Should food stamps come with restrictions on junk food? | The Tylt

Should food stamps come with restrictions on junk food?

Lawmakers often propose placing restrictions on food stamps to prevent recipients from wasting money. On the surface, it seems like a good idea—people will make better food choices while saving taxpayers money. Critics say restrictions would be nearly impossible to implement and would further stigmatize the poor. What do you think?

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Should food stamps come with restrictions on junk food?
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Banning food stamp recipients from buying junk food is a logical move. If taxpayers are giving money to someone, that person should be expected to use that money the best way possible. There's a difference between money you earn and money you are given—the latter should come with strings attached. 

Butt said that the current rules — which prohibit recipients from using food stamp dollars on tobacco products, alcohol and hot, prepared foods, but say nothing about calorie content — mean taxpayers are “supporting unhealthy lifestyle choices.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“I go into convenience stores almost every day and see the most non-nutritional foods on the counters and in the aisles marked ‘EBT Approved,’” Butt said. “By allowing their purchase with EBT cards, we are actually enhancing diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity in at-risk communities.”She argued that the EBT junk-food ban would be similar to laws that govern what kinds of food can be served in public school cafeterias. Many of the EBT-approved sweets and snacks are banned from student lunchrooms, Butt said.
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Anti-hunger advocates say placing restrictions on the poor would ultimately hurt them. Figuring out what should and should not qualify is a gargantuan and highly subjective task. 

There are compelling reasons not to impose new rules on what food stamps can buy, according to anti-hunger groups. Making low-income families in the grocery line pay separately for forbidden foods would be cumbersome and potentially stigmatizing, they argue. And banning certain products would make the government the arbiter of which foods are “good” and which ones are “bad.” With some 40,000 products in the average grocery store, the task would be herculean, not to mention costly. Would orange juice count as “good”? What about Sunny D or Gatorade? Multiply that quandary by the thousands, and that’s the puzzle that government regulators would face.
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Besides that, stretching food stamps to feed a family is extremely difficult. A family of four can expect an average of $465 per month to help feed themselves. If you do the math, it roughly comes out to $3.88 per person each day. That's not much.

Factor in the fact that the poor are often in food deserts and restrictions stop making sense. People buy junk food because it's cheaper than the fresh organic stuff. The poor are not out to game the system to live a life of luxury—they're just trying to survive. 

Instinctively, I'd find myself on the side of the reformers—anything to ratchet down Americans' consumption of empty calories. But deeper into the aisles of Dollar General, I begin to waver. Helber asks me to consider a single mother supporting two kids on a wage of about $9.50 an hour—a typical income for the people served by her food bank, even amid Austin's ever-soaring tech economy. Helber points out some of the hard decisions the mother would have to make. At $5, a pound of hamburger would be a solid choice—but she'd still have to get buns, condiments, and sides. By contrast, individual pepperoni pizzas are just a buck each, as is a five-pack of chicken-flavored ramen noodles.
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FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should food stamps come with restrictions on junk food?
A festive crown for the winner
#DontShamethePoor
#DontWasteOurMoney