Reduce Hunger and Obesity in One Act

SNAP (food stamps) promotes both hunger and obesity, says food writer and New York Times blogger, Mark Bittman. He expanded on ideas from an editorial written by David Ludwig, Susan Blumenthal, and Walter Willett in the Journal of the American Medical Association, arguing that the way that SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is structured, it encourages both obesity and hunger in those who rely on its benefits.

The program promotes poor choices by paying for sugary drinks and snack foods, both of which are low cost, but provide calories with very little nutrition, leaving participants hungrier than they would be if the same calories were from more nutritious food, the program encourages poor choices. Bittman, citing statistics laid out in the JAMA editorial, says, “Seven times as many poor children are obese as those who are underweight, an indication that government aid in the form of food stamps, now officially called SNAP, does a good job of addressing hunger but encourages the consumption of unhealthy calories.”

Bittman agrees with the suggestion in the JAMA editorial that SNAP be restructured to disallow the use of vouchers for sugary drinks. In addition, Bittman advocates making it easier to purchase real, nutritious food, for example, by doubling the value of vouchers used to purchase food at farmers markets.

Click here to read Bittman’s New York Times blog post and here to read a summary and preview of the editorial in the JAMA.

Soda Jerk image by Alan Fisher / Wikimedia Commons