Posted by: SmithaM | September 30, 2011

Follow-up discussion: Junk is costly. And cooking, a joy.

Following Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times, a discussion brings some of the main issues to the front:

  • Hunger abatement.
  • Ubiquity of Fast Food outlets in low-income neighborhoods.
  • Cost of junk food, and the cost of healthy, fresh food
  • The need for cooked/prepared food for the elderly, disabled and the homeless.
  • Healthy and fresh food for all, especially for children, the low-income, elderly, disabled and the homeless.
  • Education and nutritional programs to cultivate healthy eating habits.
  • Meaning of ‘Supplemental’ in a nutritional assistance program.
  • Healthy food availability in supermarkets
  • SNAP benefits for only certain types of food

Tom Laskawy,  food policy blogger:

“…what alarms me most with this issue…is the growing conflict between food reformers and nutritionists on the one side, and anti-hunger advocates on the other.

I admit that I find the overall situation a bit of a Hobson’s choice. I’m not crazy about the idea of expanding access to highly processed fast food to the elderly, disabled or homeless poor. In many poor neighborhoods, however, fast food is the only restaurant game in town…That’s not to say that throwing open the doors of KFC and Taco Bell or other fast food restaurants is the way to go — but there has to be a middle ground…”

Michelle Gourdine, doctor and author ” Reclaiming our health”:

“…It makes no sense to use government funds to purchase foods that contribute to disease and increased health care costs. Food stamps should pay for foods that help recipients maintain good health and fight disease.

In fact, food stamps offer the ability for recipients to access healthier food choices that many Americans who are not recipients are finding harder to afford (e.g., grapes at $3 a pound). Food stamps supplement the nutrition of poor families, but do not restrict the ability of recipients to choose foods that are not covered under the program…

…Rather than subsidizing less healthy options, our time and money would be better spent educating all Americans on better nutrition choices and working to make nutritious foods just as convenient and cheap as fast foods.”

Robert Rector, senior research fellow, Heritage Foundation:

The food stamp program was originally devised to combat malnutrition among the poor. It seems to be evolving into a program that simply spreads the wealth for its own sake. Lobbying to permit stamps to be used in fast food restaurants is the latest step in this process.

…On the nutrition front, the basic fact is that most poor adults, like Americans in general, are overweight. Over time they consume too many calories, not too few…it makes little sense to devise a public policy that actively encourages the poor to spend taxpayer funds for fast food…In the long-term, the food stamp program should be reoriented to deal with the causes and not merely the symptoms of poverty…”

Diane M. Gibson, Barauch College:

“…research suggests that SNAP participation may actually cause an increase in the likelihood of obesity for low-income women. A relationship between SNAP participation and obesity has not been found for low-income men.

…Although increasing the number of supermarkets in low-income areas would be expected to lower the price that low-income families pay for food, it is not clear that more supermarkets lead to better food choices or lower the rate of obesity among low-income individuals…

Possible ways to encourage SNAP recipients to consume fewer calories and improve diet quality include expanding the number of farmer’s markets where food stamp benefits are accepted, providing discounted produce for participants and not allowing certain types of food to be purchased with the benefits…”

Read the complete discussion “Expand the use of food stamps?”

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