Doctors Demand Feds Stop Giving the Poor Junk Food
Garbage in garbage out.
Junk food can contribute significantly to poverty. People who don't eat well can suffer cognitive impairment, mood swings and disease.
Children who eat junk food are likely to eat junk food as adults, have a greater chance of being poor and sick and pass the poverty on to their children.
So, why does the federal government encourage the poor to consume junk food that will make them dumb and sick and unable or unwilling to work?
The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution on June 13 that calls on the federal government to improve the healthfulness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.
SNAP keeps some poor people poor by giving them money to buy junk food instead of food that is nutritious.
The resolution, which was co-introduced by the Medical Society of the District of Columbia and the American College of Cardiology, “requests that the federal government (1) support Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) initiatives to incentivize healthful foods and disincentivize or eliminate unhealthful foods and (2) harmonize SNAP food offerings with those of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).” During the AMA House of Delegates meeting in Chicago on June 11, Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., testified on behalf of the resolution.
“Economically disadvantaged patients are at the highest risk diabetes, obesity, and other serious problems. A big part of the solution ought to come from SNAP. One in seven Americans participates in SNAP, and if the program filled their grocery carts with vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, it would go a long way for health,” said Dr. Barnard in his testimony. “But SNAP retailers are paid dollar-for-dollar for candy, energy drinks, sausage, cheese, and other products no one needs.”
Dr. Barnard and Yale University’s David Katz, M.D., recently edited the “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s Role in Addressing Nutrition-related Health Issues,” a special supplement of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
In the supplement, Dr. Barnard recommended that SNAP incorporate a Healthy Staples program modeled after WIC. SNAP would only reimburse retailers for selling healthful foods. They would stop profiting from selling their customers disease-causing junk foods. SNAP retailers would instead offer a range of healthful plant-based foods (with preparation tips and easy meal ideas): grains such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, pasta, and tortillas; fresh, frozen, or low-sodium canned vegetables; dry or low-sodium canned beans; fruit, and basic multiple vitamins.
Currently, 55% of SNAP benefits are used for unhealthy meats, sweetened beverages, prepared foods and desserts, cheese, salty snacks, candy, and sugar, while only 24% goes to fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and spices.
A 2015 USDA study compared SNAP participants with income-eligible nonparticipants, and found that SNAP participants had poorer overall diet quality and consumed more calories from solid fats, added sugars, soda, and alcohol and consumed fewer vegetables and fruits. These nutritional differences were deemed responsible for the higher obesity rates among SNAP participants.
A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that SNAP participants have an increased risk of death from heart disease and three times the diabetes mortality rate when compared to income-ineligible nonparticipants. Researchers also observed an increased risk for SNAP participants when compared to income-eligible nonparticipants.
SNAP participants who eat junk food increase health care costs for everyone else and kids who eat junk reduce the quality of education because junk food causes behavioral and learning disorders that distract teachers from teaching.
Taxpayers should not be paying to keep people poor by buying them junk food.