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Can the Government Make Us Eat Good Food? 

June 29, 2016
Plain English Version
EBT customers buy foods at Frankfort, KY farmers’ markets with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits. Photo credit ci.minneapolis.mn.us

EBT customers buy foods at Frankfort, KY farmers’ markets with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits. Photo credit ci.minneapolis.mn.us

It can try to. The Obama government has a big interest in helping Americans pick healthy foods. The reason is healthy foods are better for you. A great many Americans are obese or have diabetes. The two conditions have to do with diet.

American food programs began in the Great Depression. Their first goal was to help American farmers get rid of their surplus crops. The first goal of the school lunch program was to help farmers. The second goal was to feed kids.

Food stamps came along when the U.S. began the War on Poverty. The program would help farmers. But it was also a program to reduce hunger. More than 45 million people were in the program last year.

Programs to feed women, infants and children focus on food for low-income families (W.I.C.). These programs stress the importance of nutrition.

The policies have shifted from support for farmers to the needs of consumers. Now, food stores have become a new player.

The government wants food stores to offer better choices to food stamp customers. The program is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). New rules will mean the SNAP program works well for big stores like Walmart. It does not work so well for small convenience stores and bodegas. Having to carry more fresh foods will put a burden on smaller stores.

A battle is underway. Should the government tell lower-income people what to eat? School meals programs are moving in that direction. Students are resisting the food choices.

Some critics say food stamps users should only be able to buy healthy foods. The administration does not want to order people to stop buying junk food.

Food stamps are already in use at farmers’ markets and Green Markets.

The government has made it easier to use food stamps. People now can use a card as a credit card at the cash register. The government will have to continue to find ways to combine freedom of choice with good food choices.

Source: The Wall Street Journal June 28, 2016

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