Cutting Food for Kids with an Obesity Excuse

Plate with Cutlery and a KettleThis is a new political fashion we hope will quickly find its place in the discards bin. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is declining federal summer food aid for kids saying, “An EBT card does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”

USDA this summer will launch a permanent summer food aid program for children, called the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer. The EBT card is a debit card for the program that allows families to buy food for their children at any store that accepts SNAP benefits. Thirty-five states, five territories and four Native American tribes opted into the program for this summer.

The 15 states that rejected the program gave various excuses including the obesity excuse, disdain for “welfare,” and a lack of resources to support the program.

A Bogus Excuse

One thing is quite clear. The obesity excuse for cutting food aid to kids is entirely bogus. If anything, the increased food insecurity that will result is associated with more, not less, obesity, particularly for younger children.

A systematic review in 2022 on the subject from the George Washington University School of Public Health found that this relationship is quite complex and the mechanisms are unclear. But there is evidence for associations between food insecurity and obesity or greater weight gain in early childhood, for girls, and for children experiencing food insecurity at multiple time points.

Scripted by Scrooge

Iowan advocates for child welfare and fighting food insecurity were appalled by this move. Iowa Hunger Coalition Chair Luke Elzinga described it bluntly:

“This is an unconscionable decision. Announcing three days before Christmas that we’ve deliberately chosen not to feed hungry kids? The Dickensian parallels write themselves.”

Setting up a punishing environment of summer food insecurity for children simply makes no sense. We hope the politicians who saw an angle to benefit their careers will wake up and realize it will harm them and their youngest constituents.

This is simply wrong.

Click here for the systematic review of food insecurity and obesity. For more on this sad situation, click here, here, here, and here.

Plate with Cutlery and a Kettle, sketch by Vincent van Gogh / WikiArt

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January 12, 2024