don't mean by looking at the person, I mean just by looking at the food on the belt. There was hardly ever anything in the order of nutritional value. It was always a ton of the fattiest red meat available and bags of chips, absolutely no fruits and vegetables, and basically just junk. Now I understand that people who are on food stamps probably don't want to use the money on fresh fruits and vegetables because they have to make the money last all month and there are not a lot of grocery stores in the poorer neighborhoods, atleast not in Illinois, (which is definitely another issue because alot of times these people are shopping at convenient stores and there's not much of nutritional value found there), so these people don't get a chance to go to the grocery store often and want the food that they buy to make it til the end of the month, but even buying frozen fruits and vegetables or canned is way better than buying nothing. Although I don't know that telling them what foods they can and cannot buy on the food stamps is the way to go because I think that if they want to give themselves a treat and buy one package of oreos they should be able to. Maybe instead they could give a class on ways to budget the money on the card and show the people that it is possible to buy nutritious food on a budget, and if you wanted to obtain food stamps you had to go through the class first. Just a thought.

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