Food stamps

California, Arizona, Michigan and Florida are the first four states now accepting food stamps at several leading fast food restaurant chains.

Since the government assisted food stamp program (known formally as the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) began in 1934,  its use was accepted only for core grocery items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and milk. Snack foods or sugary items had long been excluded from the program on the grounds of those items not being ‘necessities’; and they were also not applicable in restaurants. But Louisville, KY based Yum! Brands’  Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut are just some of the locations where Americans receiving financial support from the food stamp program can use their monthly benefits.

Claiming that many food stamp recipients, which includes homeless, disabled and elderly, are incapable of cooking or preparing food for themselves is Yum!’s core argument for inclusion in the benefits program.

The number of businesses accepting food stamps, including convenience and discount stores as well as gas stations and pharmacies, increased by one-third between 2005 and 2010. The estimated amount of funds allotted for the program over the same period of time has gone from $28.5 billion to nearly $65 billion.

Food Politics blog author, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health and Professor of Sociology at New York University, Marion Nestle writes, “Rates of obesity are higher among low-income groups, including SNAP recipients, than in the general population.” And the move from Yum! comes as First Lady Michelle Obama’s been working with the USDA on her Let’s Move Campaign  designed to bring healthier food into school cafeterias across the country—especially in areas designated as ‘food deserts’, and  just months after the USDA released the updated food pyramid (now titled ‘MyPlate’) which recommends fresh fruits and vegetables as a major component to every meal – foods not often found in fast-food restaurants.  Says Nestle, “… it smacks of elitism.  ‘Let them eat junk food’ argues that it’s OK for the poor to eat unhealthfully. I think the poor deserve to be treated better.”

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Image: ajmexico