Are Food Stamps Making Poor People Fat?

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by Joanna (JuJuBe)

I did something the other night that I have not done since I was in college: I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper. I read an editorial the other day in which the writer made a ludicrous assertion that Food Stamps are making poor people fat. He then went on to state that Food Stamps should be discontinued, as should school breakfast and lunch programs. I guess he is of the opinion that it is better to be malnourished than to be a bit overweight.

The basic premise of his opinion is flawed. He claims that poor people eat more because they get such a huge amount of Food Stamps that they overeat rather than lose out on the Stamps. This is just about the most ridiculous thing I have heard! First of all, it is not like Food Stamps gives an exorbitant amount of assistance. $668 for a family of four is not a huge amount of money for a month’s worth of food. People who rely on the Food Stamps program have to make food choices that will allow them to get the most for that money, and the cost of so-called “health foods” are prohibitive.

Let’s face it, the less nutritional value and the more fat in a food the less the food costs in many cases. For example, chicken wings and legs are 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of chicken breasts. Yes, they are higher in fat than breasts, so nutritionally the wiser choice would be breasts. However, if you are on a limited food budget, the legs and wings would be the better choice. Similarly, sugar-free and fat-free versions of many other foods cost more than the regular versions. In addition, generic foods are cheaper than name brands, and most of the time, generics do not come in lower fat versions.

The writer then went on to bash free school breakfasts and lunches. He says that they are no longer needed, and that the nutritional standards for those meals are poor. He cites the fact that school breakfast programs are required to provide 30% of the total caloric recommendation for the day, as are the lunch programs. OK, breakfast and lunch come to 60% of the recommended calories. That makes perfect sense to me, and is well balanced. 30% of the calories could then be used for dinner and 10% for a snack or dessert. What is wrong with that? It has been proven that children who have a healthy breakfast perform better in school. Why would we want to take food out of children’s mouths?

If the writer thinks that poor people are too fat, why not advocate nutritional education programs? Why not revamp the standards for school meals rather than eliminate them? Food Stamps and free school meals are necessary to many people, particularly the working poor. This writers flawed logic is dangerous to those who need assistance the most.